"Hi, my name is Stephanie, I am a Lactation Counselor, and I did absolutely nothing to prepare to breastfeed my own children."
Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest (pun intended).
Yesterday, my ever-helpful husband forwarded me an article on lifehacker entitled The Things Nobody Tells You About Breastfeeding. This bit of internet wisdom is better than most: not terribly negative about the experience of breastfeeding and only glaringly wrong in one instance (nipples do not "toughen up in about two weeks" or ever. What changes over time is that the baby develops muscle tone and becomes more able to achieve a comfortable latch without help from mom). As with all internet articles related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and baby care, my stern advice is don't read the comments. People love to throw out their terrible experience (in which they had inadequate informational support, if any) and it's just not worth your time and energy to go slogging through someone else's traumatic experience when you are trying to have a positive one. Please trust me on this.
But articles and books which begin with a complaining tone ("I wish someone had told me it would be like this!") continue to get published and read--I come across them all the time. So, what gives? Every time I see one of these I wonder where this person got their prenatal information--friends & family, the hospital childbirth class, What to Expect, the internet? Probably some/all of the above. So, what is a pregnant mom--one who wants to be well prepared going into this having-a-baby thing--to do?
Regarding breastfeeding, anyway, my advice is this: do what I say, not what I did. Remember, I did nothing to prepare to breastfeed my kid. I didn't take a class, didn't read a book, didn't really talk with other friends/family. I think I was just so focused on the birth, that I neglected to consider what would happen postpartum. I remember after my daughter was born, I snuggled her and cooed, and then I looked up at my midwife and my mom with a questioning look: "Now what?!?"
I will spare you the long version, but my breastfeeding journey included many bumps. Looking back and knowing way, way more now that I did then, I could describe to you all the ways I hindered the process and all the erroneous advice I was given, but I won't. Because even though this is the internet, I am not bound to tell you every detail of my own experience. Also, I recognize (and want you, dear reader, to internalize) that it is my story and yours was/will be totally different. Breastfeeding is a relationship, one that is unique to the two people doing it.
Even though breastfeeding is unique to you and your baby, there are things you can do to prepare that will be helpful when the time comes to start, such as
- read a quality book. My favorite is Breastfeeding Made Simple, but there are other quality books out there. I'll give you a list if you ask nicely.
- actually watch another woman breastfeed (this may sound weird, but most nursing moms won't think so). If you don't know any breastfeeders, try going to a La Leche League meeting or AustinBorn's Breastfeeding Cafe (conveniently linked below).
- take a class--like mine!, also conveniently linked below. ;)
In the end, breastfeeding is a little like riding a bicycle. You can read all about the mechanics of the bike, you can go to a class on riding techniques, you can interview veteran cyclists. But until you actually get on the bike--and struggle a bit, and probably fall off a time or two--you won't know how to do it yourself. Breastfeeding is the same way, dear reader. But, you've got all the right equipment (boobs--check! baby--check!), and with the right preparation, support and encouragement, you will get the hang of it. And one day, you'll even enjoy it!