Although breastfeeding is said to be one of the best ways to give your precious little one the right nutrients he or she needs, it can sometimes be the most difficult. For many different reasons, mothers often find themselves between a rock and hard place trying to breastfeed their little one. But why is it so difficult? How could something that’s supposed to be so natural, be so hard?
Whether you’re ready or not, there comes a time in ever . . .
Many times, we hear a lot about how wonderful breastfeeding can be. We hear all about the magical bonding experience between a mother and a child, and the feeling of confidence as your baby grows. However, what we don’t hear about are the mothers who have a hard time getting their babies to latch correctly or deal with supply issues.
If you are part of the millions of mothers around the world that find breastfeeding more difficult than you thought it would be, you aren’t alone. And in this day and age, thankfully, help is usually right around the corner. Although seeking help in the age of a global pandemic has put a damper on in-person support groups, mothers are finding other alternatives to getting the help they need via online support groups, articles and turning to friends or family that have been down this road before.
The Struggle is Real
If you have had a baby and tried to breastfeed before, then you know the struggle is real. Even if your baby has the perfect latch from the start, there are other problems that you could encounter months down the road.
As a mother, not only are you expected to go through the daunting process of delivering your child, but you are also expected to jump right into caring and feeding your child right after birth. With limited time to heal from delivery, it’s tough to get the swing of breastfeeding, especially when it’s your first time. Although every situation is different, many common breastfeeding struggles include:
Breast pain: During the early stages of breastfeeding, sore nipples are a very common struggle as getting the proper positioning, latch, etc., can be difficult to do the first couple times. Once your milk starts to come in, which happens around day 3 after your child is born, some women may experience engorgement. This is the feeling of having engorged, full, hard breasts, which can be very painful and can lead to further issues down the road, such as mastitis. For sore nipples, make sure your baby is properly latching and try using nipple creams or saline soaks to try to reduce the pain. To help prevent breast engorgement, try making sure your baby is feeding every couple of hours, or try pumping to relieve the pressure.
Poor weight gain/supply concerns: One thing mothers may struggle with is trying to determine if your baby is getting the proper amount of breast milk. When using a bottle, you can directly measure out how much your baby is consuming. With breastfeeding, however, trying to figure out how much your baby is consuming is more difficult. You have to rely on the amount of wet/dirty diapers and physical weight gain. If you find that your infant is losing weight or not meeting proper weight goals, you may have to supplement feeds with pumped/expressed breast milk or formula.
Return to work/ being away from the baby: When you live in a place that doesn’t support long maternity leaves for women, you may find that returning back to work comes sooner than you’d like. To keep up your supply while away from your baby, you may have to pump while at work to prevent engorgement and decreased milk supply.
Teething/ Nursing strikes: Teething and breastfeeding don’t always mix. But luckily, there is a way to help the child learn that biting the nipple is not acceptable and if communicated the right way, can fix the problem. Sometimes, an infant who is truly ready to wean will typically do so gradually, over a period of weeks or months. However, you may find that your baby may suddenly refuse to nurse, which is known as a nursing strike. They typically only last a few days, however, and it’s best to try to remain persistent and patient.
Maternal diet during breastfeeding: While breastfeeding your little one, you should try to maintain a well-balanced diet. Typically, there aren’t any foods that you should avoid during breastfeeding, unless you notice that the infant reacts negatively to something you have eaten. Then you may have to reduce or restrict foods from your diet or do a process of elimination until you find the culprit.
Although these might be a few common issues that a mother might encounter, this is just the beginning of a long list that mothers might encounter. Be sure to also look into topics such as, lip or tongue-ties, dealing with an oversupply or heavy letdown, or acid reflux.
This might be a lot to take in, but before you become discouraged or overwhelmed, let’s discuss a couple ways that you and your baby can overcome the challenge that is breastfeeding. Because let’s face it – millions of mothers around the world breastfeed every day, so it’s not impossible, right?
Finding the Solution
The first and foremost important rule to conquering breastfeeding is: keep a positive, encouraging attitude. Although it might be tough and you may find yourself feeling alone and down, it’s important to remain positive and know that you are giving your baby the best possible nutrients he or she needs.
If you find yourself needing a little more encouragement, however, try a couple of these solutions:
Find your network: There can be times when your family or friends don’t understand breastfeeding and can’t actively support you. During this time, you should know that there are breastfeeding support groups nearby with women who are dealing with the same issues. And while a global pandemic may put a damper on in-person support groups, there are always multiple groups using different social platforms where you can find help.
Seek help from an IBCLC: While peer support is always an important resource, you may need extra help – especially if you are concerned about your baby’s physical wellbeing. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the gold standard in breastfeeding support around the world. An IBCLC can make home visits or spend time with you at an office helping you with your concerns.
Reframe the learning process: Often, when things aren’t working right, you might feel as though you are failing your baby. However, you should try to look at it from a different point of view. If your baby isn’t latching properly, but is taking expressed milk, then try to recognize that your baby is still getting your milk even though it’s through a different way.
Sometimes, you may try your hardest, but nothing seems to work. And that’s totally okay. Or, maybe breastfeeding isn’t your preference. What is most important is that your baby is fed and healthy. It’s also important to take a look at yourself and do what’s best for you, both mentally and physically. After all, your baby needs you to be healthy in order for them to receive the best care possible.
So, try not to be discouraged when things are hard. Your little perfect angel needs you to be strong, and needs you to be there for them. As you and your little one get to know each other better and you become more rested from the little sleep you got the first couple of months, you might find that it gets easier. What seemed to be a fight or a struggle may turn into a wonderful bonding opportunity between you and your child. So, hang in there, try to seek support if you need and, most importantly, stay positive.