Sarcasm out of the way (it’ll resurface,) here are a handful of the most common reasons women:
“don’t produce enough,”
“have an undersupply,” and
“aren’t able to breastfeed,”
and here is the kicker… the reasons don’t include mama’s abilities or breasts at all. This post is not intended to shame any mother out there who is surviving through this unsupportive age in human history. I honor you. I also want to absolve you of guilt and shame. As a matter of fact, this post is for women who WANT to successfully breastfeed. If you don’t, and voluntarily choose a different mode of feeding your baby, then this doesn’t apply to you. Live in your power, I trust you.
Despite what you might have been told, by even doctors and governing institutions, YOU are NOT defective. You did not fail. You are enough. Take a minute to close your eyes, repeat that to yourself, and take a deep breath.
There are very few biological reasons breastfeeding might be a struggle. Consulting a professional on whether your baby has oral tethers is a good place to start if you feel you are heeding the info on this post, and still do not feel confident or comfortable. Various medications and true medical conditions are also not to be ignored (cancers, autoimmune disorders, etc.) All of that aside, here are the reasons why we climb an uphill battle just to nourish our babes with our bodies.
1. We use pacifiers
At some point in history, a woman was told that her time would be better spent away from her baby, and she shouldn’t have a child in arms at all times. This is a fallacy. The mother baby duo is a sacred relationship to be nurtured by everyone around them. Infants who are theoretically fed, changed, and rested and are still crying for the comfort of their mothers breast, heartbeat, and hormones are instead plugged with a plastic nipple and rocked incessantly by a stressed, shushing mama. With every angry, insatiable, milkless pull of the pacifier, the breasts feel no signal. Baby is doing everything in his power to communicate his needs. Mom’s body says, “no milk needed here, but you’re stressed as hell, huh?”
For the first few months of baby’s life, your own nipples are the only pacifiers you need. Whether baby is hungry or not, they cry out for the connection, regulation, and synchronization with their mother. This ‘signal and respond’ relationship is crucial to your milk production. The more stimulation at your breast, the more milk you will make.
2. We pump so Daddy can bond
The idea that anyone needs to bond with the baby more than the mother, the one who is manufacturing the elixir of life for her child, is one of the most patriarchal acts of sabotage ever. The constant connection between mother and baby is what literally makes the milk. A good way to decrease your supply is to separate babe from mother. Relax, I’m not a monster… bonding is nice, Daddy is important, and this option is presented to families as a “break” for mom. The temptation is real. The desperation for a break is real. Its also really, really bad for your breastmilk supply. That is hard to hear, but for the same reasons the pacifier is the milk killer, the pump is, too. The suction is no where near as efficient and nuanced as the baby at the breast is. You are also missing out on the hormonal exchange that takes place when you are skin to skin with your nursing baby, providing (you guessed it) all the hormones you need to make more milk; more specifically, the milk with ever changing antibodies based on your baby’s saliva. Baby draws milk, body hears, “make more, mommy!” Don’t fret! There are countless ways for Daddy to bond with his precious child that does not include feeding time!
3. We cut off healthy genitalia
It almost seems silly to explain why tearing, slicing and bandaging a newborn penis can disrupt their ability to breastfeed. Again, this is not to shame anyone. However, the information needs to be understood by new parents. In America, we are STILL encouraged to participate in this barbaric practice, without any sound scientific evidence that there are benefits. The opposite is actually true. The acute complications and life long ramifications of this procedure are well documented. It is also easy to see how profitable maiming our boys has become, as their foreskin is quite literally sold to cosmetic companies and various laboratories. SOLD. For money.
While this could certainly be its own post, and probably will be, I will leave you with the truth that agreeing to a circumcision for the sake of successful brainwashing negatively impacts your breastmilk supply. Simply, because your son is in pain for weeks. When he is in pain, he can not effectively nurse. He will be “cranky” and perhaps even “colicky” and “difficult to soothe,” while no one will admit that the gaping wound on his penis is to blame. There are so many resources for proudly raising a whole, healthy, intact son. All of the benefits to male genital mutilation you have heard are easily debunked and their sketchy rationale explained. There are also gentler religious alternatives to the outdated rituals of the past.
4. We establish newborn schedules
Productivity, people! “Congratulations! Now get up, put that baby down for nap time, get moving, get back to work, eat a salad and stop being so f****ing lazy.” Ok, it is unlikely anyone will actually say those exact words directly to your face, but it is absolutely the internal dialogue of a woman conditioned to fit into a patriarchal system that has long extinguished the divine feminine power. To have an abundant supply of breastmilk, you need to be responding to your baby on demand. If at any point in your early postpartum weeks you are encouraged to withhold nursing because it hasn’t been 3 hours since the last feeding, your supply will tank. Newborn babies can feed every hour, sometimes even more often and it is not by accident or by poor design. If baby is “cluster feeding” you can bet they are doing their work to ensure they have the adequate amount of milk they require for healthy growth.
5. We are not practiced in Sacred Rest
My darling, I am so sorry that you feel like you can not rest and recover. I’m so sorry that you feel like you should be doing something else, other than leaning back in your bed, shirtless, surrounded by cozy pillows and warm blankets, drinking Mother’s Milk tea, sipping a nourishing bone broth and nursing your freshly born baby. My heart breaks as you convince yourself that you don’t need that friend, mother, brother, doula who offered help with chores. I promise you, if they offered, they mean it. They want to help, so LET THEM HELP. There are ways to make sure you have this type of support, even if finances are a concern. Focus on your lineup of support BEFORE baby is born. Ask your trusted family, friends, or church if they would participate in a meal train, or come over 2x a week for the laundry. Most doula organizations have student doulas who are willing to volunteer for experience. They are more than capable of washing your dishes and doing your laundry! With some planning, you can prioritize the rest your breast milk supply requires.
6. We steamroll the physiological birthing process
If you received synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) during your labor or immediately post partum, your breast milk supply will be affected. If you received IV fluids during your surgical or vaginal birth, your breast milk supply will be affected. If you birthed in a hospital and are famished after birth because you were denied basic nutrition during the most rigorous physical event of your life, then your breastmilk supply will be affected. If you were separated from your baby at the moment of their birth so they could be observed under a warmer instead of on your bare chest, your breast milk supply will be affected. If you experienced any morsel of fear or trauma during your birthing time, your breastmilk supply will be affected. Why? Your hormones were tampered with, and hormones are everything. Make it a priority to hire a care provider that is well versed in physiological birth, and do not be afraid to switch your care at any time. Resist that feminine urge to placate, and fall on the sword of loyalty to a provider that does not care if you come or go. They do not care about you, or your baby. Even if you’ve been a patient since you were a teen. Most have NEVER SEEN a baby being born in the wild. Let that sink in. Their training does not include watching any woman give birth in her power, undisturbed in all her mammalian glory. You are a box on their tightly packed schedule. Let’s just be frank, I’m talking about your OBGYN. Seek trusted midwives in your community.
I could go on and on, the reasons are so vast. Luckily, women are F****ING MAGIC so we can adapt and recover our supply. This struggle is societally driven, and strategically curated. Breastfeeding mothers and babies are not as profitable as those who are broken, busy, stressed, and in fear for their baby’s survival. See past the bull sh**. Pull back the veil. Get quiet, tune in to yourself, and follow your instincts without asking someone’s opinion first. Then, when you know you’ve listened to yourself, seek guidance by sources who have SUCCEEDED in this biological function! Do not ask your mother who bottle fed yourself and siblings. She has infinite wisdom, but not on this, and that is ok! Breastfeeding was likely actively discouraged somewhere in your recent maternal lineage. This isn’t the blame or shame game! This is fanning the embers of your power that lie deep inside. You can do this; you were made to do this. You are meant to ignite, and roar. Your mothering is the most important work you will ever do, so please do not ever let another person tell you that it isn’t.
Your live zoom session with me includes continued virtual support during your immediate postpartum time (40 days.) Sometimes reassurance, nervous system regulation, and a simple change in position does the trick, and I am here to help you troubleshoot your breastfeeding journey (like wise women always did.)
Nathan Riley, MD and Brendon Marotta: Circumcision
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