Pregnancy and the first months of your child’s life are full of stress and anxiety, as parents navigate these new experiences along with their great love for their child.
These issues are compounded by more conventional stressors like lack of sleep, since mothers lose enormous amounts of sleep during their child’s first year, and the challenges of establishing a new routine.
Given these challenges, the last thing you want is to cause yourself greater distress, but unfortunately for many women, breastfeeding can be a struggle.
1. You’re Not Alone.
Breastfeeding is difficult for many women and there are dozens of things that can go wrong. Maybe you have low milk supply or, alternatively, painful engorgement.
Some infants struggle to latch or tend toward exhausting cluster feedings. Whatever is going on, you’re not alone, and it’s important to know that.
In addition to being aware of some of the challenges that can arise, it’s critical that mothers feel supported on their breastfeeding journey and are given the tools they need to be successful.
For example, it’s much more difficult to breastfeed exclusively if you aren’t also pumping so that your partner can help with feedings or your child can be left with a babysitter.
You may also experience more challenges breastfeeding if there were medical complications after birth that kept you from attempting a feeding in the first hours.
2. Get Expert Support.
One of the best ways to address the challenges associated with breastfeeding is by meeting with a lactation consultant even before you give birth. Lactation consultants can recommend equipment like breast pumps and nursing bras, provide advice targeted to infants with certain medical conditions or multiple births, and much more.
Among the most valuable support a lactation consultant can provide is help with latching.
While nursing involves a variety of natural reflexes, some infants struggle to latch, and how you hold them can make a big difference in their ability to feed.
A lactation consultant can help guide you through different positions to find a comfortable hold, and by establishing a good latch, you’ll also avoid nipple damage.
3. Support Your Supply.
Breastfeeding is an energy intensive activity, and you need to nourish yourself properly for your sake and your baby’s.
With that in mind, you’ll want to keep your calorie intake about the same as it was during your third trimester and ensure you’re staying well hydrated.
You can also try to increase your milk supply by pumping or using manual stimulation, engaging in more skin to skin contact, and making smart decisions like minimizing caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Though there are herbs and medications that may also help, it’s best to try these simple, natural solutions first.
4. Address Your Anxiety.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to deal with breastfeeding difficulties is to make sure that you keep your anxiety to a minimum, and that means sometimes you need to step away from the process.
Struggling to breastfeed is associated with postpartum depression and anxiety, which can be quite serious.
As beneficial as breastfeeding is, and it offers substantial health benefits for both mother and child, if you’re too depressed to take care of your baby because you’re feeling overwhelmed by breastfeeding, then those other benefits don’t really matter.
What to remember?
If you’ve worked with a lactation consultant and tried different approaches to breastfeeding without success, know that you aren’t the first woman to find themselves in this position and you won’t be the last.
Most importantly, remember that this isn’t a failure, it’s just a bump in the road. When it’s successful, breastfeeding should enhance your experience of your baby’s infancy by supporting your bond, not be a source of stress.
There’s more than one way to make sure your baby is nourished and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.