Working as a pediatrician in Manhattan, many of the families I work with choose to breastfeed. We’ve all heard the facts; breastfed infants are healthier, they have fewer ear infections, fewer stomach viruses, their intestines work better and they might be thinner and smarter when they grow up. The research does, indeed, show that in the short term there are many benefits to breastfeeding. What the research does not communicate, however, is how difficult this can be for the woman who has these breasts attached to her body.
The majority of women I work with who want to breastfeed are able to breastfeed. Often with the first child it takes a couple of weeks to get it down, but after a fortnight of sore nipples and a few visits with the Lactation Consultant it all usually works out. There are a few babies who have a tough time latching, and never really get the hang of it… and some of those women will end up pumping and giving bottles.
If it’s working for you, that’s great. It can be convenient, it’s free and when it works, it can be enjoyable, easy and as stated before quite good for your infant. But, I am trying to get through to those women who after a few weeks of giving it their all, the baby still isn’t on the breast, he/she is not growing, and you are in tears.
Last week I had two women in my office who I had been working with for a few months, each, separately, had “breakthroughs.” Meaning, they finally realized that they had been prioritizing the act of breastfeeding their infant over their own well being and sanity, their baby’s health and their families’ ability to function.
Breastfeeding usually works.. but sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t that does not mean you are a bad mother, robbing your infant of ever being healthy, thin or smart. Formula may not be ideal, but they spend a lot of time and money trying to make it as close to human milk as possible. And in this day and age there are even human milk banks if you can’t stomach the idea of formula.
Women, having a baby is hard. If you didn’t know that before you had one you know that now. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your friends when they are unable to breastfeed. And also be kind to your infant, who needs a somewhat rested mother over one who is beating herself up constantly and in tears over trying to breastfeed.