My 2-week-old was crying again. We were attempting to get the hang of breastfeeding, and I was wincing in pain every time he latched, which felt like every five minutes at that point.
As for help? Well, my mother had suggested I give myself a break and give him a bottle. His dad was sleeping peacefully in another room, and the one friend who knew the most about this stuff lived more than 1,000 miles away and wasn’t answering my texts.
It was 2 a.m. after all, and my son always managed to time his wailing to that period when most most normal human beings were counting sheep. Of course, baby always slept “like a baby during the day,” leaving me to debate whether or not I would take advantage of that free time to do some laundry or take a nap. (The answer is sleep. Never choose laundry when you can sleep.)
That bottle was starting to sound really appealing.
Then I remembered some Facebook group about breastfeeding my friend invited me to join when I was six months pregnant. “Trust me, you’ll need this,” she said. And now, I felt like I needed it. I clicked on the Facebook app, found the page, and typed my S.O.S. call.
“OMG WHY WON’T THIS BABY GO TO SLEEP? MY BOOBS HURT LIKE HELL AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE HELP!”
A notification appeared within five minutes. Someone was actually answering. Another late-night feeding warrior, probably positioned with one baby on her boob and using her free hand to type, told me to keep latching. She said this was cluster-feeding, and it was normal for newborns. If baby was peeing and pooping regularly, everything sounded fine. Oh, and hang in there, it gets better.
Bless that woman whose name I can’t remember, and bless social media, the unsung hero of many a successful breastfeeding relationship.
I know this isn’t groundbreaking advice. But as a new mom, it is exactly what I needed to hear. Reassurance. This was normal, baby was okay, keep up the good work.
Social media doesn’t get enough credit for helping mothers start and continue to breastfeed despite initial challenges and well-meaning, but misguided advice from family, friends, and even medical professionals. Those women who we only know by name and avatar might be the only ones to tell us to keep going, that it gets easier, and that babies nurse a lot in those days. They might offer helpful tips on latching or increasing supply, and when all else fails, they’ll recommend seeing a board certified lactation consultant in person for more assistance.
Some of the more knowledgeable participants might even be lactation consultants themselves or just mamas breastfeeding their second, third, fourth, or fifth children after surviving the first go-round.
But the best part is that they’re always available. Even though I visited a kind, helpful lactation consultant a few days later and went to in-person support group meetings, none of that helped in the middle of the night when I didn’t know where to turn, but didn’t want to grab that can of formula in the closet quite yet.
Maybe those folks telling breastfeeding mamas not to spend so much time “brexting” might want to ask them exactly what they’re reading. They might be surfing through a breastfeeding support group asking their “breast friends” if they have thrush, or if those icky vitamin drops are the reason baby is more gassy than usual or when they should start pumping and storing milk to return to work. Or they might be catching up on the latest celebrity gossip to stay awake or take their mind off their aching nipples.
Now I’m not opening my wallet to buy cases of blue Gatorade or “pink drinks” or other colorful concoctions people swear increase supply. The best advice I’ve gotten was to just nurse the baby on demand or make sure to pump every 2–3 hours at work to make sure to maintain my supply.
Baby B and I survived that crazy night and went on to nurse for 2 ½ years. My breastfeeding group buddies became my go-to resource for everything related to boobs and milk, and they always came through when I needed them most — usually late at night.
When my second baby was born, he was on the boob every possible second, and when those late night cluster-feeding sessions started, I knew what was up. I wasn’t as anxious.
That’s why I turned on my phone at 2 a.m., placed the baby in a reclining position to nurse and scrolled through a few Facebook pages.
“PLEASE HELP! MY BABY KEEPS FEEDING, AND I DON’T KNOW IF I’M MAKING ENOUGH MILK! WHAT SHOULD I DO?”
I typed back, asking about baby’s wet diaper count and poop and how latching was going. All good?
“Nurse on, Mama. You got this. You’re going to be okay.”