This is a question I love to ask families after they've begun their breastfeeding journey. It's amazing to me the variety of answers I get, and it also allows the family to take a moment and really think about how breastfeeding has been for them - the good, the bad, and the surprising. I'm starting to spotlight these stories each week in an instagram series, #feedyourbabyfriday. This latest parent I reached out to had such a wonderful story to share that I didn't think a social media post alone would do it justice, so I am sharing her words here. This is a family I have worked with for many months, and I have witnessed an amazing amount of strength, perseverance, and support - it's been mind blowing and reinforces how lucky I feel to have the job I do!
"I was surprised at just how naturally Baby M knew how to find my breast/nipple and what to do with it. People always say, "it's natural", but I was just so amazed at how she did it just as soon as she was born. The instinctive nature of a newborn was a beautiful surprise.
I was surprised at how the "Baby Friendly Hospital" initiative didn't actually provide adequate support for breastfeeding. Personally, I gave birth on Friday and didn't even see the Nurse Lactation Consultant until Sunday. And when I did see her, she spent about 15 minutes with me and did not help me with my damaged nipples, or help me figure out that my newborn was constantly crying because she was hungry, because even though she was on my breast non stop, I had lost a lot of blood and unbeknownst to me, was already having major issues with supply. She certainly never offered me the compassion and relief of hearing the words "it's ok to give your baby some formula while you heal and so she's not hungry anymore". I was surprised at how if she had been my only interaction with a Lactation Consultant, that I very likely would NOT have continued breastfeeding at all!
I was surprised that while very natural, it is also very normal and very common, for breastfeeding to not come easily! I thought the baby was born, the milk came, and that was that! I had no idea that there were a host of reasons that breastfeeding could prove to be challenging!
I was surprised when I met you, to learn of all the different things I could do to try and improve my supply. Herbs, Acupuncture, a pumping schedule, (medications)... I had no idea. I was surprised that an IBCLC would say, feed your baby formula and breastfeed her too. I was surprised that it didn't have to be either/or. You telling me that I could give her formula AND breastfeed her is one of the most amazing things I've ever been told. I was surprised that there was compassion and not judgement.
But most of all, my "what surprised you about breastfeeding" answer would be-
When my wife and I talked about having a baby, she expressed very strongly that she wanted the baby to be breastfed for at least six months. My wife is a physician and cited all the medical benefits very matter of factly. I had my first child 15 years earlier and he was a 32 week preemie. Nobody at all encouraged me to breastfeed him and he was formula fed and he was fine. So, I was very apprehensive, but agreed that the benefits of breast milk couldn't be denied. I agreed to breastfeed for six months, and six months only. The surprise here for me, is that I have found breastfeeding to be SO amazing and I absolutely cherish the time I spend with my daughter doing it. Breastfeeding feels like this gift that is so incredibly special to give to my daughter. One that only I get to give her. I literally get to nourish her with it. I get to comfort her with it. I get to sneak away from the rest of the world for a little while and spend time gazing into her beautiful eyes while doing it. I get time to have intimate conversations with her while doing it. Breastfeeding has shown me that it's not just about the health benefits of breastmilk at all. What breastfeeding has really surprised me with is the time and space and energy that I get to share with the sweet little soul that is my daughter. Maybe it's because I've worked so hard to be able to breastfeed, or maybe because I'm being a little selfish, but now I'm hoping to continue breastfeeding until she's at least one year old. "