Are you facing problems with breastfeeding? don’t give up hope.
Hey there momma,
I know you might be reading this at 2 am, with tears in your eyes, wearing a milk-stained shirt and holding a baby that you just fed a bottle because he/she wouldn’t nurse from you.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been there. Three times, actually. With each of my babies. All three had difficulty breastfeeding for different reasons.
It’s totally heartbreaking when all signs seem to point to breastfeeding not working out, isn’t it? But, don’t give up hope.
→Even if your baby fights your attempts to get him or her latched and just flat out refuses to nurse (like my first)
→Even if your baby latches but can’t or won’t stay latched long enough to get any milk at all (like my second)
→Even if your baby seems to be latching fine but isn’t actually transferring enough milk to grow (like my third)
→Even if your struggle is something completely different
You might feel like breastfeeding is just never going to work for you and dread feeding sessions because you know it will be a struggle that ends with a bottle feeding. But don’t give up hope just yet.
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Breastfeeding problems and concerns are very common
You might be surprised at how common breastfeeding struggles are for new moms. According to a study by UC
92 percent! So in other words, if you’re facing breastfeeding problems after delivery, you are NORMAL.
And yet NO ONE TELLS YOU TO POSSIBLY EXPECT THIS.
Every breastfeeding class or course should include material on what to do if you find that your baby just isn’t having any of it – because this is something that many, many mothers face.
Yet few breastfeeding courses will prep you for this. And many moms give up breastfeeding because they feel the struggle is a sign that they’re just not cut out for it.
This is far from the truth!
What if I told you that your baby can struggle for weeks, even months, and still learn to breastfeed like a pro?
That your baby can have bottles, lots of them if necessary, and still go on to breastfeed just fine?
That you will need a nursing/
Wouldn’t that give you hope?
I’d like to share my experience with struggling to breastfeed my first baby so that if you’re in the same place right now you will know that there is hope, and plenty of it, for your breastfeeding relationship to succeed.
This is the story I wish someone would have told me when I was crying in the middle of many nights over my newborn’s seeming inability to breastfeed.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional or a lactation consultant. What I have learned about breastfeeding and share in this post comes PURELY from my EXPERIENCE with breastfeeding three babies. If you have medical concerns regarding your difficulty breastfeeding your baby please seek the help of a licensed lactation consultant or doctor.
Also, this post is in no way meant to put down moms who bottlefeed. Whatever way you decide to feed your baby is YOUR CHOICE. This post is purely designed to encourage moms who want to breastfeed but are struggling, not to present breastfeeding as a superior choice.
My Story With Struggling To Breastfeed my baby
You know those photos of breastfeeding moms where mother and baby are gazing into each other’s eyes, perfectly at peace, and the mother looks like she just got done with a photo shoot (because she probably did, literally)?
Well, that’s what I thought breastfeeding was going to be like before I had my first baby – completely perfect in every way.
And I was prepared, too. I mean, I’d taken the “official” hospital breastfeeding class. I had purchased a nursing bra and a couple of nursing shirts. So I was good to go.
Then I had my baby.
My baby who, from birth, wouldn’t latch. My baby who the lactation consultants couldn’t get to latch.
Use a breast shield! Try using a syringe to put milk
The tips and suggestions we’re endless, but nothing worked.
Despite returning to the hospital EVERY DAY for help for a week after I had him, he simply would not nurse from me. I’m pretty sure the lactation consultant thought we were a lost cause.
Instead of loving gazes and peaceful nursing sessions, there were tears (from both of us), leaking breasts, pumping parts everywhere, bottles, feeding syringes, and more tears.
I was heartbroken – which before I had my baby I did not know was an emotion someone could feel about breastfeeding. I don’t think I even realized before giving birth how much I wanted to breastfeed my baby.
In the end, I suppose the decision to keep trying was due to sheer stubbornness. I decided that we would take it week by week. If one week went by and absolutely nothing about our breastfeeding progress was any better, then I would give up. If we had made at least a little progress, we’d give it another week. Then another week, and then another.
Then one day when my baby was about 2 MONTHS old, everything just clicked. He got it.
Although we had a few other bumps in the nursing road (like jaw-clenching, toe-curling pain as my nipples got used to being stretched like they never had been before – these gel pads are a must-have for breastfeeding nipple pain), we went on to have a lovely nursing relationship for several years.
(Also totally NOT something I’d envisioned. My goal was to make it to a year, and then babies just automatically stop nursing, right?)
At the time I felt like I’d won some kind of battle. And if you’re in the middle of the struggle right now, you know what I’m talking about.
Now that I’ve had some years to reflect on this experience, I’m so glad I didn’t give up, even when I felt that our breastfeeding future was hopeless. It was totally worth the struggle.
If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth it for you, keep reading to discover the most important lesson I learned about feeding your baby, plus 13 action steps you can take push through the struggle and make breastfeeding work.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY BREASTFEEDING DIFFICULTIES tHAT WILL GIVE YOU HOPE WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STRUGGLE
Breastfeeding your baby really IS such an emotional thing, and when it doesn’t work the way you thought it would, it’s devastating.
As if new moms need anything else to be emotional about on top of the already crazy hormonal rollercoaster ride.
If only someone would have told me that it’s possible to struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning, even for several months (or more), and still end up with a successful nursing relationship – that would have made all the difference.
I’d had this idea in my head that we only had a week, maybe two, to make it work. And when that passed us by and we were still struggling I felt so hopeless.
So, dear tired mama, desperate for breastfeeding to work, for it to be as easy and relaxing as you imagined in your mind (because that’s how media and advertising make it look), don’t give up if you’re heart-set on breastfeeding. You have time to make it work.
I went on to struggle with breastfeeding my second and third babies as well, all for different reasons. And through these
Your baby needs you to be happy, healthy, and present.
And if you take nothing else from this post let it be this: that whatever feeding decision allows you to be the best version of you is the right way to feed your baby.
Action Steps to take when you’re facing breastfeeding problems
Okay, so if you’ve read the post this far it’s probably because you’re having a similar breastfeeding experience and you’re desperate for help.
It’s hard. I know it’s so very hard. And I feel so deeply for you.
I didn’t write this post just to give you a fluffy idea of “hope” somewhere out there in the future.
I know that you need HELP NOW.
I know because I felt the same way with each of my babies when breastfeeding wasn’t going so well.
So, here are some action steps for pushing through this time of struggle based on my experience. Again, I am not a medical professional.
1) Feed the baby the way baby will accept being fed as you continue to work on the breastfeeding part. If bottles are the only way your baby will accept being fed, do that without stressing too much over baby developing “nipple preference.”
2) Protect your milk supply by pumping for every feeding baby doesn’t take at the breast. Use a good electric double breast pump (a hands-free nursing bra is
3) Don’t give up (unless or until that’s what you really want and you’re really truly ready and at peace with the decision).
5) Have your baby examined for tongue tie by an IBCLC or pediatric dentist trained in recognizing tongue tie. Look for tongue tie FB support group in your local area and ask for recommendations on dental providers.
6) If you only do one thing on this list, make it this one: go see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Or better yet, find one who will come to your house. Insurance may reimburse you for some of the cost and trust me it is worth every penny. Don’t try to struggle alone.
7) If the IBCLC you saw didn’t take your concerns seriously or give you the support you needed, find a different one. Be your baby’s advocate and keep seeking support until you get the support you need.
8) Look for breastfeeding support groups that meet locally and attend a meeting – you may find ideas and suggestions there as well as emotional support.
9) Join an online breastfeeding support
10) This sounds weird but it’s what finally got my first to latch successfully for the first time – try breastfeeding in the bathtub. Make sure you have a second adult who hands you
11) Celebrate and build on small successes – baby being comfortable being held skin to skin, then
12) Give baby as much skin to skin time as you can so that they associate being held at the breast with comfort
13) Research, research, research based on the symptoms you’re experiencing with your baby. Here are some super awesome sites to get you started:
- Breastfeeding USA has evidenced-based articles on breastfeeding and they can also help you find a local breastfeeding counselor who can provide you further information and support
- Le Leche also provides breastfeeding information and support
- Kellymom is run by an IBCLC and provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding
So Momma, are you feeling encouraged or overwhelmed right now?
At this point, you might be feeling super encouraged to know that you actually have lots of time to make breastfeeding work.
OR you might be feeling super bummed to hear that it took me and my first eight weeks to find breastfeeding success.
What if you don’t have eight weeks because your maternity leave is up after 6 weeks?
I have stayed at home since having our first so I can’t speak from experience to those of you who would like to breastfeed but feel as though the clock is working against you due to the length of your maternity leave.
On the one
But on the other hand, if breastfeeding isn’t coming easily to you and baby, you might feel like you want to spend the rest of your maternity leave ACTUALLY ENJOYING YOUR BABY and not trudging through the emotional muck that is struggling to breastfeed.
This is a very personal decision and I cannot tell you what to do.
I can say with confidence that what your baby needs most is YOU and for you to be a comforting presence in his or her life.
Exclusive pumping is a decision that many mothers who are tired of the struggle to breastfeed come to, and it might be the right choice for you – whether or not you are preparing to go back to work.
Grab FREE breastfeeding and pumping resources by certified lactation consultant Stacy Stewart to help you get started.
If you’re planning to pump if/when you go back to work or if you decide to do exclusive pumping The Ultimate Back To Work Pumping Course will help you make the most of it. (And you don’t even have to leave your house, or your couch, to take the course – it’s all online and you can take it at your own pace).
If the thought of bottle-feeding your baby brings you a sigh of relief, I hope you feel the freedom to make that choice without any guilt.
For me, I knew that if I gave up I would look back on that decision with regret – that is how I knew I needed to keep trying.
It was hard, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up seeking support and answers.
So, dear momma, know that you are not alone in your struggle. Many have walked in your shoes and many are right there with you now.
Even though you’ll probably still be getting up at 2 am for a while to feed your baby, I hope that instead of frustration and sadness you feel inspired and encouraged to keep trying if your heart is set on breastfeeding your baby.
I also hope you know that the way you feed your baby does not define your worth as a mother.
however you decide to feed your baby, YOu’re an awesome mom – you love your baby and that’s what matters most
If you’re in the middle of working through some problems with breastfeeding your baby and found this post helpful, or if you’ve found success with breastfeeding and have a tip to share I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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