A few weeks ago I was clicking through the blog of a company that organizes events for parents, and reading through the “breastfeeding” tag, it struck me that every story was dramatic. Many of them had happy endings (i.e., breastfeeding goals met) but the road getting there was rough. Babies who wouldn’t latch, babies with colic and food sensitivities, pain and engorgement and low supply and the whole shebang. It was a laundry list of Things That Could Go Wrong.
Of course, if breastfeeding was always easy, there’d be little demand for lactation counseling. We also wouldn’t get to read incredible stories of women (and, if we’re being inclusive, men) who overcome the odds and persevere in the face of challenges to meet their breastfeeding goals. I am going to be sharing some of those stories here, because they need to be told.
But let’s share the “boring” stories, too. Let’s share the stories where the biggest issue was a lack of sleep and figuring out that bedsharing would fix that problem. Or how about a story where there was a poor latch in the beginning that was resolved with the help of a lactation counselor or IBCLC and things were smooth except for a little bit of biting when your sweet little baby got teeth and a mischievous glint in her eye. Or “my milk supply dipped and it turns out it was my birth control pill and when I switched to another method and things were fine.” Or even—since it does happen!—a story where there are no problems whatsoever. Tell a story full of all of those darn adorable things a nursing baby will do, like popping off the breast to give you a round of applause.
Why should we share these? Because part of how we encourage moms to breastfeed is to demonstrate how breastfeeding works. This can mean sharing challenges, but it also means sharing the success stories. What message are we sending when many of the stories we share are about problems and how hard it is to breastfeed? Those stories are inspirational, but they also do not paint the full picture. Not all breastfeeding relationships are hard ones, and each new baby is the opportunity for a new experience.
Inspiration doesn’t only come in the form of admiring hardships that were overcome. It can also come from seeing the wide variety of normal situations that mamas and babies encounter and feeling that maybe it won’t be so hard after all.