Breastfeeding – A Mental Health Hazard
I never realized that the second hand on a clock made so much noise until shortly after my son was born. Before then, the thin black second hand seemed to dance along the face of the clock, parading its innocence as I counted down the moments until my baby was safely in my arms.
Now, the unimpeachable piece of plastic counting the seconds through each hour became an anchoring weight that pulled me down from stomach to spirit with every tick, tick, tick…
With the noise ringing in my ears, and my heart pounding in my chest, my blood began to boil. Every single tick of the second hand on that clock reminded me that I was one second closer to having to breastfeed my baby. As the time drew near, I literally began shaking from the inside out.
I had become all too familiar with how breastfeeding went for us and I found myself riddled with anticipatory anxiety as I awaited our next feed…
My too-full breasts began to throb.
A replaying of every sloppy latch filled my head.
I could hear the echo of my previous gasps from the crippling, shooting pains.
The tightness in my jaw from the clenching was starting again and I knew it would refuse to subside until the next feed was finished.
The heat of a single tear running down my cheek burned like a cattle prod branding me as a baby feeding failure…
After 6 weeks of this, these sensations were all too familiar.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Why had no one told me about this part of breastfeeding?
Why had everyone painted a picture of breastfeeding as natural and beautiful?
Why had everyone said that breastfeeding would be a perfect bonding experience?
With twenty minutes to go until my son would wake up to eat, I started trying to rationalize how I could put more time between his feeds.
Surely it would be okay for him to go four or five hours between feeds, rather than three, right!?
Bonding… Yea, right…
I was actively contemplating letting my baby starve in order to avoid putting him on my breast, but sure… A beautiful bonding experience… If you say so…
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Why didn’t anyone warn me that breastfeeding could turn me into someone I didn’t even recognize?
If only someone, anyone, would have skipped the “natural and beautiful” talk and told me that breastfeeding can be hard. Maybe if even one person could have normalized how much work it takes, or talked to me about all the different feelings that may arise, or told me that feeding my baby with a bottle was just as valid as feeding him with my breast…
Maybe I wouldn’t be hearing every second pass with the growing dread of feeding my son.
Every second that passed cut like a knife.
The thoughts flooded my mind…
Why do I feel like I’m drowning?
I’m just trying to feed my baby…
Breastfeeding should come with bright yellow hazard tape wrapped around it…
A cry from down the hall snapped me back to reality. It’s… feeding time.
I was absolutely traumatized, and I can only imagine how that energy affected my son…
Somehow, time passed, and somehow, I got through it. Or maybe I should say… “I got around it.” Either way, it was time for me to get back to work as a doula.
That’s when I realized just how traumatic my experience was…
The topic of breastfeeding would come up while I was with a client, and that second hand on the clock in my head would start ticking…
I would be instantly transported to my own experience, and the voice in my head would start screaming, “JUST STOP BREASTFEEDING!!”
I knew I had to do something about this. It wasn’t fair to me or the clients I was supporting. It took intense self reflection and some really hard personal work for me to move past my story and be able to see each client’s feeding journey as the unique experience that it was for them. But it had to be done.
I’m proud to say that after doing a ton of heavy emotional work, I have allowed my personal journey to flourish into an intense passion for supporting others through infant feeding.
Infant Feeding no longer triggers me.
As an Infant Feeding Specialist and a Postpartum & Infant Care Doula, I have honed the necessary skills to separate my personal story and opinions in order to view each client’s journey through their eyes; to dig deeply into what they want their story to look like, and help them reach their personal parenting and infant feeding goals.
As a ProDoula trainer, it’s important to me that you are able to step into your client’s story knowing how to do the same.
I want you to meet your clients where they are in their feeding journey; to have the ability to ask the hard questions, actively listen to the hard answers, and help your clients craft the stories that they will tell for an entire lifetime.
Let’s help our client’s love feeding their babies, however they chose to do so! Let’s enable them to look at the clock less, and their babies much more!
Written by: Ashley Dare, ProDoula Postpartum & Infant Care Doula Trainer