In the month of August, we observe Breastfeeding Awareness Month. We also acknowledge that there are many paths to feeding a newborn and recognize the challenges and triumphs of the infant feeding journey and support parents as they feed their little ones the best way they know how. To uplift all feeding parents within our community, Mama Glow hosted a lively, judge-free webinar, presented by Bobbie, during which our incredible panelists explored feeding on multiple levels. We were joined by singer and writer Sada K., pediatrician and lactation consultant Dr. Amna Husain (who joined us in her final days of maternity leave), occupational therapist and IBCLC Dairian Roberts, and Bobbie’s VP of Marketing, Kim Chappell, four incredible mothers dedicated both personally and professionally to conversations around infant feeding.
Whether you breastfeed/chest-feed/body feed, bottle feed, supplement, or formula feed, here are 5 takeaways to help you feel empowered on your journey:
Advocate for you & your baby.
At the end of the day, Kim reminded us that no one else is going to bed thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby but you. You are the best advocate for both you and your baby’s needs when it comes to feeding, and there is so much power in knowledge. Do the research ahead of time – not only on your feeding options, but also on your feeding rights. There are laws at both the federal and state levels that are there to protect you and your feeding, which are especially important for those planning to keep nursing and/or pumping once they return to work.
Filter out the noise.
You will get so many opinions from so many people about how you should feed your baby and what it should look like, which can cause you to doubt your decisions or feel shame about what you have chosen for your family. Find outlets and people that you trust to empower your decision-making and not put strain on it – Mama Glow and Milk Drunk are both dedicated to providing editorial resources for feeding parents, and Dr. Amna’s YouTube channel is rife with information for visual learners as she pulls from her extensive experience as a pediatrician and lactation consultant, as well as what she’s learned first-hand as a mother of two. With your toolkit assembled, you can confidently filter out the noise when it’s causing more problems than it’s solving, and be protective over which information and opinions you’re letting in.
Be prepared for any outcome.
Despite our best efforts, we know that plans are bound to change. While it’s important to know what you hope your feeding journey will look like before baby arrives so that you aren’t caught off-guard, it is just important to know what you’ll do if that plan, for whatever reason, doesn’t come to be. Mama Glow founder Latham Thomas, who moderated the discussion, said it’s important to remember that you are making feeding preferences, not a firm feeding plan. This allows you to stay more flexible with the needs of you and your baby, and prepare for a variety of outcomes and feeding options so that you can feel confident no matter how you end up feeding your baby. Even if you intend to exclusively breastfeed, this does include finding a formula brand or alternative breastmilk option that you can feel good about turning to should you end up needing that added support.
Build a support system.
Systems of support are necessary in all stages of the reproductive health continuum, and the infant feeding stage is certainly no exception. If you do not already have a support system in place that you can trust to uplift and strengthen your feeding journey – create one! Assemble a team of doulas, lactation consultants, medical providers, etc., who can educate you as you make your feeding decisions and advocate for your preferences. Dairian advises that having a supportive professional team can be especially helpful when enlisting friends or family who are struggling to “get on board” with what you’ve chosen, and said she makes a point to have appointments where everyone is included so that she can act as an intermediary to bring everyone together in support of the feeding person’s wishes.
Give yourself grace.
Your mental health is a vital piece of your infant feeding journey, and an aspect of your health that cannot be overlooked if you want to have a successful and positive experience. Sada urged feeding parents to give yourself and your body grace throughout the process by being open to whatever happens or changes along the way. This includes refraining from assigning firm dates or benchmarks to your feeding journey, so that you don’t feel like you’re “failing” yourself or your baby if all of your goals aren’t met. Find power in the fact that you are nourishing your baby and helping them grow. At the end of the day, what is “best” is that your baby is well-fed.