In its most wonderful sense, breastfeeding provides a time honored bridge into motherhood. The time spent with a baby at her breast is an opportunity for a brand new mom to learn all about her brand new baby, every little detail! For the baby, the time spent at mom's breast eases the adjustment to "life on the outside" with the warmth and comfort of mom's body as the new habitat and the best restaurant in town. This time spent together also provides a new mother with a window of time in which to rest, heal from childbirth, and build a healthy milk supply. It's a responsive relationship where the physical and emotional needs of both mother and baby complement one another and can result in a strong bond that becomes the foundation for a lifetime of growth and trust.
There are many resources for new mothers to tap into when it comes to the common challenges of breastfeeding. A little time spent learning a new skill, patience, knowledgeable help and perseverance can overcome the great majority of breastfeeding challenges. Just ask, and you will be able to find the kind of help you need.
Enter another culprit among breastfeeding challenges: the time management crunch of the 21st century. The speed at which we live our lives, and the instantaneous-ness that has become a built-in part of our cultural expectations seem to be a major hurdle for more and more new mothers to overcome. We can google just about any question and have an answer in a snap. How can it be that it may take several attempts for a baby to latch on, and then the combination of nutritive nursing and non-nutritive/comfort sucking can add up to HOURS in the daily life of a newborn?! The process of breastfeeding requires the time spent with your baby. Time that should not be resented, but enjoyed. This is NORMAL -- but what if your expectations have not adjusted to allow you and your baby to thrive during this relatively short chapter in life? How will you ever adjust to this new reality?
As a mom of four, I've felt that my to do list and calendar have frequently required me to use a shoehorn to make all the "stuff" fit. I have done this for longer than I care to admit, but then what could be more important than meeting the needs of growing children? Time spent is an investment in both their well-being and in my enjoyment of them. I've come to appreciate that the time spent breastfeeding also can assist with the mental adjustment to motherhood. So, how can a new mother cope?
Step 1: Set Priorities
First, decide what is most important to you. Breastfeeding takes time -- and you save money, so it's not a bad trade-off! The time spent when babies are small and vulnerable doesn't last very long: needs change, babies grow and nurse more efficiently, your uncertainties will diminish as you learn more. The initial "work" of breastfeeding lessens considerably after several weeks when life begins to have more of a routine to it and you establish some balance and the "new normal" in your life. My favorite coping tool for stressful times like these is: simplify. Decide what has to be done and what you can live without while you attend to time spent breastfeeding. Your satisfaction and well-being are important here, so honor what you NEED. Simplify the rest.
Step 2: Get Help
Delegating, also known as "asking for help" is the next step in honoring what you and your baby need: time spent with each other. Dismiss the thought that you can or should do it all at the same time. You are someone's mother, not Super Woman! Surprise your friends and family who offer to help by actually telling them how than can. They will enjoy the satisfaction they feel when you actually ask them to shop for your groceries, fold a load of laundry, load your dishwasher, sweep the floor, or put a meal in your crockpot. Many household tasks can be delegated, but nursing your baby is NOT one of them!
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Supportive People
Without support, nursing can be a lonely endeavor. Too many questions can go unanswered, and your uncertainties can influence your enjoyment of the process. Family and friends who are willing to take care of you while you take care of your baby are priceless! Getting to know other mothers who are sharing a similar experience will do wonders for your social life and your sense of well-being. Stop by our Nursing Mothers Group on Wednesday morning if you don't know anyone who is breastfeeding.
Above all, amidst the busy-ness of life, don't forget to enjoy your baby as you ease into motherhood! This busy 21st century will surely survive while you take care of your baby and adjust to the "new normal" in your life. Don't let the sudden shift in your priorities surprise you. It is not uncommon for things that were once "so important" to become less so. Embrace that change. Re-prioritize your life to include the time spent breastfeeding, simplify according to your circumstances, delegate what others are able to do, and surround yourself with supportive family and friends. And, then the time spent breastfeeding becomes a mothering skill and a very sweet memory as your baby grows.
Sharon Olson IBCLC