You hear it over and over again: If you want to succeed at
breastfeeding, you need to seek the help of a lactation consultant. I strongly disagree. In fact, the stressful and often conflicting
advice of these “experts” is
the reason I didn’t succeed with my first son. And now, nine months into my second
breastfeeding journey, I can safely say that less is more in the way of expert
advice. That’s not to say I don’t
think you should just totally wing it and struggle alone; in fact, peer support
has been a huge help to me this go around. And I’m not implying that there no place for expert help, it has
simply been my experience that many lactation consultants, though well-intentioned, are not particularly helpful.
First of all, I feel as though they tend to approach all
breastfeeding challenges as problems that must be fixed. When in reality many mothers often just need
reassurance that they are doing a good job and that it gets easier. They expect exhausted and emotional new moms
to pack up baby and make it to a sterile office where they are to perform and
then promptly grasp an often complicated set of maneuvers to improve said
performance. It’s all so darn
Add to that the fact that lactation consultants have a reputation
for being militant: Breast is best, no
ifs, ands or buts! I contend that you
are a mother, not a martyr, and breastfeeding should not be a torturous
experience. Doling out guilt and strict
advice never helps a new mother; there
isn’t one right and perfect way to feed your baby. If a mom is seeking help with breastfeeding,
she is obviously hoping to succeed, so there’s really no need to
make them feel horrible for struggling or supplementing.
All of this conflicting and misguided information left me feeling overwhelmed and mistrustful of any help. I ended up switching to bottles much earlier than I’d hoped, and I struggled for a long time with feelings of failure and guilt.
Moreover, lactation consultants aren’t always all that
knowledgeable; after all, an online course does not make someone an expert. When I was at a peer lactation support group,
a very sweet woman was sitting in because she was training to be a lactation
consultant. That woman had no children
of her own. Really? That’s like teaching someone to swim when
you’ve never stuck a toe in the water.
They also aren’t on the same page, even when they
work at the same hospital. I had one
consultant watch my son latch on and go after my boob like a Dyson and then say
that he wasn’t sucking vigorously enough. I had another one say my son latched too often, and then proceeded to
give him a pacifier. A third had me
totally flipped when my milk hadn’t arrived on day two, only to cause
huge oversupply issues on day four. All
of this conflicting and misguided information left me feeling overwhelmed and
mistrustful of any help. I ended up
switching to bottles much earlier than I’d hoped, and I
struggled for a long time with feelings of failure and guilt.
When I was pregnant with my second son I decided that I wasn’t
going to try to force a perfect breastfeeding experience. I didn’t need the perfect
latch, rigid feeding schedules, or concern about supply. As long as my baby was eating, wetting
diapers, gaining weight, and I wasn’t in excruciating pain, I’d
just keep doing it. I told all of my
nurses that I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t let anyone
examine my latch or record how many minutes each feeding lasted. When I had a concern, I turned to friends and
a peer support group, locally and online, for guidance. As a result, I have a happy, chubby breastfed
baby, and I am a happy, relaxed breastfeeding mama.
So if you’re hoping to have a positive
breastfeeding experience, my advice is to kindly decline all that expert help at
the hospital. Trust your body, be gentle with yourself and seek the support of
other breastfeeding mothers.