To My Adoring Husband: Say This, Not That

How To Emotionally Support a New Mom: In those moments I don’t need ideas or solutions or what you think is best. I need love.

Baby girl is going through a growth spurt right now. She didn’t nap all day yesterday or this morning. Her sleep last night was rough. She’s not in pain like she was last week from gas. She’s just awake. And hungry.

Today she fell asleep while I was nursing, so I let her sleep on my chest for a bit. Then I figured I’d make some lunch while I had the chance. Of course, as soon as I put her down she woke up and started screaming. I thought it might be gas, so I gave her some gas drops and gave her a warm bath to soothe her. It didn’t help. She was shrieking. Horrible, horrible screams. I hadn’t slept. I was so scared and confused. My brain couldn’t put the dots together.

Finally my husband said she looked hungry. Duh! Of course she was hungry. Why didn’t I see that?! So I put her on the boob and she settled instantly. When she got off the boob she was obviously satisfied. Milk drunk, as I like to call it. I laid her down and she wiggled and cooed a bit before finally getting herself to sleep. Mission accomplished.

Well, not quite. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the part where I sobbed hysterically over my baby while she nursed, crying that I should’ve known what she needed and it was my fault she was screaming from hunger pains.

My husband, trying to help, told me I should try supplementing with some formula. Maybe she’s not getting what she needs. But I knew she was. I knew I hadn’t given her a full feeding earlier and that’s why she was screaming. I knew she was in a growth spurt. I knew all these things because I’m the one who’s done all the research, read all the books, kept all the logs, downloaded all the apps. And, at the end of the day, mommy instincts are super real. I knew. But he kept insisting I try formula.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the baby”.

That’s what he told me.

Aaaand cue the irrational, sleep deprived, hormone-fueled shit storm.

Not about me?! Nothing has been about me for the past 6 weeks. Everything I do is for her. I haven’t thought about myself since she’s been born. I’m not breastfeeding out of some prideful vendetta to prove I can. I’d gladly supplement if I knew my breastmilk wasn’t giving her what she needs. But the doctor has assured me that it is and she’s growing exactly as she should be. I’m breastfeeding because I truly believe it’s what’s best for her. It’s difficult and challenging and uncomfortable and draining. But I choose to do it because I believe it’s what she needs. I’m not doing this for me.

Of course he was coming from a good place. He was only offering a solution to help his partner who was sobbing in agony. But it brought up a point that I don’t think people (ie husbands) understand about breastfeeding, or caring for a baby in general. And understanding this might help partners care for new moms when they’re in the throes of it and can’t get their head above water.

PS This advice can apply to anyone who is offering support to a new mom. I’ve had this same conversation with my own mother when she insisted I give formula after I confided in her that breastfeeding wasn’t easy.

I need to be able to say it’s hard. Not just the breast feeding, but all of it. Because it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be doing it. It’s ALL I want to be doing. There’s just a sharp learning curve to this whole motherhood thing.

I’m never going to feel like I’m doing enough for my baby. I constantly feel like I could be doing more or doing better. So when I cry, it’s not because I need you to fix it. It’s because I’m sad. Because my sleep deprived mom brain has convinced me that I suck at this. And in those moments I don’t need ideas or solutions or what you think is best. I need love. I need a hug and to be told not to worry. That I’m doing a great job. I need to be reminded to look at that little face and see how happy she is with her mama. Tell me that she knows how much I love her. Tell me that I’m giving her everything she needs and more.

Remind me that my instincts are right and that there’s no one better built to give this baby everything she needs. Because it’s true. And I know it. But sometimes, I forget. And that’s the best way you can help me.

Thank you. I love you.

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