I have a confession to make - breastfeeding was easy for me.
Now by easy, I don't mean that it came without some hard work and dedication, and both of those continue to this day. Throw in a little stubborness when cluster-feeding and growth spurts reared their ugly heads, and you've got the jist of my breastfeeding journey thus far.
I've suffered three very painful plugged ducts that each took 24-48 hours to clear. I'll never forget the toe-curling pulling sensation when I worked on perfecting my son's latch in the first two weeks. I remember the sheer agony of engorgement when my milk first matured and on occassions when my son refused the breast. I can still feel the burning tears of frustration when I had no idea if he was getting anything those first few days (of course, now I know all those wet and poopy diapers meant he was!).
All that said, I did not suffer a lot of the issues that many breastfeeding moms, new or otherwise, experience. I had no cracked nipples and no bleeding. I've never had mastitis (knock on wood ...). Thanks to the help of the Lactation Consultant for the region where I gave birth, we were quick to fix my son's latch and get the ball rolling. I've never had supply issues, and the only real bump in the road to date is a recent excess of lipase which renders my expressed breast milk unpalatable for my son after a day or two in the fridge (or immediately upon being frozen). Thankfully, I am still a stay-at-home-mom, so I've never had to store milk for use when I can't be with him.
I realize that I've been very lucky. I don't mean to negate my role (or even my son's role) in our success with the word "luck." There was a lot of learning involved and I tried very hard to be a good student. The fact remains, however, that when I try and give advice to new moms, or when I try and ecourage those who are having problems to hang in there, I feel a little bit of guilt. I fear that if those women knew, for just a second, what I didn't go through, they might be quick to brush my advice or encouragement aside since, in some instances, I haven't been "there."
I'm very passionate about breastfeeding. I know that isn't news. I recently had a friend apologize to me because after I brought up an election topic, she announced she was about to launch into a speech. You see, she's very passionate about Canadian politics. I knew exactly where she was coming from, because I am the same way when I speak to someone about breastfeeding. In fact, I recently tried giving breastfeeding advice (through a Facebook private message, no less) to a mom-to-be who was scheduled for a caesarean section in a few days. My goal was to let her know that breastfeeding after a c-section was possible, and to inform her of some of the "booby traps" that like to pop up in those first few days and weeks. When I was done furiously typing and I hit send, all I could think was, "What if I've overwhelmed her and scared her from even trying at all?"
It comes down to this: information is power. Yes, we have to be careful of the words we use when we choose to share information. And what's more, I think we need to be willing to be open and honest about our own situation when we decide to impart our wisdom. Do I need to start each conversation with "I've never had cracked nipples, but ..."? I don't think that's necessary. Do I need to wear a shirt that says "I found breastfeeding easy!" No. In fact, doing so might cause more harm than good. Who wants breastfeeding advice from the girl who never had to fight for it?
But I did have to fight. I had to fight the booby traps. The formula ads, the formula samples, the backwards health professionals, the baby bottle gifts. So although I (admittedly and openly) may not have experienced as much blood, sweat, and tears as some, I truly hope (and believe) my gentle words can help another mom. And I promise to learn from those moms, as well!