Feed the baby.
It sounds so simple, and yet it isn’t. As a doula and childbirth educator, it seems to be understood that I will, of course, exclusively breastfeed this baby when he arrives. I mean, in our training we are taught all about the amazing things that breastmilk and breastfeeding can do. I have already had offers of support and help for when I breastfeed my baby. Not if. Not “what are your plans, how are you feeling?” WHEN I breastfeed my baby. I do plan to breastfeed my baby, but I have no set expectations on how that will go. All I can do right now is prepare myself and my supports as best I can, then wait and see.
For those who are curious on how a doula plans and prepares to breastfeed, here are my plans:
I plan to rest as much as possible in the early days to allow my body to heal.
I plan to feed as frequently as my baby wants to, in order to help establish a good supply.
I plan to freeze healthy meals and plan easy snacks so that my body is nourished and better able to provide nourishment for my baby.
I plan to watch my baby for signs that he is getting enough milk.
I plan to arrange professional breastfeeding support if and when I need it.
I plan to breastfeed my baby as much as I can.
I plan to supplement any time I feel the need, for myself and my baby.
I plan to allow myself the grace to accept if I cannot breastfeed exclusively.
I plan to allow myself to feel any grief I may feel if I am not able to breastfeed.
With my older boys, I had many challenges trying to breastfeed both of them. I felt immense pressure to breastfeed, and breastfeed exclusively. I did not want to acknowledge the extreme grief I had over those struggles, and eventually not being able to breastfeed, it seemed to be so easy for so many others. Looking back at that time now, I wish I did not get sucked into the endless struggle over how my baby gets fed, so much so that I missed being present during those early days and weeks.
I was physically and mentally exhausted. Endless pumping, visits with lactation consultants, researching, buying herbs and (frankly, disgusting) teas, tracking down ingredients for and baking lactation cookies, washing pump parts in the middle of the night. It all took away from the only bits of time and energy I had to just… be.
Be with my baby.
Be with my new family.
Be with myself as I discovered how to mother (and again, and now again).
I wish I had had more non-judgmental, non-biased support. Support that can see past the goal of establishing “breast is best” and look at the individual and their needs in this moment. Sometimes that is not breastfeeding and that is ok.
This is nothing less than what I want for my clients as well. I want my clients to feel supported and comforted as they work to reach their individual goals when it comes to feeding their baby. Whether that is exclusively breastfeeding, supplementing, exclusively pumping, using donor breastmilk, using formula or any conceivable combination of these choices. My clients understand that I will not judge them for their feeding choices and/ or needs. They know they can rely on me to help them get the information and any additional support they want or need to make the choices that are right for them.
Because we should all feel supported to do what is best for us and our families so that we can enjoy this fleeting time as best we can.