TMI – How New Mothers Can Survive It
Too Much Information – What to do with it all.
When I was having my first baby (he is now 41) I was determined to breastfeed. In my mind I made formula non-existent. In fact, for me, it wasn’t an option. This does not mean that I didn’t have problems. In fact, nursing my firstborn, was painful and confusing. I was told to nurse “On-demand” and nurse “10 minutes on each side” and sent on my way. I was 19.
I had sore nipples and little sleep and powered through the agony and “toe-curling” pain for the first two weeks. Once he learned to latch, he never went backwards – no baby does.
I started a doula service with a friend in 1993 after having twins. Nursing information had gotten better and more available. There was even a group headed by a pediatrician that was solely offering support for nursing mothers having breastfeeding issues. Fast forward to 2021. I had a friend who was giving birth. She was concerned about labor but when it came to breastfeeding, not a care or concern did she have. I let her know that I would be happy to help her. If I couldn’t come in person, she could call me any time if she had any questions or concerns.
I heard she had had the baby. Since she didn’t reach out to me, I figured everything was going well. By the time she and I connected the baby was 2 months old and she had given up breastfeeding. Why?
T.M.I! Unlike myself she, as many mothers are today, was given so much conflicting information about breastfeeding she became completely overwhelmed. She said each nurse, each lactation consultant (about 8 different people) over the three-day period in the hospital had given her different information. She was told to “do it this way, do it that way” “try this, try that”, that maybe her baby was tongue tied, had torticollis, should be seen by this specialist and that specialist. She was told conflicting advice on latching, on feeding. He didn’t latch or feed well. She was extremely stressed.
She finally couldn’t take the stress and gave him a bottle. Phew! Relief! This is the recipe for how to stop nursing. And as it’s no surprise this happens, it can be sad for the mother who really wants to be successful at nursing. And while there’s nothing wrong with using formula, for a first-time mother who wanted to breastfeed, it can be a lifelong disappointment.
Feeding your baby is basic to their survival and if nursing isn’t going well and you don’t want to offer formula, you will find yourself in a very stressful place.
On top of the hospital’s conflicting information, we now have access to the Internet. Information is at our fingertips – just a click away! What kind of information? Conflicting information! And this at a time when you want to do everything “right”.
Then you come home from your delivery, a little overwhelmed and fragile, and every female in your life who has previously had a baby offers you more, vital information.
INFORMATION OVERLOAD! How can a new mother sift through all this barrage of conflicting information, not just about breastfeeding, but about her newborn as well?
Therein lies the key. This is your newborn. From the beginning of time, new moms have taken some private time to learn and figure out their baby. Push all the noise and (most) people away. Think and discuss with your partner or one non-judgmental female the things that feel right to you, that make sense to you about your baby.
Does a mother cat speak to another cat or check out numerous sources of information about her babies? Does a mother bear ask other mama bears advice on her cubs? No? Why? Because as mammals they instinctively know what to do. You are a mammal. Maybe you won’t feel like you know during the first days after delivery, or at least you won’t think you know. But you do know. If you hang out with your newborn without the noise of the hospital, without the barrage of advice of every person you meet, you will be able to figure out your own unique baby.
Breastfeeding is a learned behavior for you. It is an instinctive behavior for your baby. You need to hang out with your baby and get to know him or her and what their instincts are asking of you. Take the time to lay, skin-to-skin and do what makes sense to you both. You will figure it out.
You can go to 10 different lactation specialists and in the end, you must learn how to nurse your baby. Getting and absorbing all the conflicting advice that you’ll hear in the hospital, that you’ll hear from others, can be completely overwhelming and confusing. Listen to your baby. He will tell you what he needs. If he is acting hungry and you’ve just fed him, feed him again. Babies who are hungry will let you know. Babies who are tired will let you know. Babies who need a diaper change (most of them), will let you know. Babies who need to be held; will let you know. Learn to listen to him/her. When she calms down, you’ve read her right. If what you try doesn’t work, try something else. Eventually, you’ll instinctively know what to do, what she is asking of you.
Does this mean that you can’t benefit from any input from other moms or professionals? No. You can hear some good, practical, helpful information from others, but you want to weigh what is said and glean what makes sense to you. Do what makes sense to you in the moment. It’s okay to toss out the rest.
When my business partner, Sheila Marley, and I started MothersCare Doula Services, we had breastfeeding training classes for our doulas. There were some very helpful things that we learned over the years. At every class it seemed there would be an exclamation from a doula saying “wow, I wish I had known that”. So, yes, there are things that can be helpful. * You will know it when you hear it if you trust yourself. Just because something “worked” for your best friend does not mean it will work for you. Most things with newborns are not right or wrong but are preferences based on what has worked for each mother.
Trust yourself, trust your baby. Shut out the noise. Take a breath and do what makes sense to you in the moment.
*If you’d like to know more about the 10 things we learned as doulas that we wish we had known as first-time moms, you can get it here.
About Susan Shepard
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”