Breastfeeding After Failure

After having my son I tried to breastfeed, but due to postpartum depression I had a hard time trying to pull myself together so that I could get my son on a breastfeeding routine. I just didn’t comprehend what to do as far as my diet, how to pump, how to establish and continue to breastfeed, etc. I felt so alone during this time. But now I’m trying to learn all I can because my husband and I do plan on having more children in the future and I want to be a successful breastfeeding Mom. I just feel like a failure because I couldn’t do it with my first child. Please help me with this issue.

I hear your pain so clearly in your letter. Your feelings of failure stem from a deep place of anguish. I can offer you some guidance today, but I implore you to talk this information over with your partner, a good friend, or just someone you trust. You owe it to yourself to unravel the conflicting emotions that compel you to consider yourself a failure and drive you to view breastfeeding not as a vital food-source for your baby, but as something you have to succeed at. Again, it sounds like you are placing a lot of pressure on yourself to “perfecta^?? parenting in the future. This is something I would suggest you have to let go. Parenting is often an act of letting go of control and embracing the complex art of imagination and creativity (as well as having nerves of steel).

So, I have a lot of information for you that I hope will help you center yourself and trust your voice and mothering instincts. But I need you to consider all of your concerns as a total package. It will take some time to unravel all of this. Let’s begin with the most important thing: your mood.

Dealing with the leftover issues from your postpartum mood disorder
Many women in America deal with the “baby blues” yet, there is still less awareness of the reality of postpartum depression. I’m not certain if you talked to someone after your first baby’s birth. Your letter hints at lots of struggle and an immense amount of isolation. For the future, one way to combat this is to recognize that mood disorders cannot be handled by simply pulling yourself together. Isolation and a feared loss of control can severely exacerbate these issues. How to help yourself? You need a Family Support Team. At the head are you and your partner. The two of you are the leaders of the village raising your family. You don’t need to be perfect or have all the answers. You do need to be open and willing to get help from whomever as you attempt to navigate your lives into the future. This means that you should talk to your family if you can. Bring them in as needed to help with everyday concerns and to offer cheerleading support.

Also, find professionals who can help. A postpartum doula could be just what you need after your next baby’s birth. These wonderful women offer sensitive, loving care, and mother-focused support—something I think would be an added resource for you. There are also postpartum therapists who focus specifically on birth and parenting issues. Check with the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health for professionals near you.

You can also find other mothers in your situation by joining a La Leche League group in your area. League leaders can be lifelines for families committed to breastfeeding, and LLL groups can be vital resources when information is the key to extended breastfeeding.

Lastly, don’t forget your local lactation consultant. These board certified professionals can answer nearly every breastfeeding question or concern. Keep the number of your local IBCLC on speed dial.

But there are also a few things that you can do for yourself.

Seeing yourself in a positive light
The struggles that you encountered after your first baby’s birth do not define you as a person. You encountered challenges, learned from the experience, and now feel compelled to ask more questions. And this is a wonderful thing. There are lots of places that can provide you with details about how to pump your milk and your diet. Right now, I am concerned about the negative thoughts that continue to surround you.

So, repeat after me. I am not a failure. I am a Queen. I am a mother. I am a Goddess. I am a loving spirit.

Believe in yourself. Everyday. Recognize that perfection is a dream-killer that can suck the creativity and joy out of parenting by setting up unrealistic expectations and goals.

A few comments about breastfeeding
Practically speaking, I would talk to your midwife or doctor about your breastfeeding goals—as well as a local breastfeeding counselor. You will hopefully find many resources in your community—from WIC breastfeeding peer counselors to lactation consultants at your local health clinic. There are even wonderful places on-line to surround yourself with information and support. Check some of them out for reading ideas, finding breastfeeding supplies, and listening ears.

Two things that you mentioned in your letter greatly impact breastfeeding: lack of support and feelings of isolation. Addressing these two issues—especially in light of your previous concerns—should help you on your journey to nursing your baby with confidence.