I sit down to write a blog when I am inspired. This usually finally happens when a theme arises in my private practice. Lately I have many parents asking “permission” to do many myriad of variations on their lactation journey: bottle feeding, adding formula, pumping less to get sleep and prioritize mental health, weaning and feeling okay about it.
I call them variations because they are not veering off the path. They are part of the many paths of breastfeeding.
This blog is not about the do’s and don’t of breastfeeding. That topic is for another day. Some of the common threads I hear:
Can I give some bottles and breastfeed? Can my partner do some feedings for me so I can rest? I know I'm not “supposed” to pump for the first 4 weeks but I really need my partner to help with feedings sooner. Can I use formula while breastfeeding? Can I decide to pump and feed my baby with a bottle? Can I stop breastfeeding?
These questions are asked in the spirit of not so much, how can I do these things, but “am I allowed to do these things?” And this is the topic of my blog. Guilt and the overarching nebulous feeling that we have to breastfeed a certain way. That breastfeeding has to look a certain way and follow a prescribed path or else we have done it wrong.
Society has pushed all these questioning thoughts on us. It's not our fault as new parents. We want to do what is best. And breastfeeding is a new thing and uncharted territory. We look to friends, family and unfortunately social media to guide our thoughts and decisions. Some of this advice is really good. And some, not so much. And then we might turn to experts in lactation. But IBCLC’s and other lactation professionals are here to Support you. Not to tell you what to do with your baby or your body.
And yes, you Can use bottles and breastfeed. You can give formula And breastmilk. Pumping can be an option for many and No one should tell you that you Should or you Have to breastfeed or when you should stop.
In other words, it’s your journey. It’s my job to support you on your desired path and provide all the best evidence based education for you to reach your goals. You don’t need anyone’s permission when settling on your special relationship with your baby. It’s yours, it's unique.
Feel confident in your decisions. Realize that you may change your mind every other day in the early weeks. Babies change really quickly and breastfeeding evolves and gets easier than that really tough first week. It’s ok to go back and do something different. You will know when you’ve made a good decision around feeding your baby when you feel relaxed and you breathe easier. Listen to your Parent intuition. You know your baby best and you know your family best. The rest of the world can just butt out.
Enjoy Your Breastfeeding Relationship!
Cathy Walker, MA, RNC, IBCLC