The breastfeeding struggle is real

If only breastfeeding was as simple as feeding a hungry baby with their mother’s breasts. Rinse and repeat. It’s immensely much more than that. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding in any way at all, you’re absolutely not alone and it’s not your fault.

We hear so much about how wonderful breastfeeding is, the many benefits, and the advice around how to have a successful breastfeeding journey. But, so often mums feel like it’s something they need to navigate alone, especially since it surely should come naturally to a mother, right?

That’s not the case, though. Breastfeeding does not come naturally to many. It’s a skill that needs to be learnt and requires knowledge, time, patience, but most importantly, support.

Do any of these statements resonate with you?

  • Breastfeeding just isn’t for me.
  • I’m crying most of the day because breastfeeding is hard and exhausting.
  • I just can’t continue breastfeeding.
  • I feel that my baby’s sleep problems are because he wants the boob all night.
  • My baby isn’t gaining enough weight, so I’m worried I’m not making enough milk.
  • I feel really uncomfortable breastfeeding in public so I stay home.
  • Breastfeeding is painful and I’ve tried everything to soothe my sore nipples.
  • I’m feeling so touched out and overwhelmed; I need a break.
  • I don’t like breastfeeding but I keep doing it out of guilt for my baby.
  • I want to quit breastfeeding but I’m scared of the judgement.
  • My baby only falls asleep at the breast and I’m worried they won’t learn to fall asleep alone.
  • I’ve tried everything to boost my supply but nothing is working. I feel so frustrated and defeated.
  • I have past trauma around having my breasts touched so I feel uncomfortable emotions when I breastfeed.
  • The reality of breastfeeding is nothing like what I expected, which makes me feel sad.
  • I really wanted to bottle-feed but I felt pressure from family/society/healthcare professionals to breastfeed.

The most important thing a breastfeeding mum needs right now

These breastfeeding struggles are very real and incredibly common. So, why are mothers feeling this way? How can we improve the situation for mums who are having these concerns, issues, and anxieties?

It all comes down to the right support.

If you don’t feel supported by those around you, then you will need to seek it and advocate for yourself. You shouldn’t be sitting at home with your baby suffering silently.

Women were never supposed to raise children alone. They were surrounded by other women who have guided them and been there for them since time began. Modern Western life has changed all of that unfortunately.

However, a mother’s village isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still there. Now it’s your midwife, your obstetrician, your maternal and child health nurse, your lactation consultant, breastfeeding support groups, and evidence-based parenting resources like Newborn Baby.

So, to help other mums who are struggling also, you can start by talking about your experience, and normalising the complexities and emotions that are intertwined with breastfeeding.

Understand that breastfeeding is natural but it can be difficult too. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop unless you want to. There is always the option to have a break from breastfeeding – read about this here along with our steps to start pumping without worrying about your supply. This way someone else can take over the feeds occasionally. You may even prefer to exclusively express.

Don’t delay, mumma. Get the help you need today. The right support will assist you physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It will also guide you to stop breastfeeding as well if that’s your wish. It’s not something that’s easily done alone, so it’s crucial to have someone there for you every step of the way.

Be gentle with yourself. Here is a mantra that will help you to reframe some of those negative thoughts:

My baby and I are learning together. I’m not failing. 

Where to get help today

  • Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The ABA has local support groups, plus virtual and online get-togethers. A local group is looked after by trained, volunteer breastfeeding counsellors or educators. You’ll find other mums going through exactly what you’re going through, and some facing other challenges. You’ll soon discover that you’re making progress when you can offer support to another mum who has the same concerns you did when you first joined.
  • Join breastfeeding Facebook support groups, such as our Newbornbaby Breastfeeding Mumma’s group to ask questions, share your experiences, and offer your own tips in a confidential and judgement-free setting. Alternatively, we can post your question for you (anonymously if you prefer) on our page.
  • Find an IBCLC. Support from other parents, friends, and family can be wonderful, but there are times when you need a professional to help you recognise what is causing the issue. A lactation consultant will support you emotionally as well as pick up any breastfeeding problems. Read more here about how an LC can help. To find one, ask your Maternal and child health nurse, Australian Breastfeeding Association, or Australian Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand
  • Breastfeeding isn’t just about nourishing your baby. Feeding to sleep is normal and healthy. Feeding for comfort is normal and healthy. If your issues are focussed around your baby’s sleep and breastfeeding, seek help from a sleep specialist whose approach is based in attachment, neuroscience, and responsive parenting (such as our resident baby sleep expert).


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