Breastfeeding can seem like a daunting task for a new mom, especially if those around her are eroding her confidence with their own negative experiences.
So, you’ve decided you want to breastfeed your new bundle of joy. Apart from being a perfectly balanced meal for your baby (and super convenient into the bargain), you want her to have all the benefits of maternal antibodies and protection from a long list of illnesses and allergies. You’ve also heard it’s great to help you lose your preggie weight, plus who needs all those bottles to wash?
Despite your good intentions though, you might be worried that you won’t be able to breastfeed. You’ve heard other moms talking about breastfeeding, about why they stopped, or why they didn’t even try in the first place. And all that talk can damage a new mom’s self-confidence.
When new moms hear the reasons many women give for not breastfeeding, it’s easy for them to start thinking that women’s bodies routinely malfunction, and that being able to breastfeed is just a question of genetic luck … “She’s got the right kind of boobs, lucky her”. This is also why, at the first sign of difficulty, many new moms give up prematurely, thinking that they too must be on the path to failure. On the contrary though, had she only persevered, mom and her baby would have reaped the many benefits – both physical and psychological – of breastfeeding.
More women are physically able to breastfeed than are not. Consider that in Bangladesh, 98% of moms breastfeed, while in Norway, 95% of moms breastfeed – these are good indications of women’s actual breastfeeding abilities.
The message is that if you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, you need to trust yourself and your body. Don’t let others’ often-misinformed reasons for not breastfeeding derail the vision you have for yourself and your baby.
Here are some of the reasons new moms give me for why they aren’t breastfeeding, and why these reasons shouldn’t put you off:
“I don’t produce enough milk. My baby is always hungry.”
This is probably the number one reason I hear, especially in the first weeks after delivery, yet the vast majority of women will produce enough milk to nourish their babies if they follow good breastfeeding practice.
Moms often think they don’t have enough milk if their babies suddenly start fussing more than usual, or feeding more frequently, or popping off the breast sooner. Another red herring is the breast pump. After a mom has only managed to pump a few millilitres, who can blame her for concluding that she has no milk supply, when in reality she likely has an abundant supply? That’s because there’s nothing like a real baby to stimulate milk letdown.
Remember that breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand equation. Demand feed your baby, and your body will up production. Skip a feed or two every day and your body will respond by reducing supply.
Your baby doesn’t understand your schedule, so put aside your need for control and order, and let your baby decide the schedule. Babies want to feed when they’re hungry, not when you or some baby-raising book say it’s mealtime.
If your baby is gaining weight, seems reasonably content, is alert, and produces five or more wet nappies and two to five poo nappies a day from day four, put your worries about milk supply out of your mind.
“It’s just too painful.”
Be warned … when you first start breastfeeding, it can feel like your baby’s got a mouth full of barbed wire. La Leche League says that 80-90% of breastfeeding moms will experience nipple pain, and 26% will get cracked, extremely sore nipples. Even moms who have breastfed before can be shocked to discover that breastfeeding the second time around is painful at the beginning.
There are many causes of this, and most of them, like poor latching, are simple to fix. With a little time, good nipple care, and the guidance of a lactation consultant, breastfeeding will stop being painful. But don’t wait to ask for help; sore nipples today can very quickly escalate to unbearable levels.
“I got mastitis.”
Mastitis is the inflammation of a mammary gland, which presents with flu-like symptoms and a sore, area on your breast. While painful, mastitis doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding. On the contrary, feeding more to empty the milk ducts is part of the cure (mastitis doesn’t make the milk unsafe for your baby). Lactation-safe drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen will ease the pain, as will ice packs. Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist, since you may need a lactation-safe antibiotic.
“I can’t get it right, so I’m obviously not cut out for breastfeeding.”
Few moms get the hang of breastfeeding instantly. Breastfeeding might be natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. The majority of new moms need help, support and, most of all, practice. And babies don’t make it any easier. While newborns have a powerful instinct to breastfeed, they too have to get the hang of latching and sucking.
In the first weeks, breastfeeding can be difficult and you might feel like you’re a failure; you’re not. You’re just on the learning curve of breastfeeding; that four-to-six-week period when you’re both trying to master a new skill.
To help you and baby get up to speed quickly, begin breastfeeding within an hour after birth, keep separation from your baby to a minimum, feed your baby on demand, and avoid dummies and bottles.
“I have to go back to work soon, so what’s the point?”
Returning to work is a very real barrier to breastfeeding. If you have to return to work a few months after your baby is born, find out whether you’ll be able to express at work. If expressing isn’t an option, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider breastfeeding at all. Any amount of breastfeeding, even if only for a short period, is a gift for your babe.
Information provided by: Genesis Clinic