Breastfeeding Overwhelm & How to Face it
Maybe some very fortunate mothers experience only bliss in their breastfeeding journey, but I’ve yet to meet one of them.
From interacting with countless moms through my personal life and via research for this blog, it seems to me that we all encounter issues – some bigger than others, of course, but the most common thread being overwhelm.
For the first time mom who has never nursed before, there is a plethora of doubts and unknowns to face immediately following your baby’s birth. For the seasoned mom, the stress is different this time around. She worries as much about her new baby as she does the impact on her other children.
So it matters not – veteran or amateur – breastfeeding moms are inundated with stressors and heavy loads right from the start. Overwhelm is unfortunately a given in the vast majority of circumstances.
How do we battle it? How do we defeat it? Can we ever move past it, or will it plague our motherhood until we’ve weaned all our babies?
I sincerely believe we can learn to put it in its place and not let it overtake us.
We begin by deciding that our breastfeeding commitment only stretches as far as the next day. See, the underlying issue of overwhelm is that our minds naturally race down the path of the future and try to figure out problems that have yet to even arrive. We get too far ahead and problem-solve unnecessarily; we bury ourselves. We automatically (and usually erroneously) assume that breastfeeding just isn’t going to work long-term. Of course there’s nothing wrong with setting breastfeeding goals for the future, but when you’re in the thick of a difficult time, it’s best to narrow your focus down and make it through the current obstacle.
Aren’t there enough problems for today alone? The answer is a resounding YES.
So let’s start there. Or here, I should say.
Determine now that you will face today and only it’s concerns.
Begin by writing some things down. There is something powerful and helpful about physically getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
First, write the date.
Below that, write down a single victory from yesterday. If it’s simply that you kept your child nourished – that’s definitely something to celebrate! If you overcame a specific obstacle, note it.
Next unload your current mental stressors on the page. Any problems related to breastfeeding – worries, latch issues, exhaustion, pumping concerns – anything you’re facing today (key word being “today”).
Then write down one thing you’ll do today to benefit your breastfeeding journey by easing your heaviest load listed at the top: schedule a lactation consultant appointment, try a new nursing position, call a best friend, pump one extra session, etc.
Then do it.
When I had mastitis while nursing my son, this is what one of my daily entries might have looked like:
March 1, 2017
Yesterday’s victory: continuing to bf through the pain of mastitis
Today’s load: mastitis in the right breast
Next step: continue treating the pain and infection naturally: rest, increase fluid intake, breast massage, hot and cold compress, nurse often.
The entire premise of being overwhelmed is feeling buried or overpowered by something. Facing things one day at a time is a huge step in digging yourself out from underneath the heavy load. And then settling on something productive to combat your current stressor is like having someone else help you shovel your way out.
I hope this gives you a practical way to face this beautiful but challenging season. I really believe you can do this!