Choosing to breastfeed

Written by Lorie Caouette

“Is it a boy or a girl?” “When are you due?” “Do you want to breastfeed?”

When you are pregnant, you are suddenly bombarded with questions by the people you know, whether you are close to them or not… and even by strangers! As if our privacy suddenly became public because we can’t hide our beautiful belly.

Do I want to breastfeed? Yes or no? The answer is rarely clear during a first pregnancy! There is so much unknown!

And whatever the answer is given, you receive, without having asked for it, the opinion or the judgment of the person you’re talking to, even if they very often don’t want to do wrong.

Or you end up listening to all kinds of stories of “for my sister-in-law… it was hell… cracked nipples… blah blah.” Unfortunately, the sensationalism of difficult stories travels much more easily than the beautiful stories of easy and simple breastfeeding. And there are lots of beautiful stories!

THE PROJECT

After carrying, delivering and breastfeeding my 3 children, I decided to turn the page on my maternity period. But this subject remained a passion for me, and I decided to train myself to become a breastfeeding godmother. I had the pleasure, for several years, of accompanying other mothers in their breastfeeding project.

Because yes, choosing to breastfeed is a project! It needs to be thought out, and it needs to be prepared.

During the meetings with these future mothers who had chosen to breastfeed, I always invited them to ask themselves how important was breastfeeding in their eyes. And I would say that more than half the time, they would tell me, “It is certain that I want to try, but I don’t want to insist if it doesn’t work.”

My next questions were, “But what is ‘insisting’ for you? Do you have a length of time in mind? What are your criteria for success or failure?”

And very often, they had no idea. And it’s normal! Maternity is full of challenges, fears and unknowns. It’s a big leap into the unknown. Maybe their answer was a way for them to protect themselves from the fear of failure? And yet, there is no scale of success or failure, and each experience is unique.

GIVING YOURSELF TIME

I like to remind people that, although we often hear that breastfeeding is “natural,” it remains a learning process and a new experience for both mom and baby. A team effort! You don’t naturally become a breast expert after giving birth, and your baby will be born without ever having breastfed. Your newly formed duo deserves some indulgence!

You have to get to know each other, gain experience together. This often takes time.

It is realistic to imagine that it may take you a few weeks before you are really comfortable, like gradually going out and breastfeeding in public. In the beginning, we often need to have a good overview of the operation, and therefore to have some privacy. You must not pressure yourself, and modesty varies for each mom, you also have to respect yourself about that.

 

MY MOST PRECIOUS ADVICE

If there is one precious advice that I can give you, aside from being well informed on the subject’s theory, it is to be well surrounded.

Yes, to be in contact with your nurse, your midwife, or to have a breastfeeding godmother available to answer your technical questions.

But mostly, I advise you to brief your relatives about your breastfeeding project, your motivations and your expectations. Prepare those who will be on the front line with you: your partner, your mother, your best friend.

There are often ups and downs in this great adventure. And with fatigue and hormones, we are not immune to moments of discouragement. There may be a difficult day when everything will seem to be a mountain. And the next day, everything will be easier, and you will be happy to have persevered. And I like to say that to persevere is not the same as to insist!

Your relatives will want your good and will not want to see you “suffer.” But being told, “You should give them a bottle” at the first problem, can be bad for your self-esteem and motivation.

If you have shared your expectations with them, they will be better equipped to give you positive support and to remind you why you’re doing this. Having a partner with you, who encourages you not to give up, tells you that you’re doing great, and who looks for solutions with you may not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference.

A GIFT FOR YOURSELF

After all this learning, how great is it to finally appreciate all the joys and benefits that breastfeeding offers. You really have to keep in mind this is a gift for yourself and your baby—the “milk pay” as they say.

This privileged moment with baby. The freedom to feed them anywhere, anytime, for many months or even years, if you want. Travelling with lighter luggage and having the feeling to offer the best of yourself to your child. It’s worth the effort, I guarantee you!

LISTENING TO YOURSELF

Of course, there are situations where you might feel overwhelmed or where you feel the need to move on. When we’re unsure, we often have the reflex of asking everyone’s opinion.

But I think that the decision to stop breastfeeding must come from yourself.

You have to listen to yourself and respect your limits. Even if you are a new mom, you have to trust your gut. You will know what is best for you and your child when the moment requires it. Listen to your inner voice and don’t doubt it. And the support of those around you will be just as essential to respectfully accompany you in this decision, without judgment. It’s never a failure to decide to stop. 3 days, 3 months, 3 years… Breastfeeding is a great adventure that makes us discover an unknown strength in ourselves. And each feeding is a gift to baby that cannot be taken away. Be proud of it!

THE BEAUTY IN EACH STORY

There are breastfeeding experiences that go very smoothly, where everything is natural. And there are these mothers who had to fight, to go through challenges, big and small, to accomplish their dream of breastfeeding. So many different stories… I have known women who have breastfed twins, others who have pumped their milk drop by drop to feed their premature baby. A mother who decided to pump her milk to give it only in a bottle. Others who went back to work and pumped their milk during break time, or who use mixed feeding (alternating with formula). And I even have close friends who decided not to breastfeed at all, because they never felt the desire to do it.

All of them are wonderful and inspiring moms.

***

I leave you on a photo of my first breastfeeding moment, 13 years ago now.

A moment, frozen in time, that will always remain sweet to m

This post was translated from French to English by:

Judith Marcoux
Hi! I’m Judith, lab technician in research for almost eight years now and second-year student in translation. I discovered the joys of travelling in my late twenties, and I now enjoy exploring bustling cities as much as the great outdoors. True animal lover, I appreciate the simple things in life and see no problem in eating sushi with a side of poutine! #dontjudgeme ?

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