Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a woman can do, yet most women need help getting started. Many women are unprepared for the physical and emotional rigours of first-time breastfeeding, even though they may be committed to it. Deciding to breastfeed is an undertaking that requires a certain level of commitment and determination, and it can be a difficult endeavour if you don’t have positive support from those around you, especially during the learning period. Don’t be afraid to ask for all the assistance you need during the early weeks of nursing—information, support, and practical help are the keys to success.
Because most new mothers are on their own within a few short days of giving birth, often without any help or support at all, they may be tempted to give up in the face of even the smallest challenges. Although the physical challenges of breastfeeding may be difficult, it is often the emotional ones that prove more powerful in a woman’s decision to discontinue breastfeeding. Having a realistic idea of how intense breastfeeding can be during the first few weeks and knowing what to expect may help prepare you for an easier transition.
It is important to understand that breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice and it requires a major readjustment of expectations, especially for those women who thrive on structure and schedules. In the beginning, breastfeeding babies wake and feed more often than formula-fed infants, and their schedules can be very unpredictable.
Although Mother Nature physically prepares all new mothers to breastfeed their babies, breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. Your baby was born with a natural sucking reflex, but the effort of satisfying his own hunger is something new. Breastfeeding will be a learning experience for both of you. Learning how to identify and avoid potential problems, and knowing where to turn for help will enhance your breastfeeding success. Your own determination, informed guidance from knowledgeable helpers, and encouragement and support from your loved ones can keep a problem from causing an early end to breastfeeding. With prompt and proper attention the majority of difficulties can be easily remedied, and as the weeks go by, you will become more relaxed and confident, and breastfeeding your baby will bring you a great amount of pride and pleasure.
Proper positioning and latch-on are two of the most important aspects of a successful breastfeeding relationship. Once you have mastered positioning your baby correctly, and your baby has learned how to latch on properly, you’re on your way. Just remember that some babies take longer than others to learn the skill of latching-on. It’s a matter of trial and error and plenty of practice is required. It is important that you are relaxed and comfortable, and that your baby is in the mood for nursing. If your baby seems frantic or upset when he attempts to latch on your breast, calm and comfort him before trying again.
If you are finding it difficult, you are not alone! The best way to learn is to have the help and advice of a midwife. During the first few days after birth the midwives at Delta will help you. Don’t be frustrated if the advice differs from one midwife to the other – this just goes to show that there is not one ideal technique. You just have to find the one (s) that works for you. If you are still having difficulty upon leaving the hospital, contact a lactation specialist to arrange for an immediate home visit.
Seek all the information you can about breastfeeding and parenting, but remember to trust your own instincts. Nobody knows better than you what feels right and what is best for you and your baby. Your experience with breastfeeding may go smoothly and be wonderful right from the start or it may take a few weeks for you and your baby to establish a comfortable nursing relationship. In either case, your nursing experience will be as unique as your child, and your confidence in taking care of your newborn will grow as you become familiar with what is normal for your individual baby. Just remember that the first six weeks postpartum is a critical period; it is the time to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, adjust to your new role as mother, and develop a healthy nursing relationship with your baby. Be easy on yourself, eat nutritiously, rest when the opportunity arises, and take one day at a time. Most importantly, remain flexible, as your newborn’s feeding, sleeping, waking, and elimination patterns may change from day to day as he develops and grows. One of the most marvelous aspects of nursing your baby is that you will have precious memories for the rest of your life of how soft, warm, and wonderful your baby felt cradled in your arms and nestled against your breast, and how proud you felt watching your baby flourish on the nutritious milk that was created by your own body.
And if you cannot continue……
Unfortunately not all new mothers feel that they can continue breastfeeding. If you have tried all possible options, including the advice of specialist lactation consultants, then it may be best to stop feeding. Although ‘breast is best’ for both mother and baby, the stressful pressure of continuing in the face of significant problems is far worse. In this situation, stopping feeding allows you to enjoy your baby and to concentrate on the positive sides of being a new mother rather than focusing on the pain and frustration. It should not be regarded as a failure but as a brave and sensible decision – there is nothing to feel guilty about.