An Open Letter to Breastfeeding Mothers

Postpartum doulas support breastfeeding overnight.

Hey. I see you. Literally, I see you because I sit with you at 2:30 am, while you feeding your baby for the 3rd time tonight. I see you trying to do the math on how far away from the pediatrician’s recommended schedule we’ve strayed, and I try to reassure you.

He might be cluster feeding- he’s been at the breast nearly constantly for the last day. He’s not usually this needy, but she’s powering through and feeding on demand.

“Maybe he’s having a growth spurt after overhearing you telling me that you really want him to regain his birth weight,” I say. “Or maybe his brain is doing something cool and he’s feeling a little needy. It’s probably tough learning to focus baby eyes.”

Who knows what a baby thinks while he breastfeeds?

There’s so much that feels like an art and not a science to me, when I’m supporting breastfeeding in the wee hours of the morning. What I do know though, is that you’re giving your baby your all.

Literally, it’s all pouring down his throat right now. All the love, and oatmeal and mother’s milk tea you can muster is being sucked through your nipple (and the nipple shield, because regardless of what that lactation consultant told you, you know that he’ll eat with the shield and won’t without it tonight) and into his tummy.

And then, on top of the love you give from your body, you’re topping him off with some formula. “Dessert” as the nurse practitioner says, just so we can be sure he’s getting enough. Enough love, enough attention and care, and enough food.

I know that these are only two of the voices you’re wading through, trying to feed the baby. And that even with overnight support from me, your postpartum doula, you have to make these decisions on half the sleep you used to have.

And I know that you want to say “fuck you” to the person judging you for supplementing with formula, but it’s rude and she’s an expert who you asked for help.

I know that you’ve never obsessed this much about poop in your entire life- how much, what color, how often. I know that you feel like you’re swimming in shit. Thankfully there’s an app for that. 

And I know that sometimes you wonder how long you can really keep going like this. It’s been a couple of weeks and you can’t imagine how your friend made it a couple of years. I’m pretty sure you don’t believe me, when I say that it usually gets easier. Or even when I say that we’re fortunate to live in a time where formula is also an option. I want you to know you can have choices without guilt. But the look on your face isn’t free of guilt and reassured.

That’s okay. I’ll keep telling you how amazing you are, no matter how this breastfeeding journey takes place.

And I know that you’d probably not be telling me all of this in the light of day.

In the daytime you want to portray confidence and serenity. For your partner who has gone back to work more quickly than you imagined. For the strangers (hopefully soon to be friends) at the breastfeeding support group who are making it look easy. For the family who said you were more of a career girl than maternal and you probably shouldn’t even try to breastfeed.

But I’m thankful that, under the glow of this night light, you’re sharing. Because I can tell you that I’ve heard it before, and maybe you’ll feel a little less alone.

I can let you know that breastfeeding is natural, but rarely easy and intuitive.

And I can let you know that I admire you, and I trust your instincts. You’re going to feed your baby, and it’s an honor to be with you while you figure out how.

We can sort through this tomorrow when the sun is back up. For now, get some rest. And know that, more than supporting breastfeeding, as a doula, I support you.

 

<3, and happy National Breastfeeding Week, 

 

Sam Olivia, DC Metro Doula

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