August is National Breastfeeding Month!

I am a very indecisive person. Being a new mom seemed to come with endless decisions to make, and I found it very overwhelming. Even though I knew that I was going to be exclusively pumping, I still had to keep deciding to stand up for myself. Even in the hospital (“yes, I really do want a pump here in the hospital room” and “no, I do not want to try to have the baby latch prior to doing this”), I had to defend how I was feeding my baby, and it felt so defeating. I even weakened at times and found myself instead trying to meet the expectations of others, because who was I? A new mom who didn’t know what I was doing? Yes, but really, I was a new mom who hadn’t yet found her support network. I hadn’t yet found my people.

National Breastfeeding Month coincides with back-to-school, and I think fittingly so. It is a good time to learn about new-mom stresses and to reevaluate supporting each other around the intimate topic of breastfeeding. Thankfully, the World Health Organization breastfeeding facts page includes language like, “wherever possible, mothers and babies should remain together and get the support they need to exercise the most appropriate feeding option available.” But what does that mean for you? Only you can know that. I suggest you evaluate your options now and educate yourself before you feel stuck in something you can’t control.

Everything about being a new mom is exhausting. I didn’t quite understand what I was getting into by exclusively pumping. There are book and articles on it, yes, but I don’t think I even realized that I needed to read up on the feeding method I was planning to implement. (If you are curious, here is an excellent article from our trusty “What to Expect” experts that refers to EP as an “underrecognized type of breastfeeding [that] does not get the credit and support it deserves.”) Exclusively pumping, what my mom eventually called “double duty” because of how inefficient it was in comparison to breastfeeding the old-fashioned way, was totally draining. Pun intended. But feeling cornered with no alternatives is not funny. It is stressful. Breastfeeding is full of serious challenges for so many moms out there.

It sounds cliché, but you are not alone, no matter what your situation is. There are millions of Facebook groups out there and “exclusively pumping mamas” is just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to ask questions, get advice, and vent online at 4 AM to people who understand your situation will get you through those hard moments. I was close to my breaking point when a nurse surprised me with the most incredible advice I ever received: “Most people believe that breastmilk is the best thing for a new baby, but it’s actually a happy and healthy mother.” This August let’s remember that no matter what method a mom practices to take care of her baby, it undoubtedly involves much more than breastfeeding—and it genuinely includes taking care of herself.