A few weeks ago my 15 month old son completely weaned from breastfeeding. It was an event that passed almost unnoticed because it happened so gradually, and it was a day or two before I realized he hadn’t nursed. When I stopped to think about it, I knew that it was the right time for both of us. He was happily going through his day, naps, bedtime and all, without skipping a beat, and I hardly felt a twinge that part of our relationship was over. Although it’s a bit early to reminisce, when I think about our breastfeeding time, I do so with complete happiness. It is a relationship that once established, kept us close, gave him comfort, and was enjoyable for both of us. When I think of the early days, though, I’m a little amazed that we persevered. The first weeks weren’t easy, and I don’t think we settled into comfortable rhythm until my son was two or three months old. It’s a tale I hear often, and sadly, it often ends with a switch to formula and a declaration that “breastfeeding just didn’t work for either of us” or “I’m just one of those people that’s not able to breastfeed”.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that for all its promotional support of breastfeeding, isn’t very conducive to it. Many women stop after a few difficult weeks out of frustration and lack of support. It’s a shame that more women aren’t able to get over the initial hump to develop the fulfilling breastfeeding relationship so many expectant mothers want. There is support out there, and knowing up front what to expect can go a long way in finding success. Knowing what pitfalls to avoid is also important, and something that can be difficult to do when cultural norms are so ingrained. Here are five cultural beliefs that can sabotage the best-intentioned new mother and her attempts to establish a breastfeeding relationship: Read the rest of this entry »