You might have found yourself thinking….
“Am I making enough milk?”
“Am I latching them right?”
“I feel guilty because I don’t love this like everyone else.”
“Am I enough for this baby?”
I’ve had every one of these thoughts, and more. BUT there’s something I really really want you to know. You ARE enough. And more than that… your worth is not measured in how much milk you make. Nobody knows this better than my friend Sarah Farrell Johnson, who’s literally written the book on this concept. And she’s right. But rather than hear it from me, I invite you to hear it from her.
This post is about self love, and compassion when things aren’t going how you might have wanted them to on your journey. Please enjoy this guest post from Sarah, and I hope that after you’re feeling more confident in your journey, however that may look…. because after all… Supported is Best (#SupportedIsBest)! And as far as this post is concerned, that means supporting and loving yourself.
I sat on my supposed- to-be comfortable rocking chair, trying to nurse my four-week-old daughter, Allison. To say breastfeeding her was challenging would be an understatement. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I used to sleep, I used to have a (semi) clean house, I could jog, and I used to feel successful. Becoming a new mom hadn’t been quite what I expected. Everyone had tried to warn me of changes ahead, but each time a seasoned mom would tell me “Just wait…” I smiled politely and nodded, appeasing their wisdom, but inside I was horrified. I did not want to believe I would be facing so many unknown challenges. I didn’t know what to do with all my fears, and as I attempted my first task as Allie’s mom- to feed her- the fears criticized me and echoed on repeat in my own mind. A month old and she still wouldn’t latch. I had failed her as her mom, or so I thought.
“Why was breastfeeding such a struggle?” you might ask. At seventeen years old, I chose to have breast reduction surgery. The remaining breast tissue and ducts allowed me to produce about two ounces of breastmilk a day. Secondly, I am in the middle class. I have some privilege as a white female, but I didn’t have resources for an IBCLC after the hospital birth. I was required to return to my teaching job at six weeks postpartum, therefore I lacked time (and confidence) to attend support groups. Thirdly, my mindset was all wrong. I struggled from a long, unempowering birth which soured my mindset and perspectives as a new mom. I felt guilty for feeling so incapable, and negative emotions spiraled from there.
But don’t worry, this story isn’t doom and gloom, and surprisingly, in the end, I wouldn’t change a thing about my path. I’m happy to say with my son, my birth and breastfeeding was profoundly different. Becoming a BFAR mom was such a meaningful life change for me that my story was constantly swirling in my mind. “How can I help other parents with my life experiences?” I challenged myself. I began writing my story to help heal myself and others. My book, Mama, Your Worth is Not Measured in Ounces came pouring out of my soul like I was on fire!
There were many tools that I used to change my mindset from one of failure and struggle to one of empowerment and joy. I share these ten tools with parents so that they know they are not alone, and can also find self-empowerment. I researched self-help techniques from mindfulness to psychology and applied them to myself. With my son, I visualized how I wanted my experience to happen, and because I was open to receiving help from everyone- trusted friends, doulas, lactation consultants- it did go as I’d intended. I began to love myself and forgive myself for how my journey went with Allison.
My most powerful tool, without a doubt, was using parts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help me be aware of my thoughts and catch myself when I was letting my inner critic do the talking. Alongside the support of others, this inner peace guided my path like a beacon when breastfeeding and parenthood became challenging. I was never able to produce more than four ounces of milk on my best day, but because of my love-centered perspective I’d found in my new mindset, the milk wasn’t nearly as important! I was blessed to receive donor milk from a few friends, but best of all, I found a universal truth and joy in feeding my babies: It is the enjoyment of the loving connection we have to our child, the little moments as we feed together (no matter what that looks like) that make us a success. My baby sees me as a worthy angel, even when I struggle and feel like a failure. It’s about appreciating the satisfied coos and the tired stretches when their belly is full. Acknowledging who they are and what I can do for them is my gift. My children have taught me to see myself as a deserving and valuable parent, and it is my hope to inspire all parents to know they are good enough, simply because they are loving their child in the best way they know how.
Now it’s time to hear from you!
Head to the comments section and tell me if you’ve ever felt defeated on your feeding journey, and how you overcame those feelings.
Sarah Johnson didn’t quite realize that her self- worth was tied to her outside world until she became a mom and struggled with the challenges new moms face. She was greatly impacted by how little milk she could provide for her baby due to a breast reduction when she was a teen, and writes to help moms with the mindset it takes to breastfeed. Sarah lives in the Poconos, Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, son, and pets. She enjoys her career as a French teacher and a mom. She received her B.S.Ed. from Bloomsburg University and her M.Ed. from Moravian College. Her passion is helping others; teaching is one way she shares that love, and writing is another.