Learn more about the creator of this video: TaNefer Lumukanda
Breastfeeding is natural… so I should just naturally know how to do it, right?
Well, not exactly.
Yes, your body is amazing! The physical and hormonal processes that orchestrate pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding happen with or without your conscious participation. And the interaction between the mother’s body and the baby’s body is fascinating. For example, did you know that your b
ody temperature rises or lowers in response to your baby’s? Did you know that your milk changes as the nutritional needs of your baby change? Did you know that the more milk your baby takes, the more milk your body will make? That’s so cool! Then why is it so hard to learn to breastfeed?
With all these amazing natural processes going on, why do so many new mothers suffer from sore nipples, pain, engorgement, worries about milk supply, and babies that seem frustrated or turn away while breastfeeding? Shouldn’t I just “know” how to do it? Why do I feel like I’ve failed?
Let me tell you a story about what anthropologist Brooke Scelza learned when she asked this question.
Scelza wondered why so many American women give up breastfeeding earlier than they planned, while women in many non-Western cultures, such as the Himba of Namibia, have long-term success. She thought she knew why. She thought it was because these women grew up seeing other women breastfeeding and they absorbed the knowledge this way. She thought it was because there are less birth interventions in these cultures. She thought it was because women carried their babies in slings. But she realized that none of these was the real answer.
What Scelza observed was that Himba moms had just as many problems with breastfeeding as American moms. They didn’t know how to get a good latch, they didn’t know when to feed their baby, they didn’t know how to tell if their baby was getting enough milk. Just like any new mom. Just like you.
The difference was that everyone accepted that it was a learning process, that they wouldn’t naturally “get it” right away. And the new moms were surrounded by experienced teachers – moms, grandmas, aunts. These women would even wake the new mom up and tell her to feed her baby.
A lot of us don’t have family members that are experienced in this learning process of breastfeeding, maybe because our moms didn’t have that either. So what are American moms to do? We need to find our own supporters and teachers and surround ourselves with them. That might be friends, support groups, classes or consultants. Check out The Big List of Breastfeeding Support Options in Pittsburgh. Get a head start on learning to breastfeed by taking one of MAYA’s breastfeeding classes. If you’re having a hard time, you can always give us a call, and meet with one of our doulas, educators, or breastfeeding consultants. Even if you just need a safe, comfortable place to feed your baby and have someone to talk to, come on by.
Most importantly, try not to be too hard on yourself for not having it all figured out
Why would you? You’ve never done this before!