With all of the pressure on mothers to juggle so many tasks without missing a beat, it’s time we start shedding light on the parts of motherhood that aren’t often discussed. Like breastfeeding.
Recent news items, like The New York Times’ story on the U.S.’s role in a global resolution to encourage breastfeeding, citing a study that found that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year), have inspired women, including Thrive Founder and CEO Arianna Huffington, to post photos of themselves breastfeeding their children. We then posed the topic to our Thrive community, who opened up with their thoughtful #ThriveBreastfeedingStories. In the spirit of deepening the conversation about the realities of new motherhood, here are a few of those powerful stories.
Jen Schwartz wanted to breastfeed after giving birth to her son, especially after seeing so many of her friends boasting about the beauty of it on social media. But when her baby refused to latch on, Jen faced symptoms of postpartum depression, struggling to understand why breastfeeding wasn’t working for her. Ultimately, she accepted the fact that every baby has different needs, and has gained a new perspective from her experience. “Whether you choose breast milk or formula, you are still a wonderful, capable mother,” Schwartz says. “Women need to support women no matter what. I support you no matter what. And keep those beautifully honest breastfeeding pictures coming on my Instagram feed. That might not have been my journey, but I still love watching yours.”
Beth Meltzer had a positive breastfeeding experience with her four children, and even became a coach for overwhelmed new moms — but Meltzer acknowledges knows that every mother is different, and the choice to breastfeed is ultimately a personal one. “Every mom’s choice should be respected, and no mom should be shamed for her choice to, or not to, breastfeed,” Meltzer notes. “All moms deserve respect for whatever choice they make about nourishing and nurturing their babies.”
After fighting a long battle with infertility, Shveta Suri Kohli and her partner were overjoyed by the miracle of their first child — but noticed right away that their new baby refused to breastfeed. After struggling through a difficult labor experience and a month of difficulty breastfeeding, Kohli almost gave up. “I began to doubt my self-worth and question my motherhood. So many tears and sleepless nights did not help at all.” Soon, Shveta found that by reducing her stress levels and prioritizing rest, her baby latched on, and she was able to feed. “It was a magical moment,” Kohli describes. “The bond we share during feeding is ethereal.”
When Anne Peterson gave birth to her daughter, who was premature, in a special neonatal hospital, she was faced with a reality that not all mothers face: she had to breastfeed. As she tried her hardest to provide enough milk for her new baby to reach a healthy weight, she was determined to do her best despite challenges. Eventually, her daughter reached a healthy weight, and Peterson felt a stress lifted off of her shoulders. “Deep inside, I knew I had to keep trying,” Peterson says, looking back. “It was important. It was something that I could do to help this little one I loved so big.”
Cynthia Leung read all about breastfeeding before giving birth to her first child, but when the time came to feed her baby, she struggled. “From the sleepless nights to cracked nipples and the starving baby, I was at a loss of what to do,” Leung admits. “I was doing everything I thought possible, reading and trying different strategies to improve milk supply and visiting experts such as the lactation consultant.” When she gave birth to her second child, she had a more seamless experience. The lesson she learned? “Trust your maternal instinct,” Leung says. “Be empowered to enjoy how to feed your baby your way.”
Amanda Aronson, M.Ed, found that the stress in waiting for her milk to come in caused her an immense amount of frustration and anxiety. “I remember crying as my frustration grew with every new sore on my body,” Arnson says. She learned that she needed to remind herself that if breastfeeding was meant for her, she would need to take a deep breath and wait until the timing was right — a lesson she learned from her own mother. “It was comforting to hear her remind me that breastfeeding was something I had to learn and that the calmer I was, the more easily things would flow.”