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.
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.
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.