Have you noticed that magazines and websites often speak of how difficult breastfeeding is? A new mum is regaled with stories of bleeding nipples, milk supply issues, babies refusing to nurse, slow weight gain, pumping nightmares, and a lot more. Similar to how expectant mums are a target for birth horror stories, reading about these breastfeeding problems can scare a mum away from choosing to nurse her baby.
So what's the deal? Is breastfeeding hard? What can a mum do to prevent problems from occurring?
Firstly, the idea that breastfeeding is difficult is a concept that is unique to the modern world. One well known anthropologist asked a group of native women if new mums had a hard time nursing their babies, and they could barely understand the question, much less comprehend the idea that breastfeeding was anything but as natural as breathing.
Could it be that much of what makes breastfeeding hard is the expectation that it will be hard?
Add to that the fact that so many women have never seen a woman nurse a baby in real life. Many girls did not observe their mothers nursing their younger siblings as they grew up. Therefore the picture of a nursing mum is a new one in their minds.
What about the poor breastfeeding information that is still preferred by many mothers and mothers in law, and even some midwives? One Mum was told by hospital staff shortly after her first child was born, "Don't nurse for longer than 5 minutes or you'll get sore." This mum knew that following this advice could lead to low milk supply and weight gain issues, so she ignored it.
But another mum may not have been so fortunate. Let's not even mention how many mums are told to "top off" the breastfeeding baby with a bottle of formula, setting her up for multiple problems that could be avoided.
So how can a mum get good advice? One way is to visit other breastfeeding mothers. Ask them questions and observe them nursing their babies. Attend breastfeeding support groups such as those held at your local Children’s Centre. Check any advice you read or hear against what these real experts - nursing mums have to say.
One mum noted that learning how to breastfeed was not unlike learning how to make love. While not always "easy" for the couple at first, who complains about that learning curve? Who gives up after a couple of weeks of disappointing results? Most people keep trying until the experience is all that they've hoped it would be!