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It Takes a Village to Offset the Load: My Journey with Breastfeeding & Anxiety

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As a parent, do you ever have days where you feel as if the load you’re carrying is just too heavy to move forward? You’re not alone. I’ve been there. And for me, much of my pregnancy-related anxiety stemmed from my experience with breastfeeding. If I learned anything through my breastfeeding journey, it’s that it takes a village to offset the load – it’s not something we can, or have to do by ourselves as moms.

Breastfeeding comes with so many benefits for you and your baby. Yet anyone who has gone through the experience knows it may not be easy and can come with a rollercoaster of joys and challenges. When anyone asked me what I was most excited for before I gave birth, my answer was always breastfeeding. I couldn’t wait to experience that special bond and provide valuable nourishment for my baby. But I experienced complications during childbirth that led to increased breastfeeding challenges including making the transition to exclusively pumping and supplementing, something I did not anticipate. I also experienced a lot of anxiety that stemmed from hormonal fluctuations. These complications, on top of the everyday (and night!) challenges of caring for my baby sometimes made the load of parenting feel much too heavy.

Anxiety and depression connected to breastfeeding is common, and it’s something that can be helped for those of us who experience it. I was able to participate in a breastfeeding support group through my local hospital that helped me figure out how to exclusively pump, along with learning from other moms who were going through the same experience. So when it came time for me to wean, I knew that I could expect some hormonal swings that might trigger my anxiety. Yet, it still took me by surprise how much anxiety and frustration I experienced during this time. I found myself in tears over things that wouldn’t usually bother me, like my daughter waking up earlier than I had anticipated, or something not going my way.

I thankfully had a support system through family, my workplace, friends, and others which helped lighten my load. And things like support groups, flexible work and child care options ensured I was armed with information and had time to take care of myself so that I could be the strong mom my daughter needed. It was because of this support system that I was able to navigate ongoing challenges and breastfeed my daughter for seven months. It will always be one of my proudest accomplishments.

Having a new baby is hard and all moms deserve support, regardless of how you feed your baby. It is normal for breastfeeding to be challenging. If you are a breastfeeding mom experiencing pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and tap into your own village of support.

  • To find a breastfeeding support group or class near you, contact your hospital, health care provider, lactation consultant, local WIC office, La Leche League, breastfeeding coalition, breastfeeding supply store or moms group and ask for support groups or peer counselors in your area. Most groups are free to the public.
  • Provide breastfeeding information to family, friends, coworkers, supervisors, neighbors, child care providers and others to educate on breastfeeding and explain what YOU need for them to be supportive. Find those individuals that are supportive of your decision to breastfeed and ask for help.

Visit postpartum.net/colorado for information about pregnancy-related depression and anxiety and find Colorado coordinators who can give you support and resources in your area. You can also call 1.800.944.4773 for confidential, free and immediate support. 

Author: Hanna Nichols, Colorado Mom, in partnership with Mile High Mamas.

 

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