On-the-Job Training: Breastfeeding and All the Other Mom Skills You Just Can’t Practice


I know it may sound crazy, but before my little guy was born four months ago, I was so much more terrified of breastfeeding than I was of my water breaking, labor pains, or the seemingly physics-defying feat of delivering a tiny human through . . . well, you know. I felt completely conflicted, confused, and clueless. After doing the research, I was convinced that breastfeeding was the right choice for me and my baby, and I still am. But if I’m being completely honest, there was a part of me that wanted to head straight to the formula aisle and avoid the whole thing. Now, before I spark another skirmish in the breastmilk vs. formula war that seems to be fought on the message board battlefield, I’ll confirm that I am completely understanding and supportive of mamas who choose not to breastfeed. We all make the decisions that are right for our families, and that’s great!

But back to my (irrational?) fear. I’m a prepared kind of lady, and I like to know what I’m getting myself into. Like many expectant moms, I read books, scoured the Internet, and polled pretty much every friend with kids I knew . . . “Does it hurt? How does my body know how to make milk? What if he doesn’t know what to do? What if I don’t produce enough? And how in the world do you assemble all those yellow and clear plastic doohickies to function as a breast pump?!?” Seriously, it is NOT intuitive. Anyone else feel like Walter White from Breaking Bad when you lay out all your breast pump gear to dry?

FullSizeRender (2)There is no way to “practice” breastfeeding. Thanks to your friends’ children (or your experience with a Cabbage Patch doll — no judgment!), you can practice holding a baby. You can practice changing diapers. You can practice swaddling. But the first opportunity you have to test out nursing is the moment you are actually confronted with that adorable and hungry little person who’s relying on you for all his nutrition. It’s a lot of pressure, with absolutely no way to truly prepare.

Let me assuage your fears, mamas: Breastfeeding is 100 percent a learn-as-you-go process, and the more quickly you can accept this fact, the happier you’ll be. Or at least, that’s what helped me.

So miraculously, and without any practice at all, I’ve been nursing my son for four months. It did hurt at times, and was hard, and (especially early on) there were times I wanted to quit. But after a few months, I found that I felt like an old pro . . . and I’d moved onto fearing the next thing I couldn’t practice.

But that’s parenthood isn’t it? A series of skills you can learn only on the job. And all the while our “boss” (that sweet little one who thinks her mom knows everything) is clueless to the fact that we have no idea what we’re doing half the time. Now that I’m a parent myself, I have such a renewed perspective and respect for my own parents, who must have been bumbling along raising my sister and I the same way my husband and I are now with my son. And until I became a mama myself, I was never the wiser . . . . How comforting!

So whether it’s breastfeeding, potty-training, or (gasp!) teenage dating, I’m making a pledge to myself to become comfortable with not practicing to be a mom . . . but rather, trusting my intuition and simply being the great mom I know I am. I’m certain I’ll make mistakes and that I’ll look back and wish I had made different parenting decisions. But I think I’ll have fewer regrets if I’m not constantly analyzing, researching, and trying to avoid them. Not to mention the fact that our family will likely have more fun and be happier that way. 

And I say this knowing that until he becomes a father, my son will think his mom always (mostly) knew what she was doing.

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Graduate school brought Laura from her beloved home state of Colorado to Texas (hard to beat the Rocky Mountains!), and meeting her beloved husband Jonathan convinced her to settle here. Now the two are overjoyed and exhausted parents to sweet Christopher (2015) and a little girl on the way (2017). In addition to her role as a mama, she also works full time as a clinical psychologist working with military veterans who continue to amaze her with their strength and humor. When she’s not busy juggling career and parenthood, you can find her cycling, enjoying local culture (and food!), baking, “hiking,” and embracing her love of travel.


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