By Kristin Oparaji – St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Parenting across generations
One of the many reasons a mother or a parent reaches out to a local La Leche League Leader is because of their ever-so-well-intentioned mother-in-law. With a tiny baby, the new mom talks to us through her tears, not only trying to get through a breastfeeding issue but also feeling judged or criticized by a family member. Sometimes it is because the “baby is not getting enough breastmilk” or “you are spoiling him” or “she is crying because you aren’t giving her real food”. The partner, the mother-in-law, and even our own mothers are people we love and trust, so it can be difficult when the advice is not in sync with our own intuition. Whether we like it or not, our parents and partner’s parents come from a different generation with different teachings on how to raise a child. Every few years, the experts – such as health care providers – have a new recommendation on how you should raise your baby the ‘right way’.
A breastfeeding young mother
I was 19 when my first baby was born, a girl. Not only did I not have a partner, but both my mother and my grandmother did not understand breastfeeding. My mother nursed her two babies for a mere two weeks each, and then turned to formula. My grandmother was taught that cereal was the best for her three babies. Here I was with the strong urge to breastfeed, the hospital telling me to use formula, free formula samples in the mail to help me save money, and my family encouraging me to give her cereal to help her sleep through the night!
Assumptions and expectations: learning through experience
Fast forward a few years, I am now married with our third child, our first son, on the way. Throwing a third mother into the mix, a mother-in-law from another country (Nigeria), sure adds an interesting flair. From the very beginning, I assumed everyone in Nigeria was pro-breastfeeding all the way, all the time. I quickly learned that although my newest mother did in fact nurse her three children, she was appalled to think I would be nursing through pregnancy and even more so to nurse two babies at the same time. The expectation was to wean the first child before the second came along. However, I could not imagine trying to wean a baby under the age of one just because her brother was coming soon.
Trust and support
Here I am, nursing an 11-month-old, with her brother due in the next two weeks. I am mentally trying to prepare not only for another baby in the home but also how to nurse two at the same time – tandem nursing. It has been done before, and I will be the one to do it again. It is taboo for everyone in my family, and uncharted territory for me as well. My only plan is to have no plan, go with the flow, and meet my babies’ needs the best way that I can.
I am blessed to have my husband, who trusts my mothering skills and encourages me to do what is best, trumping all the other opinions in the arena. He is truly my lifeline when everything gets complicated and frustrating.
If you are lucky enough to have everyone in your life support your decision to breastfeed, then you are blessed! Your task, instead, is to be the support for the mother and the parent who have none and encourage them to follow their heart.
We all have opinions, advice, and suggestions that come to us from every angle. My best advice is to thank everyone for their offering of help and then do exactly what works best for you and your family. Enjoy life and love those little ones as much as you can. Nurse on!
Hello! My name is Kristin Oparaji and I have been a LLL Leader since September 2017. I have two daughters, ages 7 and 1, and a baby boy, newly born in November. My husband and I met at Lindenwood University. I enjoy spending time with my family, rollerblading, volleyball, baking, and scrapbooking. The best advice I have for mothers and parents is to trust themselves and enjoy the small moments.