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Does this sound familiar? You are a mum and feel like breastfeeding is not what it was "supposed to be". Your imagined parenting story didn't detail the the sore nipples, constant feeding, the baby that sleeps all day and is awake like a party animal that won't let you sleep at night. All of this, while you are so tired that you want to cut your arm off and are conflicted between sleep deprivation and the amazing amount of love with this little cherub that is drawing on all of your emotional resources. You feel guilty, you feel like a failure as a woman and as a mother, you feel like you are failing your baby and family - It wasn't supposed to be like this?
You know that "breast is best", you are led to believe that breastfeeding is "natural" and just going to happen like you see others doing it. You hear about your friends's baby "sleeping through the night" - what makes your new baby so different? Your mother in law, mother and partner will often contribute by saying - "just bottle-fed!", "put the baby on formula!", "you don't have to breastfeed". You are tearing your hair out, you want to scream, you want to throttle those trying to tell you to stop breastfeeding. You feel at time that you want to give up, but you can't give up, "YOU DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP!"
If this is you, or you know someone who feels this way, you will find this post rather helpful.
When it comes to listening to others about breastfeeding, CHOOSE YOUR SUPPORTS WISELY! Your supports care for you and will often advise the easy way out, thinking it is going to benefit you, when they really don't understand how important breastfeeding is to you. The other thing to consider is that many health care professionals and lay persons, have lost the art of understanding what breastfeeding is really all about. I have been supporting breastfeeding mothers for 20 years and have seen great change in the last 10. We know that in Australia, only 14 out of every 100 infants aged 6 months are being breastfed (this means that 86% of our aussie infants are not being breastfed according to the World Health Organisation Recommendations). So those who are going to support you most, are those whom have breastfed for at least 6 months themselves and also those who are experts in supporting mothers to breastfeed.
With only 14% of infants being breastfed at 6 months, this means that most people have little exposure to breastfeeding. With little exposure to breastfeeding, how are most people supposed to know what breastfeeding is really all about? How can they know that it is normal for babies to breastfeed up to 17 times a day? How can they know that babies will breastfeed constantly for 2 hours at some times? If this is the case, do many people really understand what is involved with breastfeeding infants?
When it comes to breastfeeding, like anything that is highly valued, you have to work hard at it. This means that you need to be patient and realise that the ability to breastfeed with confidence, does not happen overnight!
It takes a great deal of patience and reducing your expectations upon yourself and your baby on "getting it right". It can take several weeks to breastfeed the way you envisioned, but YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE! Did you learn to drive your car the first time you sat in the driver's seat? Was your house built in an instant when you signed the building contract? Did you learn how to cook the first time you tried? I bet the answer to these questions is NO! So how can you expect yourself or your tiny defenceless baby to breastfeed instantaneously? What you do need is the right support around you. When you feel like giving up, you need your supports to encourage you to hang in there and remind you to be patient and to help make your life easier to reduce the stress and maximise your relaxation. You need your supports to listen to what you really want - which is to support you. But guess what? Your supports are not mind readers! You need to be clear with them about what it is that you really want. You need to tell them that you want them to get someone to help you breastfeed - whether its a private International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to visit you at home or you need someone to organise an appointment at your local breastfeeding clinic - you need to tell your supports, exactly what it is that you need.
Are you stressed that the house is a mess and chores need to be done? Ask for help or hire someone to help with household chores, someone to cuddle the baby so you can sleep an hour or so, make you a cup of tea, let you have a bath in peace, organise a massage or acupuncture appointment for you so you can get some space and "chill out". Ask other mothers if they can carpool your other children to pre-school or school and extra curricular activities. Maybe your other children want to have a fun sleep over at grandma's or with their cousins - this will be great for your family, because your kids don't need to be around a stressful environment focused on the baby and you don't need your kids acting out because they are too young to cope with your stress. You cannot control your baby's or your own ability to breastfeed, but what you can control, is having your needs met in order to diffuse the stress load, so that breastfeeding can be made easier
...And my last bit of advice - DONT OBSESS ABOUT THE BREASTFEEDING! With the right attiude and support, the majority of mothers and baby's can breastfeed!
To find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in Australia, click here http://www.lcanz.org/find-a-consultant.htm
For 24 hour Breastfeeding Support, click here https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/breastfeeding-helpline
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Kellie Eason RN, RM, IBCLC
Nurse, Midwife, IBCLC, Infant Feeding Therapist, Birth & Parenting Educator, Baby Sleep & Settling Consultant