A beautiful photo of a breastfeeding mother with the caption The Perfect Latch [sic] caught my eye this week. Ok I won’t lie; most photos of this nature catch my eye but this one made me stop & think. The latch did look nice from a lay person’s perspective, but I could see things mom could tweak to make it better. If the mother was comfortable with the latch & the baby was having good intake, then there’s no reason to change it.
As a bystander, how do we gauge if something is perfect & should we even express that sentiment? What do we really know about that breastfeeding dyad? Has that mother struggled with breastfeeding issues in the past? Perhaps her latch was causing a little pain when the photo was taken but she didn’t want to say so because she was told how perfect it was so why should she say anything? This happens so often in the hospital after birth. A well meaning nurse comes in & sees those beautiful outturned “fish” lips on a baby who is having a feed & tells the mother how perfect a latch it is, but the mother says it hurts. The nurse tells her to give time, however there is an underlying issue you can’t see without further investigation, more questions, more time talking with the mother. So this mother goes home having nipple pain, perhaps baby isn’t gaining quite enough. By the time she goes to the next pediatric appointment she has painful cracked nipples, a baby who looks like it isn’t gaining weight well, is told to supplement with a breastmilk substitute & use nipple shields until her nipples heal. Is this a fix? No, not at all. All because someone said that latch was “perfect”. And the cycle begins.
The same thing can be applied to birth. A doula says how perfect a birth this mother had, but the mother is questioning things that happened during or after her birth & is battling with postpartum anxiety during her babymoon. (Yes, there’s postpartum anxiety.) Only the mother can label her birth. No one else should color her birth story for her. Instead she should be asked about her experience & we should just listen. No interjection about how awful or wonderful someone else’s birth was, including our own. Just listen.
Parenting falls in the pitfall too. “I don’t know how you do what you do, you’re SuperMom!” is said to a mother who is running her children to all their schooling & activities, perhaps works or volunteers as well (or both!) & is also trying to keep house & the family fed & happy. But at night she collapses because she is utterly exhausted & isn’t sure how much longer she can keep going this way because she doesn’t have enough support knowing she’s doing too much. She already knows she doesn’t know how to say No. She doesn’t feel like she can change the status quo without causing more issues that will have to deal with in the aftermath. Then there is the mother feels like she needs to do as many things as SuperMom does, but she really can’t do more either. It’s classic keeping up with the Jones’.
We all get caught in the cycle when what we need to do is help one another break free. Leave the labels to the packaged goods & let’s go find our tribes. You are welcome in mine.
Yours in Birth