Today is Star Wars Day and I am, unabashedly, a Star Wars geek through and through. I am old enough to remember watching the first movie (yes, the 4th in the line up, but the first in the theaters), “A New Hope” sitting in the car with my parents at the drive-in theater. I was instantly hooked into the whole idea of another galaxy far, far away where good battled evil and there was a ‘Force’. Jedi mind tricks and lightsabers were an added bonus. My favorite character, after Han Solo (because what little girl didn’t like the bad boy?) was Yoda. The wise little green guy, who in the later movies could really kick some ass?? His whole take on doing your best against incredible odds resonated with me as a child and continues to do so today as an IBCLC who works with breastfeeding mothers in the military.
In my job as an IBCLC, I work with AD military mothers who are battling incredible odds to maintain breastfeeding while defending their country…sometimes in a land far, far away and many time zones from their babies. Other AD military moms are working 15-18 hour shifts and fighting the evil forces of supervisors that won’t let them take pumping breaks or co-workers who think they are slackers for taking pumping breaks. Some mothers I have worked with wondered if it was even worth starting to breastfeed and asked me if they should even try.
I often tell those mothers that they need to think like Yoda. Remember that scene in the Empire Strikes Back, when Luke doesn’t think he can lift his X-wing fighter out of the swamp? Yoda says, “Do, or do not. There is no try”. When it comes to breastfeeding in the military, that sort of attitude really can make a huge difference in their success. ‘Trying’ already admits defeat. Instead, I tell moms, set a goal and go for it, whether that is 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or a year or more. It may even mean just getting through the day. But do it, don’t just try.
A Navy Petty Officer 3rd class gave me this quote for my book, and it really rings true.
I think my biggest advice to anyone wondering if they’ll actually succeed at breastfeeding is: DO NOT TRY. Just do. You WILL breastfeed. Do not allow yourself an alternative. That’s not to say it will be easy, or that you will never give your son or daughter formula. You can always adjust your goal. However, make it a goal you WILL keep. I WILL breastfeed for 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months or whatever. If you start out saying, Oh, I will try…” you are already seeing yourself fail.
Numerous moms that I have worked with have said, over and over, that it was this attitude and perseverance that helped them to get through the rough parts. The days when they didn’t think they could pump even one more time, the days they wanted to throw the pump against the wall, the days they didn’t pump enough milk to send to daycare the next day. Just saying to themselves, “I am going to do it, I just have to get to the next pumping (or the next day or the next week)” was enough to get them over the hump and kept them going.
Breastfeeding in the military is hard. I wish Jedi mind tricks were real and we could tell our supervisors, “I need a fully outfitted lactation room, and time to pump 3 times a day” and with a wave of your hands he would say, “Yes, we will create a lactation room and you will be able to pump 3 times a day, no problem”. But alas, the real world doesn’t work that way. However , with Yoda’s attitude, active duty moms CAN be successful at breastfeeding in the military!!