Breastfeeding is hard. Don't get me wrong; it is beautiful, life-giving, and empowering. It helps you bond with your brand-new baby, and you get to watch your infant grow, knowing that your milk is the sustenance making that possible. Nursing can be simultaneously wonderful, challenging, and downright exhausting. You may miss the days when you did not have to plan around nursing or got to sleep through the night. You might even find yourself nursing your baby and cursing your partner's useless nipples at 3 A.M., while they are sound asleep. No? Just me?

{ Giorgia in the Eva Dress }

No Wonder We’re Tired

Becoming a parent turns your world upside down, and breastfeeding adds layers of complexity to the mix. Nursing your baby alters your life. You adapt your schedule, supplies that you keep with you, and clothes you wear. You are exhausted from the sleep deprivation on top of caring for a newborn, and your body is working hard to produce enough milk to keep up with your infant's feeding schedule.

You may experience physical difficulties connected to breastfeeding:

  • issues with latching
  • soreness
  • cracked nipples
  • clogged milk ducts
  • leaky breasts
  • low milk supply
  • engorgement
  • mastitis

There might even be periods of the dreaded cluster feedings, where it seems as though your baby is permanently attached to your breast. These issues can also be compounded by postpartum depression or anxiety. Each of these breastfeeding hardships highlights the importance of support for mothers.

I Scream. You Scream. We All Scream for Support.

When I had my first child, the entire breastfeeding experience caught me off guard. The effort nursing took combined with a lack of sleep and recovering from labor and delivery was a physical and emotional shock to my system. I shed many tears during those earlier months while I learned to navigate breastfeeding, becoming a mother, and all the life changes that come with the territory.

I found support from my midwife when I confided in her that I hated breastfeeding and wanted to stop. She validated my feelings of discouragement, fear, and weariness. Then she normalized the difficulties I had been experiencing with breastfeeding. I felt relieved to know that I was not the only mother who struggled with breastfeeding. She did not shame me for wanting to stop breastfeeding. Instead, she told me that she would support me in whichever way I decided to feed my baby. She then provided me with information and resources to help me continue breastfeeding if I chose to do so. She also took the time to show me different latching and holding techniques. She was one of the reasons why I was able to breastfeed my son until he was two years old. At the time, as the new mom of a two-month-old, I did not think it was possible to nurse my infant for another week, let alone two years.

Breastfeeding support is not limited to the medical field.

{ Giorgia in the Eva Dress }

Help in Unexpected Places

I was still nursing my firstborn when I returned to work with a local school district. I needed to pump while visiting one of my schools. The front office personnel directed me to the nurse for help locating the lactation room. However, the nurse looked confused when I asked for directions and stated there was no such room. She suggested I pump on one of the beds in the student clinic and pull the curtain around myself for privacy. One of my other campuses designated a file room as their lactation room. They put up a sign on the door, added a chair, and called it a day. I suppose at least the storage closet provided some privacy.

I spoke with a colleague regarding the status of lactation rooms across the district, and she encouraged me to contact the Human Resources Department. I did not believe that my concerns warranted that department's attention, but my colleague insisted. She went with me to meet with a human resource staff member and echoed my concerns. She empowered me to advocate for myself and also stood alongside me.

When I started to see changes in the lactation rooms across the district, I realized I felt more confident in myself and my ability to advocate for something that helped me take care of my baby. I also realized it took the support of my colleague for me to get to that point.

{ Giorgia in the Esther Nursing Dress}

Where to Find Support

Many systems or structures may not be designed to help nursing mothers thrive. However, it does not mean that there is no support available throughout communities. Pediatricians, gynecologists, midwives, social workers, nurses, health departments, and breastfeeding advocacy organizations can connect you to breastfeeding support. If there are barriers to those services, you can also seek out help online.

La Leche League International's website offers various types of breastfeeding resources. The site connects users across the globe to local resources and support groups, Facebook groups, and multilingual digital materials and courses.

It’s Okay to Need People in Your Corner

I also want you to hear that it is okay for you to ask for help with nursing. Parents receive the message that breastfeeding is natural and easy to start as soon as the baby exits the womb. In reality, it is something you and your baby have to learn together, often with guidance from a lactation consultant, another parent, nurse, or advocate.

You are not less of a mother for needing help with breastfeeding, and you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by nursing.

The important thing is to ask for help, either from a loved one, a professional, or a reputable source online (see resources below). Seek out the support that you and your baby need. You do not have to walk through breastfeeding alone. Whether you are days, months, or years into your breastfeeding journey, there is support available to you.

At Ellie and Becca, we understand the amount of dedication, time, perseverance, and love that goes into breastfeeding your children. In case no one has told you lately, you are doing a great job mama.

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