I remember distinctly the lump in my throat and the hot tears welling up in my eyes as the lactation consultant was describing what she was feeling in my engorged, painful breast tissue.
“The milk is there, but I’m not feeling any way for it to get out. It’s like you have the garage for storage, but not the driveway to back the car out.”
This was my second child. I quit my job to breastfeed my first. I sat on the couch pretty much around the clock and did nothing but nurse my baby for a long time. I binge watched A LOT of shows on Netflix. Entire series of shows!!! I thought that was normal, until I became a doula and noticed that my clients were not having to put nearly as much effort into breastfeeding as I did.
I thought the answer was to educate myself and get better support for the second baby. I decided that I must not have put my first baby to the breast enough in the early days (because of course it must be my fault that breastfeeding was so hard!), that I should have sought out a better IBCLC, and I should have developed that relationship sooner. I was just so sure that my right breast was three sizes smaller than my left because of something I had done wrong on my breastfeeding journey. So when my amazing IBCLC sat next to me and explained that my right breast did not have the proper internal structures to allow the milk to flow to my 3-day-old, my pent-up feelings came pouring out of my eyes.
There are lots of reasons that breastfeeding may be difficult. Sometimes we ask our friends, or Facebook land, or our due date message board for support…instead we get unwanted advice and questions that fill us with doubts:
Are you working with an IBCLC? Yeah, but is it a GOOD one?
Has your baby been checked for lip and tongue ties?
Eat oats! Take Fenugreek! Drink the blue Gatorade!
So when it happened again with my third baby, I didn’t blame myself. I mourned my right breast filling up, becoming rock hard for a week, and then slowly deflating as my body realized that my baby would not be able to drink the milk from it. I went back to work, this time with no guilt about leaving my baby, prepared to offer whatever breastmilk I could from my own body when we were together and to supplement when we were apart. We nursed for almost two years, defying all of the people who told me the first time around that if my baby ever got anything other than my breastmilk, I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed to a year.
Breastfeeding is in our DNA, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Allow yourself grace, recognize that while support and knowledge can help a breastfeeding relationship, it’s still hard and might not look the way you thought. There’s no one right way to feed a baby.
Need more support, less judgment, and help sorting through information about breastfeeding your baby? Check out our postpartum doula support options! Feel lost and wanting to prepare? Set up a private, customized class to cover the topics you need more support and information for, including breastfeeding!