Honor Your Cuarentena and Build Your Support Network (Part 2/3)
Happy National Breastfeeding Awareness Month!
This post is Part 2 in a 3 part series, so be sure to read Part 1 where I discuss why I’m writing these series of posts and where I make my case that: Fed is Best, but Breast is Freaking Awesome, so if Your Goal is EBF, Don’t Give Up Too Soon!
And once you read this post, check out Part 3: Mechanics, Logistics & Resources, Oh My!
In today's post I’ll discuss honoring your postpartum period and building your team so you are fully supported on the road to achieving your family’s breastfeeding goals.
Once again, I share my experience to help you start thinking about what supports you might want to put in place based on your personality and your specific family’s needs and situation.
I found my breastfeeding friends’ experiences incredibly invaluable when I was struggling, so I wanted to share my experiences and my own research in the hopes that this information might help serve others.
If there is one piece of advice I would give to new Mamis who wish to breastfeed it would be this:
Put together a team of knowledgable and supportive people ASAP, preferably before birth.
More on what that team might look like below.
Happy Breastfeeding to you!
And if it’s not so happy at the moment, hang in there and read this right now: “When Breastfeeding is Hard.”
Disclaimer & Disclosure
Before we jump in, let’s get a few important points out of the way:
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT a lactation consultant and this is NOT medical advice. The post below features things I learned from my personal experiences breastfeeding. I hope this post inspires you to find the help you need if you are having a hard time.
DISCLOSURE: Throughout this post, I link to book and product recommendations. I generally recommend products I’ve used myself and loved, but if I haven’t used a product myself, I make a note of that and explain why I’m linking to it. I participate in the Amazon Associates program and other affiliate programs, so if you use my links, I may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
Honor Your Cuarentena
My mother planned to stay with us to help out for a week after baby was born. She booked her flight for a few days after my due date and we all crossed our fingers that baby would arrive before or not long after Mami had arrived.
I was a little anxious about Mami’s visit because it was her first visit to California and I worried because I knew we wouldn’t be able to entertain her in the way we would have before baby.
I wanted her to have realistic expectations and I wanted her to honor my need for rest, recovery, and learning our baby.
Many cultures honor the postpartum period more formally than we do in the United States.
In Mexico and parts of Latin America the first 40 days postpartum have a name: Cuarentena.
During that period the new Mami’s relatives—particularly the women—sweep in and take care of the new Mami and of domestic tasks, so that the new Mami only has to focus on nursing and resting.
For my modern day cuarentena, I wanted a support network (all genders included! women are not the only ones who can support a new mother!) to help care for my partner and me, so we could focus on our little one.
Since my Mami was obviously a big part of that support network (since she would be staying with us), I wanted her to be 100% on board.
So I googled a bunch of articles about “Cuarentena” and sent them to her with a warning… “we’re not going to be able to wine and dine you as usual because what I need is for you come here to support me as I figure out this new Mamihood thing, deal?”
My Mami agreed… and then asked… “Can I go to Vegas for a few days?”
I love my Mami.
And that was the perfect compromise. She spoiled me for a few days and we arranged for her to be spoiled in Vegas for a few days before returning to spoiling her newest grandbaby before heading back home.
Honor your cuarentena.
Honor your need to rest and your need to let others care for you and your family, so you can best care for your newborn.
And ask the people in your life to honor your needs as well.
They will not automatically know how to best support you if you do not tell them what you most need / want.
That being said, I highly recommend thinking through what your ideal postpartum period might look like, and then communicating those wishes to the ones you love.
Remember, we’re all different. For example, I’m an extrovert, so even though I wanted to rest, I also knew that having some visitors pretty regularly would fill my cup. I just wanted my visitors to not have any expectations that I would be in a position to entertain them. They were there to entertain and support me. Lol.
Finally, after you’ve thought through what you might want, acknowledge that you won’t actually know how you feel and what you want until you’re in it, so be open to changing your mind. Enlist your primary support person(s) (more on them below) to check in regularly in case you need to switch gears.
The "Good Reads" section at the end of this post discuss la cuarentena and other postpartum traditions; use them to inspire your own postpartum planning. You can also share those articles—publicly or with specific family members—to help you communicate your needs and desires.
Build Your Support Team
Breastfeeding is a COMMITMENT!
That’s still true almost almost two years in, but it’s especially true at the beginning when you’re nursing around the clock.
Mama, if at all possible, you should only be in charge of breastfeeding and your personal hygiene / physical recovery in the first month. Nothing else. Seriously.
I don’t think I changed more than a handful of diapers until my husband went back to work (and I was fortunate because he had a very generous paternity leave).
If you have a partner, they should be really busy taking care of BOTH you and baby, so enlist some help from family and friends too if you can (so they can help take care of all three of you).
If you don’t have a partner, try to enlist primary support person(s) to fill that role. Ideally they would live with you for at least a few weeks or months.
Mama will need her Partner or Primary Support Person(s) to:
Other Support Person(s) in the Inner Circle Can:
Others Can Help by:
We’re a vaccinating family, so we didn’t let anyone who wasn’t up to date on their vaccines hold the baby until he’d had his first round at around 4 months.
It’s a personal decision on what to require but we preferred being THOSE parents to risking exposure to something nasty.
Vaccination restrictions also can be an easy way to keep the number of visitors down in the first few months too — people don’t want to come over if they can’t hold the baby.
Try to find a few good (and at least one local) BF support group on FB before you give birth preferably. You’re looking for one where people give support, help troubleshoot, and commiserate (while avoiding the ones where everyone pontificates and is super judgey). I don’t even post on the Long Beach Breastfeeds, Online Support Facebook group often but reading it has been super helpful and I found info about local BF-support meetings.
Experts & Advocates:
Be sure to have at least one Lactation Consultant you trust on the team (more on that below). And if you can, try to find other breastfeeding mamas you trust to whom you can turn.
Partner / Primary Support Person(s) Run Interference
In general, since you have to nurse and or pump around the clock to get your milk to come in and in some cases to up your supply, keeping visitors (especially the “come to see the baby” vs. “came over to help” kind) to a minimum (or at least restricted to a certain time of day).
I would say being mindful of keeping visits under control in the first two-four weeks is ideal.
It’s not glamorous to pump in front of others and when you’re still learning to nurse an audience can be stressful (unless they’re also BFing mamas or LCs who can help).
I know it’s not realistic for all families to keep people away from the new baby, but it’s something to keep in mind before you have the baby, so you can set some expectations early.
My mother didn’t breastfeed me and I only vaguely remember her using a hand pump for my brother (no extended breastfeeding there either). My MIL didn’t breastfeed my husband. So both grandmothers wanted to be helpful, but they had little to contribute in this arena.
We were lucky our moms just kind of watched in awe and helped in other ways. That is an ideal situation because they can be supportive in other ways (changing the baby, burping the baby, cooking, cleaning, etc.).
I have another friend whose mom wasn’t helpful and it was pretty stressful for her.
Sadly, sometimes well-meaning folks who are around become unhelpful (“Just give that baby a bottle!” “Put that baby down!” “He can’t be hungry again already!”).
This is where Partner/PSP comes in:
“Thanks so much for your advice — I know you want to help us do what’s best for baby.
We’ve talked to our doctor / lactation consultant and we’re going to go with a different plan right now, but we’re making sure baby eats.
You know what would be really helpful? If you cooked / burped baby / changed a diaper / rocked baby to sleep / swept / did laundry / ran to the store real quick, so Mama can nurse / pump / nap / eat / shower, etc.”
If the overbearing person is tasked with something useful it’s harder for them to get in your way as you figure out nursing. And they feel useful which is what they want anyway. Win. Win. Win.
A Tale of Three Lactation Consultants
Li Yun Alvarado
Puerto Rican Poet, Scholar & Parent
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