Finding Valuable Support as a First-Time Breastfeeding Mother
by Lynn, as told to BMSG Editorial Team
While many expecting mothers are naturally excited to breastfeed their newborns due to arrive, for many, it can be a daunting task when the day arrives.
For Lynn, a first-time mother, the challenges she faced during her early days as a new breastfeeding mother left her feeling worn out and troubled. “(Breastfeeding) was definitely a steep learning curve for me,” said Lynn, a mother of a 20 month-old daughter, who recalls the early days.
Steep Learning Curve
Lynn was shocked to learn that when she first tried to breastfeed, getting baby to latch and eventually getting a letdown was not as easy as what she had always expected and imagined. “When I went for the hospital briefing prior to giving birth, I watched a video where it seemed as if milk will just flow for a new mother who has just given birth. I realised I had also been influenced by what I had seen on television; that breastfeeding was something so natural and instinctual. I was totally unprepared for the real thing,” added the 39 year-old.
It was only later on when she began to seek support from like-minded mothers and breastfeeding counsellors whom she met from the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group (Singapore) (BMSG) did she start to realise the amount of “bad” information she had been getting. “I only felt affirmed after I had discovered BMSG. After being part of the closed support group, I managed to correct some of my own misconceptions about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding became a lot better after that as I had a more realistic expectation of it,” Lynn added.
Companions who Provided Emotional Support
Knowing more about breastfeeding since then, Lynn went on to seek company who provided her much restraint and healthy distractions when the going gets tough.
One of the things Lynn feels most poignant about is the mental struggle that comes with caring for a baby. For many mums in their postpartum period, a significant number feel a form of baby blues. This could be manifested through feeling sad or unhappy, as the body’s hormones start to settle after a long period of pregnancy. She was fortunate to have the support of her family members. “My husband, my mother, sister and brother told me to acknowledge my feelings; it was OK to be unhappy if I feel unhappy,” said Lynn, who has since returned to work when her baby was almost five months’ old.
Her husband, especially, has been her rock. She loved that he took the trouble to learn with her during her breastfeeding journey. “He has since always supported my decision to breastfeed. He is quick to defend me when we meet family members, friends or even doctors and nurses who may doubt the benefits of breastfeeding,” added Lynn. Some of the things he has defended include how breastfeeding makes a mother weak, or that breastmilk is useless for older babies; Lynn and her 20 month-old bub are still going on strong and it doesn’t look like she will be weaning her baby off anytime soon.
Finding Comfort in Other Mothers
Lynn also sought her motherhood “tribes”; she went on to make two good mummy friends whom she chatted up at the playground. “These “veteran” mummies showed me what was normal with breastfeeding,” added Lynn. She also sought support with the babywearing community, such as Babywearing SG, and found that it empowered her to be more independent as a breastfeeding mother. “I did things I never knew possible. I could now go to the toilet without having to hold my baby AND finally being able to have frequent meals, all while babywearing,” she quips.
Most significantly, she also finds joy in a group of like-minded mummy friends whom she still depend on today for support, ideas and humour. “Our growing children throw all sorts of antics, be it new breastfeeding stunts, growing new teeth, or surprise growth spurts. Tough nights always warrant some online time in our private ‘thinktank’, ” she said.
At the end of her maternity leave, Lynn was ready to return to the workforce. Her strong support, especially in the form of her family and friends, helped her to ease into the transition. When she started working again and had to pump milk for her baby, she faced some challenges.
“The nature of my job is that I have no fixed working place,” said Lynn, who works as a consultant in business risk management. As a result, when it was time to pump, she may be at a location that doesn’t allow it. Fortunately, she has also met understanding clients and co-workers who help her to find a suitable place to pump. “It’s heartwarming when they (clients) offer me their nursing rooms or cordon off a private space for me, just to pump,” said Lynn. Of course, there were times when such luxuries were unavailable and she was asked to pump in toilets or told off about her needing to pump. She had also received comments such as “You can’t work on overseas projects if you breastfeed,” a misconception she has since proven untrue.
Lynn is also an archery coach, a hobby she is passionate about. But similarly, when she is carrying out training sessions, pumping on-the-go or “in the wild” as she jokes, was a regular occurrence. She is fortunate to have very supportive trainees who understand her need to pump when the time arrives.
Support System Biggest Reason for Success
As we can learn from Lynn’s story, success doesn’t come without struggles and challenges. With the right support and mental resilience, a breastfeeding mother can overcome the odds. Lynn’s story was not without pitfalls, and like many other mothers, she had met her fair share of challenges. Her story is also a reminder that there is a lot of work that continues to be necessary in helping the immediate community a mother lives in understand that a breastfeeding mother wants to be valued and supported. The narrative that breastfeeding is a mother’s job alone is incorrect; together, with strong support from families, employees and friends, a mother who wants to breastfeed can make that intention not just for herself, but as part of a collective effort in bringing up future generations in a way that the mother and her family feel best.