Five Reasons why Marriage and Breastfeeding are a lot alike

I was reflecting today after googling post-nup agreements how similar marriage often is to how the whole breastfeeding thing was.  For some women and babies, breastfeeding is easy and natural and both the mom and baby clique and it goes off without a hitch.  For others, they literally have to work hard to breastfeed, reach out for help early and often, and vest more energy physically and emotionally into it than an average human has in a lifetime.  Sometimes the perseverance and support works out, and the breastfeeding can go until 12 months or more, maybe with some supplementation or formula.  But sometimes, due to factors inherent to mom, or baby or both that are out of their control, it doesn’t and the breastfeeding relationship needs to end earlier than the intended goal.  Because at the end of the day, fed is best.

Here are the 5 reasons the feeding relationship with mom and baby are very similar to spouses:

1) In both, whatever is best emotionally and physically for all parties involved is best. – For the baby, fed is absolutely best, otherwise they don’t get to develop their emotions at all. For the mother too – the stress and pressure to breastfeed, in some situations, can take a heavy emotional toll on mom, which also leads to a physical toll, and then a baby who is not as fed.  In a marriage, both parties along with any children all need to be emotionally and physically safe.  Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes outside forces (family, friends, church, counselors, mental health help) are needed to support all in that effort.  And sometimes the best option is to end the relationship for all involved due to factors outside the control of any one party (like mental health issues).

2) Rigid expectations from the outset in either situation tend to be contrary to the success of the relationships – or in simpler terms, FLEXIBILITY is key. – In breastfeeding, if mom has it in her head that she must breastfeed in a certain position and at specified times and she must do it herself without support, there’s far less chance she’ll succeed at it.  We can’t control babies.  Some are too distracted to feed in public, some boobs are too small or large for certain positions, some babies are tongue tied and literally can’t suck on a nipple.  Black and white thinking on how, when, where and what breastfeeding will look like usually ends in no breastfeeding or breast milk produced.  Same goes for a marriage.  If either one (or both) parties uses rigid thinking and sees everything in black and white, it’s not going to work.  To be able to have a meaningful relationship, each person must be able to see their partner’s perspective.  Rigidity makes this impossible.

3) The Earlier help is sought for accumulating roadblocks, the more likely the relationship will prevail – For some, breastfeeding is really hard.  For some, marriage is really hard.  In both, the earlier help from professionals (lactation consultants or marriage counselors) or support networks is sought, the more likely you’ll succeed.  If you’re too proud to ask for help earlier rather than later, well that’s unfortunate for yourself and anyone in a relationship with you.

4) Outside Judgements are Not helpful – No one knows your struggles like you do.  Surround yourself with people who will support you no matter what.  If it’s breastfeeding, avoid a-holes who judge anything about how and where and when you do it, or if you have to supplement formula, or if you have to pump then bottle feed to get your kid some breast milk……or even if you just don’t want to breast feed because you know it’s not for you.  They can F-off.  Same goes for people who want to judge your marriage or marital status.  They probably have some shit of their own going on and want to impose it on you.  Find a friend who will lovingly support you through thick and thin.  How you feed your baby and your marriage are both none of anyone’s damn business unless you ask it to be.

5) Letting go of the stuff you can’t control will save your sanity – There is some redundancy in this, but this is often the hardest part for anyone in either a breastfeeding relationship or a spousal relationship. It’s particularly difficult because figuring out what is within your control has to come first. While some people figure this out early on in life, for others it can take time and lots of painful lessons. For those personality types (and I may or may not have first hand experience) who are highly driven, independent, and self-sufficient, it can be pretty challenging to confront the reality of your utter lack of control over how either a baby acts or how a spouse acts. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Recognize it?  It’s the beginning of the Serenity Prayer.  It’s aptly named and if not a prayer a solid mantra. The message is crucial for anyone of any belief system.  Personal serenity fosters sanity.  Women don’t really know until the moment comes if their baby will be a good latcher, or be tongue-tied, or if they’ll be able to produce enough milk, etc. With a spouse, there is no way anyone can know everything about another person. And even good people have troubled baggage. We can only control our own actions and reactions. And despite knowing this, we often still fall into trying to force change where we have no control over if the change will happen.  Constantly assessing what is really within our own individual power brings self-awareness.  Before we can truly love another (whether it be our child or our life partner) we have to be able to love and accept ourselves first.




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