1. You will feel mother guilt no matter what you do.
We are constantly making decisions. The simplest things (how we are going to feed our babies and how they are going to sleep) can become so overwhelming; with so much information thrown at us on a daily basis we end up feeling as though our head is going to explode. The bottom line? No matter what you decide, you will most likely feel guilty or question your decisions. This does not end as they get older so get used to it! The way to put yourself in the best position to handle this is to do the following: trust your own instincts and follow the lead of your baby. Then you can look back and know you made the best decisions you could at the time, with the resources you had.
2. Everyone will tell you different, conflicting information. Ignore them.
This one you probably realized very early on. Someone told you your baby looked “hungry” and questioned if they were getting enough milk, then the random lady at the shops told you your baby looked like a sumo wrestle. Then you were told to stop feeding him so often, only be told the next day that babies cannot be overfed. Aaahhhhh!!! What’s a mother do to? Again, trust your instincts, follow the lead of your baby and seek help from someone who knows about breastfeeding, not the random family member or stranger who although they have the best intentions, do not always have the best information. Head to a breastfeeding group, La Leche League is all around the world and The Australian Breastfeeding Association for those of you in yes, Australia!
3. The people you will go seek help from first are usually the people who know the least about breastfeeding, normal sleep patterns and eating behaviors of breastfed children.
Unfortunately, sometimes the people we seek help from the most often end up giving us the worst advice or information of all! It’s quite surprising how little education pediatricians, general practitioners and child health nurses receive. Please don’t get me wrong, there are many brilliant health care professionals out there who are excellent resources and support for breastfeeding mothers. However the sad reality is that most doctors do not get proper breastfeeding education. This means that unless they have an interest in the topic, many give advice that is not best practice, not backed up by research and harmful to the mother, child and breastfeeding relationship. I hear from people daily asking me if what their doctor/nurse/dentist is true, knowing that it does not sound right to them. I frequently hear from people who have been told by their dentist to stop breastfeeding because it is to blame for their child’s cavities. There is NO sufficient research to support this!!!! Research shows that diet, genetics, oral hygiene and medical conditions are causes of tooth decay, NOT breastfeeding. Unfortunately much of what has become standard medical advice is actually not backed up by evidence based research.
4.You know your baby best
As new mothers we have little confidence to trust ourselves and what we are doing. Even teeny little bit of information we can grab onto we are grateful for. It’s incredibly difficult to feel confident right after we have our newborn. We have not done this before, we are confused, we hear so much conflicting information. A few months into motherhood I met a La Leche League leader (breastfeeding counsellor) who told me on more than one occasion, “you know your baby best”. The first few times I heard her say this I don’t think I really believed her. I didn’t really get it. It’s the truth though!! I know my babies best and you know your baby best. It’s important to seek help and support when needed, but if someone says something that does not sound right ask for a second opinion because you guessed it…you know your baby best.
5. You will question if what you are doing is right, but in most cases your baby can answer that question, you just have to pay attention.
Our babies really do tell us so much if we simply know what to look for and really observe them. It’s about looking at the whole picture. Maybe your baby is gaining slower than expected… what’s the big picture though? What is your baby telling you? Are they gaining consistently and staying around the same percentile on the growth chart? Is your baby peeing and pooping as expected? Are they generally content with normal awake and sleep cycles? Ask lots of questions to get the whole picture of what is going on and observe your baby closely.
6. Breastfeeding your baby to sleep and throughout the night is not creating bad habits…it is normal.
Most babies and toddlers who are breastfed on demand wake frequently. This is for many different reasons including your milk supply, pain relief and comfort (to name a few). Breastmilk contains components in it to help your child fall asleep, stay asleep and get back to sleep. It’s not a sleep problem it’s the biological norm.
7. Children DO stop breastfeeding to sleep, just not when they are little.
I promise you, my eleven year old and eight year old do not breastfeed to sleep anymore. They have not breastfed in years! They go to sleep happily on their own, in their own beds and sleep the whole night! Yes! It’s true! There are many gentle methods you can use when your baby gets older to encourage them to fall asleep in other ways. You will not be breastfeeding them to sleep when they head off to college…
8. You can still have fun, even if you bring your breastfed baby or toddler with you.
Often times I hear women tell me that want to express and give their baby a bottle to get used to it, just in case they need to go somewhere or want to go out without their baby for dinner or an activity. I am all for having “me time!!” yet I also know how short this time of mothering through breastfeeding is. The moments you have with your little one sleeping quietly on your chest…the moments of leaking milk and cuddles on the couch. Savour these and remember that you have plenty of time to go out with your partner or with some friends. The longer you can wait to have extended periods of time away from your baby, the easier it can be to reach your individual breastfeeding goals. And most things you can do with your baby attached! Head here to read about when I was matron of honour at my sister’s wedding. With my 16 month old attached of course!
9. Sometimes you will lose your shit. It does not mean you’re a bad mother. It means you’re normal.
You know that mother at your playgroup who always looks like she has it together? Hair and makeup perfect, gorgeous ironed clothes. Baby with the most popular chew toy and perfect hair. This mother loses her shit sometimes too. We all get to breaking point. We all feel lonely sometimes and feel as though we are going to go insane. Millions of us around the world are hoping to find a friend who understands. Get out there and seek support, go to playgroups, talk to other mothers at the playground. We are all losing our shit so let’s get out there and support each other. Mothering is such an awesome, amazing experience…but it is also hard work. Having support and encouragement helps us get through the challenging times.