The benefits of breastfeeding are being explored through research constantly, and many women are making the decision to breastfeed their babies. It takes time, energy, and commitment, but bonding with a child while providing them with nourishment is a rewarding experience for mom and the baby.
Breastfeeding is a beautifully natural process, but it’s not always an easy road to follow. Even if mom’s milk comes in, the baby still has to latch properly. If the baby latches properly, mom still has to watch for infections. Add in the possibility of going back to work and finding time to pump, and breastfeeding can become a full-time job without any monetary pay, though mom will save a ton of money from not purchasing formula.
It’s important that mom does what she can to make this experience as easy as possible, and knowing a few things going in is essential. There are things mom can do to make this journey smoother and there are others that will definitely make it harder. If mom wants to breastfeed, she needs to do everything she can to make it successful.
There are times mom can’t nurse or decides she doesn’t want to, and that’s perfectly okay. However, mom shouldn’t give up because she simply doesn’t know how to deal with issues that can be fixed. If she wants to keep going, there is likely a way for her to do it.
Let's start with the 15 ways mom is making breastfeeding harder on herself...
20 Forgetting To Pump
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. While mom may think she will just let the baby nurse to keep her supply up, a breast pump is usually required to keep supply on track. When a child goes through a phase where he isn’t nursing as much, such as when he’s sick, mom will want to keep pumping to keep her supply strong for when regular feedings occur.
It’s also a good idea to pump so mom can store milk in the freezer for when she’s not around. Whether mom works or simply wants to take a break to spend some time alone, having pumped breastmilk on hand will make it easier.
19 Obsession With A Schedule
Babywise adherents, which are those who follow Babywise practices that demand a child be on a strict schedule for everything, can make breastfeeding harder than it has to be. Letting a child feed on demand will help keep mom’s milk supply up, and it will help ensure a child doesn’t fail to thrive due to undereating.
Feeding on demand is demanding, and mom may feel like an on-call milking cow while doing it. However, the on-demand approach tends to be the best for both mom and the baby. It definitely helps with keeping milk supply strong, and it helps a child get all he needs when hungry.
18 Ignoring Signs Of Infection
Women are told that breastfeeding can be painful, and that is absolutely true. However, some types of pain aren’t normal and need to be addressed by a doctor. Mom can develop infections while nursing, such as mastitis or thrush, and these generally need treatment from a medical professional to heal. Ignoring the signs of infection, such as fever, red stripes on the breasts, or bleeding nipples means the infection will get worse and cause mom more pain.
Treating infections early is important because when the pain gets to be too much, mom will likely quit nursing. In most cases, especially with mastitis, this is a mistake. Nursing helps relieve the pain of the clogged ducts associated with mastitis, and mom shouldn’t give up nursing when treating an infection would keep her on track.
17 Not Having a Child Checked for Lip Tie
Lip ties and tongue ties can make breastfeeding hard for mom and baby, and in some cases it becomes impossible. A baby may not be able to latch or will keep decreasing in size despite nursing. Usually, tongue ties and lip ties can be dealt with successfully, but that's only if mom knows the baby has one.
Mom should let the pediatrician or lactation specialist know if latching is a continued issue or if there is constant discomfort when she nurses. If the baby wails from hunger after a nursing session, this is also a sign that something could be wrong. Have him checked for a tongue tie or lip tie to see if the problem can be taken care of so nursing can resume.
16 Introducing Pacifiers Too Early
Pacifiers are not bad. In fact, they’ve been shown to lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The only reason they can be a problem for breastfeeding babies is because babies suck on pacifiers differently than they do breasts. A child who is introduced to a pacifier too early may not work as hard to perfect the breastfeeding latch, and this can lead to frustration for mom and the baby.
Introduce a pacifier cautiously and only after a strong nursing relationship has been established. The same is true when introducing bottles. It’s fine for a breastfed baby to use them, but don’t introduce them too early to avoid nipple confusion.
15 Waiting Too Long To Start
Breastfeeding early is best, as in right when the baby comes out of the womb. If possible, mom should prioritize nursing over anything else that first hour of life. Studies show the earlier the breastfeeding relationship begins, the longer it is likely to last.
Babies are hungry and ready to latch when they exit the womb, and making them wait too long can cause them to be irritated. This makes latching harder. It may also cause mom’s milk to be delayed in coming down. Before birth, tell the doctor or midwife that breastfeeding is to be prioritized and get everybody on board for an early start.
14 Not Reporting Pain During the Process
Mom is probably used to pain by the time she starts breastfeeding. She’s made it through the pain of pregnancy and childbirth, and she could be at a place in life where she expects most things to hurt. Though breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, it should not be painful. Pain is a sign that something is off. It could be the baby’s latch or it could be a blocked duct, but the source of the pain needs to be addressed.
Ignoring pain and trying to simply tough it out will likely make mom want to stop breastfeeding sooner. It’s not fun to be in pain all the time, and it’s not necessary. Just get help at the first sign of pain.
13 Quitting Too Early
If mom stops at the first sign of trouble, she likely won’t make it very far breastfeeding. The baby has to learn to latch. Mom’s milk has to come in. Mom has to survive growth spurts where the baby wants to breastfeed non-stop. She may also have to get through infections and cracked nipples. Breastfeeding is not a day at the spa.
However, mom doesn’t need to quit too early if she isn’t ready to really give it up. For the mom who wants to keep nursing, there is help out there to eliminate or lessen the problems she is having. Don’t give up before looking for solutions.
12 Eating Spicy Food
After nine months of watching what she eats to keep the baby safe, mom may feel like cutting loose when the baby is out of the womb. This can be a mistake. Since foods pass to the baby during breastfeeding, eating certain foods can cause tummy problems for the little one. Spicy foods are especially guilty of this.
Super spicy food that burns mom’s mouth will likely cause pain for the baby when he ingests it second hand. He may not sleep or he may have tummy troubles that lead to multiple diaper changes. Mom’s meals don’t have to be bland, but it is smart to avoid spicy foods known for causing stomach upset in adults at times.
11 Not Knowing Her Rights
Women have rights when it comes to breastfeeding. Women can’t be kicked out of public places for breastfeeding, and they can’t be forced to pump or nurse in a bathroom. Breastfeeding is a natural process that shouldn’t offend anyone, so mom needs to know her rights so no one tries to bully her into hiding that she’s breastfeeding.
Each country, state, and province have different rules, but many of them fall on the side of mom and her baby. If mom is questioned or harassed for breastfeeding, she needs to make sure she knows her rights so she can respond accordingly.
10 Caring What Other People Think
Mom needs to do what is best for her and her child, and how she feeds her baby is nobody’s business. Moms have the right to breastfeed in public. They also have rights upon returning to work. If people in mom’s life think breastfeeding is a bad idea, that’s not mom’s concern. She doesn’t have to defend her decision or worry about what other people think.
This is true no matter how mom chooses to feed her child. Women who breastfeed often run across people who see breastfeeding as inappropriate or something that should be practiced behind closed doors. That’s not mom’s problem and she will be a lot less frustrated if she gives up on caring what others think.
9 Accepting Too Many Visitors In The Early Days
Everyone will want to see the baby, and many people will want to come and check in on mom after the baby is born. However, too many people coming in and out can be frustrating to deal with when mom is trying to establish a breastfeeding relationship with her infant. Visitors tend to make mom feel modest. Visitors also want to pass the baby around when mom really needs to be feeding on demand and getting the baby to nurse and bring her milk down.
It’s okay to set limits during the early bonding days, especially if mom is hoping to nurse. It’s more comfortable to breastfeed without an audience in those early days.
8 Putting Too Much Pressure On Nursing Exclusively
It’s true that the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life. This is a great goal, but mom does not need to get so hung up on exclusive breastfeeding that she makes life harder than it has to be for herself. If formula must be used those first six months, so be it. Any breastmilk a child receives is good, and adding formula isn’t going to destroy all the benefits breastmilk has to offer.
There are sometimes circumstances, like when mom needs to take an antibiotic that can’t be passed on to the baby, when offering formula is the only option. Mom doesn’t need to stress if this happens.
7 Worrying About Calories
Some women drop pregnancy pounds quickly while breastfeeding. They burn off food as fast as they consume it because the baby is taking so much from them during nursing sessions. Other women don’t see the number on the scale move no matter how often they nurse. It’s not wise to depend on nursing to accomplish the pre-pregnancy body because that’s not its primary purpose.
Mom grew a child for nine months and earned that new body. She may go back to looking like her old self, but nursing shouldn’t be held responsible for making it happen. Breastfeeding a baby offers enough benefits on its own.
6 Believing It's Easy
Breastfeeding isn’t easy. It’s possible and wonderful and natural, but very few women describe it as easy. Mom will get the hang of it and figure out how to be a pro, but she should expect a learning curve in those early days. If she doesn’t expect a challenge, she won’t be prepared for all that is involved in nursing a baby.
Don’t expect an easy, bump-free journey, but do know that there are ways to deal with challenges that pop up along the way. Mom will likely find that all the work is worth it and that breastfeeding sessions offer a slowed down time to bond with her baby.
And here are 5 ways mom can make the breastfeeding process easier on herself...
5 Dealing With Confusion Early
For most of mom’s life she’s probably seen her breasts as body parts associated with sexual attraction. Sure, she knows that breasts are required for breastfeeding a baby, but breaking away from the sexual connection they have in her mind isn’t always easy. It’s best if she deals with this beforehand.
Obviously, feeding a child from the breasts is about connection and nourishment, so mom needs to see it that way before she even starts the journey. If she is too freaked out because her breasts still symbolize sex to her, she will likely be too uncomfortable to nurse for very long. It’s okay to talk through this with a trusted friend or partner and to deal with these issues openly.
4 Taking Extra Time Off Work
It’s not possible for every woman, but if mom can take extra time off work after the baby is born, this can help cement the breastfeeding relationship. The longer mom is home to establish a nursing routine and to perfect latching, the better chance the baby will want to continue to nurse even if he has to use a bottle all day at day care later on.
It’s also a great way for mom to have a strong supply and to take advantage of extra time to pump and store breast milk. Since mom will be waking up at night to feed the baby, these extra days at home will help her rest up a bit so she feels like sticking with nursing, even when going back to work makes it a challenge.
3 Seeing A Lactation Specialist
A lactation specialist should come see mom shortly after she gives birth. If one doesn’t show, mom needs to request to meet with a lactation specialist because the tips she can give are priceless. From helping mom learn what a proper latch looks and feels like to helping her understand what to expect while breastfeeding, lactation specialists demystify the process and make it a whole lot easier.
There are also organizations like the La Leche League who offer moms advice about nursing. There are no stupid questions, and mom should reach out if she needs assistance. This can make the difference in her sticking with breastfeeding or giving up out of frustration.
2 Doing Some Research
Knowledge is power, and though mom has to be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole of scary internet stories, pulling knowledge from reliable sources is a great way to make the breastfeeding journey easier. Research studies and first-hand stories from moms who want to help other moms succeed at nursing can provide help that mom finds invaluable.
It’s best to do some research before the baby is born so mom will have some ideas of the best techniques to use to start strong. Once the baby arrives, she can research specific information based on her needs. This will keep her from being too stressed out.
1 Practicing Self-Care
Breastfeeding a baby is beautiful and very hard work. Mom will feel a wonderful bond to her body and feel empowered by providing the sustenance her child needs to thrive. However, she will also be tired and recovering from childbirth. It’s important that she practice self-care so nursing remains something she enjoys instead of becoming another task that is wearing her down.
Self-care doesn’t have to take long or be super indulgent, though both are great if mom can manage it! A 20-minute walk, a coffee with a friend, or a warm bath to soak sore muscles can hit the restart button and help mom go back to being on call for a hungry baby.