October 5, 2011
By Ann Seacrest, Executive Director, MilkWorks
A close friend of mine just returned from spending a week helping her son and daughter-in-law take care of their first baby. She loved playing grandma, listening to their birth story and helping to take care of everyone.
Apparently her new grand baby did not nurse well for the first several days. Her son was very supportive, encouraging his wife to be patient until things improved. My friend said that her daughter in law felt like a failure when her baby was not nursing well. This comment launched us into a discussion of our culture’s expectations of new moms.
I think I surprised my friend when I said, “Well, of course new moms should feel like a failure if their baby does not feed well. If they didn’t, who would take care of the babies?”
Take a moment to think of what would happen if moms did not feel compelled to take good care of their babies, or, in the case of breastfeeding, did not take it personally when their babies don’t feed well? Without this motivation, would any babies ever survive?
We often forget that much of what we do has origins in biology. Why is sex pleasurable? So that people reproduce. If sex was miserable, humans would be extinct. Why should moms feel responsible for their babies? So their babies will survive and thrive. We live in a rapidly changing world more focused on technology than brain chemicals and hormones. Yet it is well known that biology still rules in some matters.
What should we do when new moms feel bad because their babies are not breastfeeding well? Provide reassurance that their feelings are normal and find them help. When moms feel as though they are being listened to, they work through their feelings. They realize that life (and breastfeeding) is not perfect. With help they can go on to breastfeed their baby in their own unique, special way.