Myth #3: Since breastfeeding is natural it should be easy!!
NO WAY! Breastfeeding is NOT easy. So many moms get caught by the idea that since breastfeeding is natural it should come….well, naturally. But the thing is, breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby! Both of you are new to this, it can be messy, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. When moms struggle they often feel like this is some sort of failure on their part, but I assure you it is not.
There are so many variables that that determine the level of success or struggle that comes with breastfeeding. First let’s account for the fact that your baby is a complete stranger to you. You (hopefully!) wouldn’t walk up to someone on the street and offer your breast to them, so why would it feel any less awkward to do it with this brand new little person in your life???
Second, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of support readily available to a new breastfeeding mom. In the hospital it is often a labor and delivery nurse who supervises the first breastfeeding session. Then you move to the maternity ward where you have another new nurse, or multiple new nurses with shift changes. In my personal experience a lactation consultant didn’t visit me until the day after my daughter was born and she completely contradicted what I had been told by the nurses! If after you go home you need additional support you need to seek it out and find it for yourself. Talk about stressful when you’ve got scabby, leaky nipples dripping with milk and a crying hungry baby!
Third, the sense of urgency and duty that comes with breastfeeding can often set you up for failure. Although the benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable, I feel we have gone a little off the deep end with all the “Breast is Best” campaigns. When a mom struggles to (or just plain chooses to not) breastfeed, they can often feel like they are somehow shortchanging their baby. They often try to muscle through the process, which can really have a negative impact on their moods, creating an even more risky situation for both mom AND baby.
Finally, you can’t force your body to do something it just isn’t able to do. I am aware of a lactation consultant who had all the training and resources around breastfeeding at her fingertips and she just didn’t produce enough milk to sustain her baby. No amount of breastfeeding cookies, biscuits or teas can overcome this biological barrier for some and it is not a reflection of you as a mom. All it means is that breastfeeding wasn’t a fit for you by no fault of your own.
What I know for sure is having support is going to set you up for the best chance at success. Consider taking a breastfeeding class when you are pregnant, hiring a postpartum doula for after baby comes (many are well versed in breastfeeding, are breastfeeding educators or lactation consultants themselves), and be sure you have the names and numbers of local lactation consultants handy BEFORE you need them. And as always, if you are experiencing a significant amount of distress around breastfeeding or other issues please reach out for help. You can click here to contact me.