The arrival of a new baby into the family is a time of great joy, excitement and change, and breastfeeding is known to be the best start a family can give their baby in terms of health and wellbeing. However, successfully breastfeeding a baby is not without its challenges, and there are various obstacles a new mother may need to overcome in order to achieve her goal.
Many women know in their hearts while they grow up, how they will feed their babies in the future, and now that breastfeeding is proven to be so beneficial to both mom and baby, it ought to be supported and encouraged from every angle. However, this doesn’t always happen.
Breastfeeding became less common in the second half of the 20th century and an unfortunate consequence of that is that many of today’s new moms were not exposed to breastfeeding around them during their childhoods. Their own mothers may not have breastfed, or not for very long. I often hear a lack of confidence from moms-to-be, saying: “I’ll give it a go” or “I’ll try but if I can’t do it then…” This mind set can set a new mom up to fail before she has even started! They are also worried that breastfeeding will hurt, or that they might not have enough milk – a result of a lack of skilled support and often inconsistent advice.
Other moms-to-be may not even be considering breastfeeding. For some there is a real conflict between the feeling of breasts being for a baby’s food or for their sexual function.
While the early days of a new baby’s life can be an easy joyful time for many families, in other cases it is fraught with anxiety. That maternal instinct doesn’t always kick in for some as it does for others and many new moms really do feel like they are floundering, unsure of what to do, and how often. Even with great support, as a new mom there is so many questions that appear from nowhere, so many “what ifs” and “tell me again how to do it?” It’s impossible to feel totally at ease for a lot of new moms and dads.
Then there are questions of “how much weight has baby put on?”, “how many wet nappies?”, “why isn’t he settling?” etc. Very often the answer is suggested to be “he must be hungry”, and as the one with the responsibility to feed the baby, a new mother can easily feel under a lot of pressure. Add a drop in confidence and the longevity of her breastfeeding is very much under threat.
It very often takes a good couple of months before things settle down and mom and baby find their feet – and their feeding rhythm. The growing baby is evidence to mom (and those around her) that she is doing a fantastic job. The support of her husband or partner is crucial to the breastfeeding mom, and negative comments from them can be very unsettling. The way of the world at the moment though, is that all families are feeling stretched in terms of finances and demands on time especially, so protecting and preserving breastfeeding is another challenge to add to the list, no matter how beneficial we all know it is.
As baby grows there are growth spurts, behavioural changes and new teeth to contend with. Other people’s attitudes to breastfeeding an older child may affect things too, if mom and baby continue breastfeeding throughout and beyond the introduction of solid foods (as is very much recommended). Moms who are returning to work need to plan for it well and start pumping and get baby used to a bottle well in advance to make the process as stress free as possible.
So, getting beyond the early lack of confidence and sore nipples is sometimes just the tip of the ice berg! What does every new mum need to succeed and enjoy giving her newborn the best start in life?
- A firm belief that she can do it! If you can grow and deliver a beautiful baby why would your body stop at the next bit! A negative attitude can be really damaging
- The support of her husband or partner – is he aware of the benefits of breastfeeding in terms of health and bonding?
- The support of family and friends – positive encouragement is invaluable; help with the house and other kids can be a god-send. Friends who have successfully breastfed are a valuable resource
- Friendly, helpful, practical and consistent professional advice from a midwife or breastfeeding advisor/healthcare professional
- Specialist advice with any early hurdles – many problems can be nipped in the bud. Lactation consultants can be found all over the world and are specialists at helping women succeed at breastfeeding
- Attending a class before baby arrives – one specifically about how to breastfeed. If that isn’t possible, do lots of reading and watch some videos
- Slow down to your baby’s rhythm – newborns need very little beyond milk, warmth, love, plenty of cuddles, touch and to be kept clean and dry
- Make a plan well in advance for returning to work. Becoming familiar with using a breast pump and building up a good supply of milk in the freezer allows you more space and flexibility as you both get used to the new routine
- Online forums can be a great place to look for support, encouragement and great advice from other like-minded mums going through the same experiences.
- Make some time to think about and care for yourself – the happier you are the happier your baby will be.
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