After six short weeks of painful, confusing, and exhausting attempts to feed my baby, I gave up. While it wasn’t something I wanted to do, I lacked some important tools to help with the process. Breastfeeding is natural, but it most certainly isn’t easy.
Here are some pitfalls you can avoid if you plan to breastfeed your baby.
Getting information before you begin the process is crucial.
While most of us hear that “breastfeeding is natural” and “every woman can do it,” but we often lack the knowledge to help us ease into the process. I was naïve with my visions of breastfeeding with ease as I gazed longingly at my beautiful gift from above. Those images were replaced with constant sweating under a nursing apron, attempting to position the baby properly to help her latch on, and desperately trying to silence her incessant screaming.
It wasn’t pretty. I had not prepared for breastfeeding the way I should have. Since my daughter latched easily at the hospital, I thought I was doing well. Then my milk didn’t come in. And the screaming started. And I panicked.
Had I known that some women experience over or undersupply, I would have known what to do. Grab yourself a breastfeeding guide and read about some of the difficulties you may experience. Of course, you might not experience them, but it’s great to have some information if you do.
Many women quit due to exhaustion.
After a crash course from my panicked Googling, I read that babies eat every 3-4 hours. Ummm, not exactly. If a feeding begins at 1 p.m., and the baby takes 40 minutes to feed and an additional 10-15 minutes to get the baby back to bed and settle yourself, and the baby actually eats every two hours (which mine did), you have approximately one hour and five minutes to sleep until the next feeding.
Try that for a few nights in a row. Sleep deprivation will make you hallucinate. It’s super helpful if you can pump so dad can at least help a little bit when you’re exhausted. While I don’t particularly need a great deal of sleep, I wasn’t prepared for the short intervals of sleep that breastfeeding requires. Had I known, I definitely would have pumped more.
It can be uncomfortable.
While most told me that if I were “doing it right,” it wouldn’t hurt. Many of the women in my circle of moms insisted that they experienced some initial pain. Each time I heard that there should be no pain, it reinforced my belief that I was doing everything wrong. Mom can get a bit cranky with sore nipples and a hungry mouth that doesn’t give them too long to recover.
Be sure to understand how to care for your delicate skin before you begin. There were also lots of things I could have done to ease some of the pain, like using nipple shields or alternating with bottles to help recover. Check out all of the great products available on the market and prepare your arsenal.
I didn’t know where to go for support.
One of the single most important things to be a successful breastfeeding mom is the support system. Since nobody in my family or social circle had any experience with breastfeeding, I had virtually nowhere to turn. Had I known about the hospital’s breastfeeding group, or a local lactation consultant, I probably would have been able to solve my supply issues. Then again, maybe not, but I would have had enough information to attempt to find a solution. Your local hospital is a great resource for help.
While breastfeeding comes naturally and more easily to some women, it didn’t work for me. Without knowledge and support, breastfeeding can be needlessly stressful and uncomfortable. Added pressure from those who insist that breastfeeding is the ONLY acceptable way to feed your child is more destructive than helpful to new mothers.
If you’re considering breastfeeding, seek out a local lactation consultant, breastfeeding class, and new moms group before giving birth. However, you have chosen to feed your baby, remember that there is no one size fits all approach and what’s most important is a happy mom and happy baby!