Breastfeeding In The Age Of The Internet

I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to know all the things. I did research on the internet for every item before I purchased it. Which crib was the best? What about all of the car seats? Is this super cute, flower shaped baby mat really a good option for bathing my baby? Despite my research, it took me forever to do my baby registry. Anxiety and indecision paralyzed me. What if I picked the wrong stroller or breastfeeding pillow? I was a mess.

After the birth of my daughter, I quickly realized that all of those things weren’t super important (minus the car seat, that was pretty crucial). My anxiety shifted to, what in the world am I supposed to do with this baby? Each time I had a question, I turned to the internet for answers, which created a problem I never anticipated:

You can find someone to back up every thought and every opposing thought on the world wide web.

It started with breastfeeding.

I ignored my doula’s advice and didn’t take a breastfeeding class. I figured, how hard could it be? Poor, naive, little me. I panicked in our first days at home, because the pain from breastfeeding shocked me, but I also felt like failing at breastfeeding would surely kill me (hormones, people). Of course this all happened over the weekend when doctor’s offices were closed, so we frantically searched for an “emergency” lactation consultant to make a house call. My perfectionism told me that I had to get this right immediately.

The lactation consultant at the hospital told us that breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful if you’re doing it right. Because I was in so much pain, I was sure something was wrong, but I was too busy pretending like I knew what I was doing in the hospital to speak up. Once we arrived home and I waited for my fairy lactation consultant to show up, I consulted my good friend google and got my first dose of conflicting information about child rearing.

It turns out everyone has an opinion about breastfeeding and they don’t all match.

I expected there to be differing opinions when I was researching products online, but this was such an important, universal, and life changing topic. I remember thinking in despair, “why haven’t we all come to a consensus on this yet? Get it together humans!”

In the past, I counted on the internet to tell me I was dying whenever I entered a mysterious symptom in the search bar. I accepted my fate, but I wanted better for my daughter.

Really, what I wanted was an instruction manual. I wanted someone to create a clear parenting path to success, and I wanted it to be easily accessible on the internet at 3am.

I never found that manual, although plenty of people have tried to lay out their idea of what parenting should look like. When it came to breastfeeding, my stubborn will forged its own way. After a rocky start, I finally realized that I needed to find what worked best for my family, no matter what the internet claimed was and wasn’t normal.

At the end of the day, my 21-month long breastfeeding journey taught me a lot about parenting. Our struggle in the beginning was no indicator of our success in the long run. Even though it was painful at first, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Naturally, it felt uncomfortable, and I wish I gave myself the space to accept that at the time.

So much of motherhood, especially in the early days, is intuitive, but it’s scary to trust ourselves when the stakes are so high. I ultimately realized that what matters most is how I feel. What matters is what I believe is true for my family and me.

Becoming a mother has forced me to find my voice in so many ways. I have never needed to be as brave or as sure of myself in any other time of my life. 

At a time when the internet, sanctimommies, and random people insist that their truth should also be mine, I’m learning how to trust and consult myself first.

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