You know what’s hard? Being a mom.
Know what’s harder? Being a mom on social media.
While I’ll be the first one to admit the convenience of being able to ask a parenting question online and receive 53 answers, I also feel like people think that offering advice online replaces the real, honest socialization and support that parents so desperately need.
Everyone has an opinion but very few people are actually interested in helping.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I would plan to breastfeed my children. My mom was an active La Leche League member, and I grew up watching her nursing my younger sisters (5 and 10 years younger than me). When I became pregnant with my first baby, my plan-turned-passion to breastfeed her grew into a near obsession.
In these modern days of mom shaming, Facebook parenting, and fed/breast is best, it’s easy to feel the pressure to breastfeed. But the stories of struggling moms surrounded me and made me start to wonder how I’d feel if my dreams of breastfeeding fell flat.
I made a huge effort to get as much education on the subject as possible before my newborn arrived. And this, I found, is part of the problem. There’s almost no resources available to women before the birth of their child. At most, some women can find a quick 2 hour class giving some tips and pointers about nursing – how to do it, what to look for, and the benefits for both mom and baby (which hopefully help motivate mom to keep nursing through the initial rough days and weeks).
A newborn often nurses at least 10-12 times a day. That means that by the baby’s first checkup around a week old, mom has breastfed roughly 70-100 times. Maybe she got a couple visits from a lactation consultant in the hospital. Maybe her pediatrician offered some advice around that 7th day of life. But 100 times is 99 too many when you’re cracked and bleeding and sore and worried that your baby might not be getting enough food.
Sure, there are some women who are not able to nurse their babies, despite every effort. Yes, there are families who choose to use formula based on their own preferrences or due to certain health issues that make breastfeeding impossible. I send no negitivity their way – this has nothing to do with personal choices.
However, when I see new moms struggling to feed their child because our culture doesn’t provide adequate support and information, it breaks my heart. Nursing is as natural as walking. We’re meant to do both, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to learn how. And to tell a tired, stressed, overwhelmed mother that it should all just come “naturally” is to basically throw her failure in her face.
We need our tribe back. As moms, we need to reach out to the new moms around us and swoop in with love, advice, information, and – most importantly – support to help make this journey easier. We need to stop waiting to be asked for help, and instead need to offer tips and knowledge in a safe, non intrusive way, so that we can continue building a circle of support that has no end.
I was lucky – I knew to advocate for myself and to demand help from the hospital’s lactation consultant. My mom offered endless support and advice. I found a local breastfeeding support that offered invaluable advice and education (plus the added bonus of some awesome friendships!). And I was determined. But others arent so lucky. Too many women assume that the difficulty is because something is wrong, instead of it just being a natural part of the learning curve.
I was never one of those moms who adored breastfeeding. I never felt the euphoria that some feel while their baby suckles themselves to sleep. But I loved the closeness and I had an enormous sense of pride that my body was able to sustain life for my little girls for over a year, each.
And even though that chapter of my life is over, I’m going to continue to try to be part of the tribe for new moms around me. And as I continue my parenting journey, I know I’ll come across new obstacles and failures. When I feel like I’m falling, I can only hope that my “been there, done that” mom friends can help to pull me back up. Because, sometimes all you need is a hug, a cup of coffee, and some kind words to know that you’re doing everything just right.