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Before I had a baby, I specifically remember asking the question: “What is so hard about breastfeeding?”

Don’t hate me. The question came out of genuine curiosity and in the hope that I could prepare myself for what was to come.

I didn’t get an answer so I’m going to do my best to provide one now.

Let’s look at the factors involved.

You’ve spent 9 months growing a baby in a womb that started off the size of a small fist and ended up the size of a football field.

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Somehow the baby was removed from you (either out of your vagina or through major surgery, you know, no biggie) and all you want to do is stare lovingly at your magical creation as you drift in to a beautiful, long, well deserved sleep.

And most of all recover from what has been the most intense experience your body has ever endured. But no.

You now have to feed the new life…with your breasts.

Ahhh your breasts. You’re not sure if you’re ready for them to serve this new, very important purpose.

You have all of 3 seconds to reminisce about the good times with the girls before a midwife takes your boob in her hand and starts to try to massage milk out of it. And just like that your girls become public property.

You have a few days of the awkward breast massaging before your actual milk starts to come in.

It’s a fact of life that you’ll either receive way too much of the good stuff or not nearly enough.

This is often the biggest challenge for new mums and can cause great heartache (and often breastache).

Too much milk (as was my experience) is in a lot of ways better than the latter and we’re often considered the lucky ones. But it doesn’t come without its discomforts. The awkward moments when your milk sprays in the face of an over-enthusiastic onlooker, not to mention the constant engorgement.

If you want to know what over-supply feels like, go get 2 litres of milk out of your fridge, pour it all over your chest and all through your bed. There you go.


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Then there are women close to me who have been dealt an undersupply. All the experts tell these ladies that they do indeed have enough milk!

Alas, for some no amount of boobie cookies, meds and expressing seems to be enough and I’ve seen too many mums feel like they’ve failed when they’ve done everything they possibly can to boost their supply. That’s hard.

I’m no expert in supply, so I’ll leave it there and let’s move on to the other most important participant in the feeding circle: the baby.

Oh the sweet baby, with its soft, precious little lips that will gently suckle on your bosom as you stare lovingly into its eyes.

Ha!

A few things. Those sweet little lips? Once they latch on they suck like a vacuum cleaner!

If that attachment isn’t 100% right and those lips aren’t perfectly positioned, the head isn’t tilted on exactly the right angle and that chin doesn’t rest on the right part of the boob…. well let’s think about it shall we?

Imagine a vacuum cleaner wrapped around your nipple and then someone turns it on. BAM! Yup. That’s right.

So, get the suction right you say? How hard can it be to maneuver a sleepy little baby in to this perfect position I’ve mentioned?

Imagine that baby is actually a wild, slippery piglet.  Do you follow me?

It’s hard enough to hold a newborn without being petrified it’s head is going to snap off backwards. They have no control over those tiny arms and legs that flail about in every direction. Not to mention they’ve spent 9 months on the inside and just have no understanding of how to behave.

Oh and let’s not forget about the moments of pure joy when your little one sleeps an extra hour or you’re lucky enough to enjoy dinner out with your other half whilst your sleeping baby is left in the capable hands of Granny.

Those precious moments of rest and rejuvenation overshadowed by the development of rocks, nay BOULDERS that have implanted on your chest ready to erupt like a milk volcano.

So, amongst many, many other reasons, that’s why it can be hard.

Overall, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. My nipples didn’t fall off and my babies tongue didn’t have a tie and my breastfeeding experience was beautiful and long lasting.

For others this isn’t the case and the challenges can be much greater.

Remember, each mother/baby/nipple combo is unique. Just do your best. Endure what you can. And feed your baby, any which way works for you.

Do you have any useful tips that worked for you with breastfeeding, please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • Brilliantly written. Thank you for sharing. Sounds identical to my experience with my first bub and really brightened my day while I’m sick and almost due to meet my second bub. I was lucky others are not. But in my opinion you should never view it as failure. Feed the babies by breast, bottle, formula whatever it takes.

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  • I think there’s not enough warning about how hard breast feeding can be to establish.

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  • I was lucky enough I didn’t have trouble thankfully.

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  • This is interesting! Thank you for sharing this!

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  • Haha. Thanks for the laugh. I’ve been very lucky with feeding my bub. He’s a great feeder :)

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  • I’m going to try to breastfeed but if I can’t I don’t think it’s a big deal. Better bub is happy and fed than hungry. If I can’t breastfeed I won’t make myself feel guilty.

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  • Oh I just had really vivid flashbacks … The pain, no one tells you about the Pain!!

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  • The one thing that I wasn’t told was how much it hurt at the start and also about Mastitis. Mastitis ended up hospitalising me with my second after several previous times and also several with my firstborn. Apparently I was more susceptible to it.

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  • Breastfeeding was a tough time for me, I had people accusing me of not feeding my baby enough although some days I felt like all I did was breastfeed. I had another lady tell, a friend to her but stranger to me, that I struggled to breastfeed my baby. I thought I did a fantastic job considering some babies leave the hospital on the bottle. I was judged for not breastfeeding enough. The list goes on & it makes me wonder if I will breastfeed with my next one or go straight to bottle to save myself the depression from all the harsh comments.

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  • To be honest I was just way too lazy to be bothered with bottles and formula and such and I liked knowing that I didnt have to worry about that or heating bottles, etc… my boobs were always there and always the right temp.
    My first was a bit of a nightmare and would fight me but we got there in the end…i guess my tip would be to persist.


    • yeah breast is the natural option and easy option for sure

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  • oh i love this article and i love the point that you make about boobs becoming public property lol. my boobs are just becoming daddy’s again lol.

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  • Even my baby bite me every now and then, I still love breastfeeding ! Is a wonderful close feeling with my bb

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  • I think one thing you don’t really get told is that it will hurt. Breast feeding can be a wonderful experience if it works. But if it doesn’t, that is perfectly ok too.

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  • Breast feeding can be a real pain in the bum or should I say boob, for so many moms, thanks for your article.

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  • What no one ever mentioned to me was VASPOSPASM! Now there’s a whole new level of pain :O

    Reply

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