It’s All Up to Me

Breastfeeding an infant can often come with feelings of pressure, overwhelm and loneliness – it’s a steep learning curve and no one else can breastfeed your baby but you. 

So many new mothers feel this way at some point in their breastfeeding journey. It doesn't help that in our culture, so much of the focus in early postpartum is on baby – are they eating enough…peeing enough…pooping enough…sleeping enough…growing enough?
If we’re lucky, someone – perhaps a friend, family member, support person or healthcare provider – will ask a mother how she is, what she needs. That goes a long way to release the tight grip of pressure and overwhelm and lets a mother know she isn’t alone.

The reality is we are not biologically wired to mother in isolation – just us and our babies for long periods of time over the day for weeks and months at a time.

We are meant to mother, to feed our babies, in community.
Instinctively, we know this to be true. And, this is one area in perinatal health where we have some research to back up that natural sense:
Organized, community-based support reduces the likelihood mothers stop exclusive breastfeeding or any breastfeeding (when combination feeding).

When partners are informed about infant feeding and offer encouragement to the mother, breastfeeding duration and exclusivity increase, breastfeeding related challenges decrease, connection with additional support when needed increases and mothers’ overall attitudes towards breastfeeding improves.

In addition, when partners and support people are sensitive to the breastfeeding mother’s needs and help with household and childcare duties, breastfeeding outcomes were further improved. 

Grandmothers also have the potential to significantly impact a mother’s feeding journey, whether to improve it or to contribute to challenge. This further highlights the importance of creating awareness around our mother’s and our partner’s mother’s feeding journeys and views and whether they are aligned with our own.  (We covered a little more about this exploration in the last email of this series! Pop back there for more details.) 

In addition, high family support of breastfeeding has been shown to lower postpartum depression scores which leads to fewer breastfeeding challenges and prolonged exclusive breastfeeding.

There is deep truth in the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” And, it’s somewhat incomplete. I believe it takes a village to hold a mother, so she has the resources she needs to nurture her child.

To receive this support in our modern culture, mothers must seek to define their village of support. I know it's not the most ideal situation – we've already got so much on our plates already. And yet, in order to be surrounded by the support we deserve, we must take radical responsibility for this task, with the hope that in time, it will create more ease because we're no longer carrying everything on our own.
Who do you have around you that will listen without judgement and only offer advice when you ask for it? 
Who is willing and able to be with you through big emotions, without stifling their expression? 
Beyond your primary support person, who is willing to tidy the house, do a load of laundry, make a meal, walk the dog or cut the lawn?
Feeling held and having your needs met ensures you are resourced plentifully to continue meeting the needs of your baby over the early weeks and months and beyond.
What supports are you missing within your village? 
And, how could you gather those supports now?