Breastfeeding is a whole new ballgame for moms. There’s nothing else in life that quite compares to using one’s own body to feed a child and not much that can be done ahead of time to get prepared for it. Learning how to breastfeed is trial by fire with almost everyone starting at the bottom rung. While many women find breastfeeding to be natural, fulfilling and easy going, for others it’s painful, difficult and exhausting. Often, it’s a combination of all those factors. But whatever an individual breastfeeding journey may look like, one thing everyone has in common is experiencing at least one moment of complete failure.
Because there's no way to be perfect at breastfeeding right from the get go, all moms require time, practice and patience to get the hang of it. Even then, the most seasoned mom can slip up from time to time. And because bodily fluids and naked breasts are involved, breastfeeding failures are often absolutely hilarious. With all the potential for things to go awry, it’s good to get prepared for some of the trials and challenges that can crop up with breastfeeding and make note of some simple solutions that will make the process go more smoothly. With that in mind, here’s a collection of some of the best ways to avoid the most common breastfeeding failures.
12If There’s No Baby Attached, Put It Away
Moms spend so much time breastfeeding their new babies that being topless at home quickly becomes the new norm. When a child wants to nurse every hour or two, it’s sometimes easier to just keep your shirt off rather than fumble with bra straps and tank tops in a sleep deprived haze. Even those moms who stay mostly clothed are liable to let a naked boob linger for longer than is technically necessarily. I remember talking to a mom friend who lay down her milk drunk baby but continued to engage in conversation for a good 5 minutes while still clutching her naked breast.
Not being careful about putting away your boobs after nursing can cause disaster when the postal worker knocks at the door or if your father in law shows up for an unexpected visit. Set an alarm on your phone if you can to remind you if you can, or at least warn your immediate family and close neighbours if you know you’re liable to forget.
11There’s No Crying In Breastfeeding
Just kidding! There’s so much crying in breastfeeding! From tearing up the first time the baby latches, or crying from raw, blistered, cracked or bleeding nipples, or grimacing in pain while experiencing those breastfeeding induced contractions no one warns you about, breastfeeding can be physically painful. But through all those tears there’s one important thing to remember: it does get easier.
Cry if you need to (and you probably will) but don’t quit on your worst day. The pain you feel is real, normal and something that many other women go through. Don’t decide that you are incapable of breastfeeding because it’s physically difficult. Most problems can be overcome with patience, time and a helping hand. And don’t let anyone shame you because you’re in pain. While most pain does have a specific cause that can be worked on, it can sometimes be more complicated. You aren’t necessarily breastfeeding incorrectly just because it hurts.
10Dealing With Baby Bites
When your baby is born, it’s easy to forget that they won’t stay 8 lbs and 20 inches long forever. Soon they’ll be laughing, babbling, growing hair and, usually within the first year, also growing teeth. That means your breastfeeding relationship may not stay as cuddly as it is during the first few months.
For a lot of women, the point the baby starts to bite is the exact point breastfeeding ends. But it doesn’t have to be that way! A few well-timed tricks can quickly teach your baby not to bite. First, when she does bite, don’t try to drag her off your nipple in a panic. She probably won’t unlatch easily and your nipple will get scraped raw. Instead, even though it goes against your instinct, push her head against your breast so she has to release her latch to get a breath. Another easy trick is to watch for signs that she’s about to bite. When you see her jaw tense, slip your pinky finger into the side of her mouth so she bites on that instead of your delicate skin. With a bit of patience and consistency she’ll soon learn biting while breastfeeding is more trouble than it’s worth.
9Learning To Be Flexible
Many moms consider being able to give their infants nothing but breastmilk for the first 6 months a priceless badge of honour. Exclusive breastfeeding (or EBF) is used as a status marker that lets everyone know that those moms who never offer a bottle of formula are the hardest working moms in breastfeeding. EBF kids are supposed to be healthier, smarter, better bonded with their mothers and essentially guaranteed to be on the straightest path towards lifelong success.
But the lengths women sometimes go to make sure their infants never get a drop of formula can be downright harmful to both mom and baby. Extreme sleep deprivation even in the best circumstances can severely impact a woman’s ability to function in her day to day life. It puts her health at risk, especially if she’s already suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety.
Under certain circumstances, the pressure to exclusively breastfeed can also put the baby at risk of starvation especially in the first few weeks when they’re the most vulnerable and mom’s supply hasn’t been established yet.
It’s perfectly fine to be dedicated to breastfeeding, to do everything you can to make it work and to be proud of your accomplishments. But the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding only go so far. Your child may end up healthier and happier if you relax your standards to suit your individual situation and introduce formula into the mix.
8Locking The Lactation Room Door
There’s a whole new set of potential breastfeeding fails awaiting a new mom returning to work. While she may be excited by how happy her coworkers are to see her again and thrilled that they are so riveted by her meeting presentations, she may soon discover the attention she’s getting might be due to the two large, wet, growing stains emerging from her breasts at random times.When accidental leakage happens at work maintain your poise and reach for the extra shirt you’ve kept tucked away.
Even trickier for a breastfeeding working mom is navigating the lactation room. Most workplaces in North America are required by law to provide them and are supposed to let women use them throughout the day without penalty. Practical application of these rules can be a bit more delicate, however. For instance, coworkers may not have gotten the memo on what that particular room is being used for, or even know what “lactation” means exactly. An unsuspecting pumping woman may suddenly find herself staring at her shocked VP standing at the open doorway with half the office curiously looking in behind him.
A little lactivism goes a long way in these situations. Make sure your office knows your rights to a specialize room (that’s not the bathroom) and no matter what you do, make sure that room has a locking door.
7Watching Where You Aim Those Things
Breasts are a phenomenal part of your anatomy, especially when they’re in the process of producing milk. A delicate balance of hormones are produced in perfect symphony throughout your pregnancy and into the postpartum period, prompting the tissues and ducts in your breasts to swell and your body to produce first colostrum and then breast milk. The nipple is a perfectly designed mechanism to transfer milk to your new baby and breast milk itself is filled with all the nutrients your child needs to survive.
This life sustaining beauty of nature all comes to a head when you discover your ability to squirt people in the face with your breast milk from halfway across the room.
Most women will leak a little breast milk but only a special segment of women will have a let down so forceful that they can direct a stream of milk dozens of feet away.
If you are one of these women the only advice I have is to make sure to use your new found powers for good and not evil.
6Learning What To Do With Everyone’s Advice
Oh no, you can’t hold the baby like THAT while you breastfeed! You’ve breastfed for 6 months already, you know you can stop now, right? Breastfeeding should NEVER hurt, you must be doing something wrong. Low supply doesn’t really exist. If you think you have it you should just eat an oatmeal cookie. This brand of pump is the best! This brand of nipple cream is the worst!
Feeling overwhelmed, yet? When a woman is breastfeeding, everyone will crawl out of the woodworks to give you their two cents on the best way to feed your child. There’s no way to get around their well meaning but unasked for advice, but also no way to take it all into consideration. Trying to do so is maddening as the advice is often contradictory and usually doesn’t actually address the reality of your particular situation.
The best way to handle it is to adopt a vague smile and repeat “I will absolutely ask for your advice when I need it. Right now we’re doing just fine.”
5Ditching The Blanket
As soon as you feel comfortable enough to leave the house with your newborn, you’re immediately confronted with a new element in your breastfeeding routine. You now have to awkwardly arrange a blanket over your hungry, squirming baby to protect the public from a glimpse of your extremely offensive areola. But what often happens is that before you can get the baby latched her grasping hand reaches out and starts tugging the blanket off her face. You tug back. The baby tugs harder and the blanket slips right off. You reach down for it, causing the baby to unlatch.
You try with one free hand to both hide your naked breast and redo your nursing bra while the other hand holds onto both baby and falling blanket. After 20 minutes of going through the same futile motions with an increasingly angry infant who will never be happy to eat with a hot blanket over her face you give up and go home, where you stay for the next year so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of public breastfeeding.
Sound exhausting? It is. Early motherhood is hard enough. Public breastfeeding doesn’t have to be. If a nursing cover is too much trouble it’s perfectly fine to just go without one. In North America you are legally allowed to breastfeed anywhere you are, or otherwise allowed to be, and you are not required to cover yourself.
4Dealing With The Pressure Of Pumping
There’s no two ways to say it: pumping milk is boring. Not only are you stuck to a machine as often as you would be to your nursing baby, you don’t have the ease of just popping the baby to your boob while carrying on conversation over coffee. Pumping is harder to organize than nursing, since it’s less discreet and has so many different parts to keep together. All but the most laid back women can end up feeling like an anonymous farm animal being milked.
But before you go all Office Space on your machine and beat it to bits with a baseball bat, try out some new ideas so your pumping experience doesn’t end up doomed for failure. First, make sure the pump is set to the right pressure before attaching it to your boobs. That sucker can go right up to 11 and bruising your nipples out of the gate is a terrible way to start. Second, try to relax. If you invest in a hands free pumping bra you’ll be able to hold your infant, a book or a bottle of vodka while you pump instead of just staring off forlornly into space.
3Warning Your Partner
You’ve finally managed to squirrel away some private time for you and your spouse. With the baby asleep in the other room you slip into something more comfortable, turn the lights down low and hop between the sheets for some well deserved intimacy. But as things start to get hot and heavy you notice a peculiar dampness emerging from a so far undiscovered location. Is it sweat? Is it that things are getting especially turned on in your nether regions? You try to ignore it but as the action heats up you may find yourself literally gliding across your partner’s bare chest because of all the lubrication. Then it dawns on you: you are lactating breast milk and it is getting everywhere.
Between breast stimulation and an increase in hormones, it’s no wonder inappropriate lactation, or galactorrhea, tends to rear its ugly head during sex. There isn’t a ton you can do to make sure it never happens, so it’s best to just accept it as a part of life that won’t last forever. Having a frank discussion with your partner beforehand about what is likely to happen can go a long way in preventing any unnecessary embarrassment.
2Remember, It’s Just Food
The debate rages about how much better breast milk is then formula. Most people have settled on the idea that, in most cases in the developed world (the case for the benefits of breastmilk is much stronger in the developing world), breast milk is usually at least marginally better. That doesn’t take into account every individual scenario where formula is actually the right choice for moms (if, in the case of low supply, it’s a choice at all) but it’s wildly acknowledge that there are some scientifically proven benefits to breast milk that formula can’t compete with.
Some people get absolutely fanatic, however, about the perceived benefits of breast milk. Breast milk and breastfeeding is great, but the antibodies it contains are only ever going to get you so far. They aren’t going to cure Lyme disease or even necessarily make sure she doesn’t get childhood colds or flus. Formula won’t give your kid autism or cavities or get them cut from the basketball team when high school rolls around. Breast milk isn’t magic and formula isn’t junk. They’re both food and will both keep your child nourished and growing.
1Making It Rain
When a woman produces more milk than her baby needs or can even tolerate, she can end up grappling with a multitude of feeding issues. With no other apparent option, women with oversupply are prone to toss their unused milk down the sink or let it languish for years in a forgotten basement freezer. But many mothers of premature infants and babies with chronic health issues could benefit greatly from the milk that might otherwise be wasted. Most major areas have milk banks who would gratefully accept milk donations. It’s also possible to offer private donations on local parenting Facebook groups.
No woman is required to do anything with her breasts or breast milk that she doesn’t want to do. Her breast milk is not public property and she isn’t obligated to share it with anyone. But, the option is there, should she want to take advantage of it.
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