My first column for My Big Gay Family. No pressure, but here’s hoping I do alright.
This is a feeling all too familiar from the early days of parenting and breastfeeding: No pressure, but here’s a small, entirely dependent human being. Don’t mess this up. Oh, and we lost the instruction manual, every model is unique, and we don’t accept returns. You’ve got this, right?
Breastfeeding might be how mammals feed their babies, but that doesn’t mean it’s always perfectly straightforward. In the early days it can be a challenge to figure it all out:
Is my baby getting enough milk? (have a look here at the indicators)
Is that nappy normal? Seriously?? (there’s a pretty wide range – this might help reassure you)
Why are they making that noise? (honestly, you may never figure that out)
In the early days, and throughout my time breastfeeding two babies, two things have consistently helped me survive the whirlwind of frequent feeding and self-doubt:
Trust your instinct and follow your baby’s lead – by responding to both your baby and your own instinct, you might find you’re doing things that none of ‘the books’ mention. You find yourself ignoring the clock, throwing out the schedule, and offering a breastfeed whenever your little one stirs, hiccups, or moves – because it just works. You find yourself holding them close for their day naps, because they wake after 43 nanoseconds in that carefully purchased cot. Fortunately, following your baby’s cues, feeding as frequently as they need and want (which is often very frequent in the early days and weeks), and listening to your own instincts are all great ways to help establish a successful breastfeeding and parenting relationship longer term.
Trusting your instinct also means listening to that little voice that says “Keep looking for answers”. Attachment still feeling painful, even though everyone says it “looks great”? Dirty nappies that don’t seem quite right? Follow your instinct and seek out a trusted health advisor, IBCLC, or trained peer breastfeeding counsellor, and talk through your situation with them.
Find accurate information, helpful suggestions, and support for your choices – for some mums, your partner and family might be that village of support you need. For others, you might find ‘your people’ through local mums’ and parenting groups; or through peer support networks such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s local groups (or La Leche League internationally). And there are always online groups, too, that may help you navigate and inform your choices.
In short, trust your instincts, and find your village. And conveniently, these two things complement one another – when you find those people who you feel offer useful and accurate information, make helpful suggestions without judgement, and genuinely support you in your parenting and breastfeeding, it makes it a lot easier to go with your gut and follow that amazing instinct.
See you next month!