We often talk about how breastfeeding is a natural, but learned process. You have never done it before, your baby has never done it before, and it is a steep and stressful learning curve. On top of that, you are probably recovering from labor and are totally sleep deprived. You don’t recognize your body, your partner, or your messy, diaper filled house. This makes it hard to have perspective on what is going well and what still needs work. But perspective is exactly what we need in order to not get discouraged or scared.
When I work with new breastfeeding parents who have any sort of struggles, I spend time sitting with them while they try to nurse. I know firsthand that frustration when a baby won’t latch, or falls asleep, or keeps popping off even though they are crying with hunger. And the time you have to take them off your nipple because it hurts, or the latch isn’t right. Those times can be so discouraging. But there are also moments when I sit with parents and baby latches, maybe not the first time, but after a few tries, and after a few minutes things are going so well we talk about other things (after the usual: “How does that feel? Any pain?” and “Are you comfortable? Can you relax your shoulders a bit?”) Those easier, faster, even sometimes relaxed nursing sessions are the ones we forget. Especially when the frustrating ones occur. Especially when they occur in the middle of the night.
I am not saying that breastfeeding always gets better. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Or sometimes there are longer struggles that involve more interventions. But often, for many people, even with a rough start, things do, slowly, start to get better. Progress is not a straight line up, it takes dips and curves and sometimes goes in unexpected directions along the way. When we can remind ourselves that we had successes in the past week it can make those hard times a little less hard. It is hard to encourage yourself when you are so exhausted. This is why a strong support system is so important in the early stages of breastfeeding. The people around you should be there to remind you of what a great job you are doing and validate the hard times while holding onto the good.