What We Aren’t Told About Breastfeeding

We all know that ‘breast is best’, but often it’s hard, and no one really tells you that it might be.

We are led to believe that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Many women struggle with breastfeeding and often give up. If we are told a few of the secret truths about breastfeeding it would help us understand that hard is normal and it will likely get better.

What We Aren’t Told About Breastfeeding – the secret truths:

  1. There is no feeding routine in the early weeks. You’ll likely be told to feed every three to four hours, so when your baby starts screaming for a feed less than two hours later you’ll start to worry that you don’t have enough milk, or that you aren’t feeding properly, so your baby’s not getting enough. Forget about the routine for the first six or so weeks and accept that they are hungry, when they are hungry.
  2. Breastfeeding doesn’t always go to plan. Like everything in life, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d thought, or hoped they would. It’s ok to feel disappointed if breastfeeding doesn’t work, and it is by no means a reflection on you as a person.
  3. When breast feeding is easy, it’s easy. When it’s not easy – it is a living nightmare. If breastfeeding is not working, it can be one of the most difficult things to manage as a new mother. Not only do you have the physical pain to deal with, breastfeeding is fraught with emotions that would never have experienced before giving birth. Go easy on yourself.
  4. Some pain is normal when you are first learning to breastfeed. If it hurts for a few seconds while your milk lets down, this is fine and will ease with time. Prolonged or severe nipple or breast pain isn’t normal so you’ll need to talk to your midwife, MCH Nurse, GP or lactation consultant. Breast pain can often be eased by correcting the attachment between your baby and your nipple, but it’s worth getting some advice to make sure it’s not the start of mastitis or nipple thrush – two very painful conditions.
  5. Leaky breasts are completely normal. Our bodies are hard-wired to feed our babies after giving birth. Sometimes even just thinking about your baby will trigger your letdown reflex. It’s completely normal. Breasts that don’t leak are completely normal too.
  6. Your appetite will go through the roof. If you’re breastfeeding your baby you’ll probably feel like you’re eating for two – because you are. The baby takes everything it’s needs in utero and your milk then uses up all your resources first. Eat when you are hungry and drink plenty of water.
  7. You may not lose weight through breastfeeding. Some women do, but many don’t. So don’t rely on breastfeeding alone to return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
  8. If your baby’s attachment looks right, but still hurts, then it’s not right. Even if a lactation consultant tells you it’s right (because it looks right) but you are still getting breast pain, you need to persevere. Try another lactation consultant, or try a different position (such as the football hold) to see if this helps. As mentioned earlier, prolonged pain isn’t normal in breastfeeding.
  9. Every woman has a story – don’t judge her if she doesn’t breastfeed. As per point three – some women experience great trauma in their pursuit to breastfeed. But some women just don’t want to breastfeed. It makes no difference to you or your baby what others do with their babies, so be respectful and don’t judge.
  10. In the early weeks, breastfeeding will bring on contractions. They will probably hurt. It is part of the process. Breastfeeding brings on contractions, these contractions will help your uterus return to it’s normal size.
  11. It’s ok to hate breastfeeding sometimes. There will be times when you wish you weren’t breast feeding, when you just want a break, or just want to escape for a day. That time will come, and it’s natural to feel like that sometimes.
  12. It’s ok to feel physically suffocated. The physicality of breastfeeding can be exhausting, and sometimes you just don’t want to be touched by anyone. Sometimes it can feel like there is someone always ‘on you’ – whether it be your baby, older children or your partner. We all need space. Be firm about taking it when you need it.
  13. Breastfeeding can be isolating. Particularly in the wee hours of the night, when everyone else is asleep. It can feel like you are the only person in the world who is up (again). Unless your baby will take a bottle of expressed breast milk, the feeding will fall to you and it can seem a momentous task on your own.
  14. You will be in awe of your body. As if growing your own baby from scratch wasn’t enough, watching your baby grow and become strong through the milk that comes from you is nature at it’s best. When everything works as it should (and it doesn’t always – but when it does) you will marvel at the amazing things your body can do.
  15. You will miss it after you wean. There is nothing quite like the intimacy that breastfeeding brings. It is something just for you and your baby. It’s difficult to find that closeness any other way. So if you are breast feeding, savour it as it doesn’t last forever (even though sometimes it feels like it will never end!).
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