After giving birth, breastfeeding is the most challenging and physically demanding experience for many new moms. Sore nips, lonely late night feedings, and many times a lack of family support.
Yeah, breastfeeding groups sound nice, but when you're still sore from that rockin roll concert of a birth, you're sporting diapers like you're grandmother, sweating bullets every time your baby screams and leaking milk, heading out to sit KumbaYa style with a group of bare breasted breastfeeding goddesses doesn't sound so great. You need your OWN people. And I say, Bring the Tribe to you.
Breastfeeding & Language Barriers
I gave birth to my first daughter while living in Puerto Rico, which is not where I'm from and I don't speak Spanish fluently.
My daughter and I's breastfeeding journey started off great. I never had cracks, bleeding, or pain and she plumped up quite quickly. But fast forward to 6 weeks post partum and everything changed. She simply wouldn't latch anymore. I'd bring her to my breasts to feed, she'd open her mouth, latch, pull off, and scream bloody murder.
I was completely lost and knew nothing about babies or breastfeeding.
My husband and I reached out to our doula but she had limited breastfeeding knowledge. She then reached out to a midwife friend of hers and she offered support, but because of a language barrier, many things were lost in translation. Our daughter's pediatrician was a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but each appointment ended with a mix of frustration and hope. I felt as though I wasn't clearly understood and I think he felt similarly. The language barrier again.
I continued to try my best to get my daughter to eat, but she missed feedings, continued to scream at my breast, and I of course sunk into a puddle of tears each time.
Eventually, after weeks of appointments, dozens of phone calls with my doula, and advice from her midwife friend, we were able to discover that my daughter had severe gas. I learned that babies won't feed if their bellies are full.
We quickly took action and within days she was back to feeding like a champ. That situation taught me a lesson. Breastfeeding is truly a village event. It should never be experienced alone.
I began to research lactation trainings and found one that provided extensive knowledge that would allow me to help other expat moms like myself. Just a few weeks before my daughter's 1 year birthday, I completed my certifications as a Lactation Educator Counselor and began my Breastfeeding coaching career. I specialize in helping women who live busy lives overseas or in areas with limited breastfeeding support, to feel confident, connected, and uplifted throughout their breastfeeding journey.
Here are the 3 people I recommend that I recommend every mother enlist as a part of their village and breastfeeding tribe.
1. Your partner. They should have just as much breastfeeding knowledge, if not more than you. It's like labor, it doesn't pay to be the most knowledgeable person in the room. Breastfeeding is the same. Let's be real. The first weeks after birth are a blur. Who can remember all the details from that breastfeeding class? How many times should I be feeding her? How do I know when to switch? Should I feed on one side? Both sides? Left, right, left? Do I put the nipple cream on before I feed or after? Do I need to wipe it off? Should I reapply after each feeding? Why is she making that face? Should I burp her? Am I overfeeding her? Underfeeding? Man, it's almost like you need a PhD in breastfeeding.
I recommend that all my clients attend a breastfeeding class before they give birth and to bring along their partner. Have them take notes in their own notebook, get the instructor's number and store it in their phone. That way, once the --ish hits the fan on day 3 after birth and your breasts are so full of milk they could stock the Wegmanns milk section for the winter, your partner is right their equipped with number in hand to get help. This will free you to focus on feedings, resting, and healing up.
2. A girlfriend. I even recommend that you enlist the support of a friend without kids. She's more likely to be running high on patience and sleep. She may also be curious about what it's like to navigate the 4th trimester and would love a birds-eye view of the happenings. She's the perfect person to keep your spirits up and provide level headed advice as well. Since she doesn't have kids, she's less likely to be judgmental about the choices you make about breastfeeding or not.
3. A lactation professional. Personally, I recommend a Breastfeeding Coach with formal lactation training. A Breastfeeding Coach is someone who is committed to sticking with each of her clients from before birth until weaning. Preferably this is the person that you took your breastfeeding class with and will also conduct all of your lactation consultations, plus back to work and pumping consultations. A breastfeeding coach is available by text message, phone, email, and available for in-perons meet ups. She's like your paid best friend. She's the one you call when you need to take that first trip away from your baby and you want to know exactly what to do to maintain your supply while away. She's non judgmental and helps you make the best feeding choices for you and your family.
Breastfeeding is such a whirlwind event that can really suck the air and life out of a new mom. It's the very first instance that a new mom must enlist the help of her village. They can bring meals, call for help from a professional, and simply provide encouragement when she's feeling discouraged.
No mother should feel as though she must have all the answers, and do everything perfectly without complaint. Building this core trio early on can really make a world of difference and is the foundation to a supportive motherhood village.
Anjelica Malone, CLEC
Connecting With & Inspiring #AGlobalTribeOfWomen