Babies and bellies galore and it’s only January! What an exciting time. I get so giddy when I hear of someone being pregnant or even going into labour. I know, I’m a nut. I feel like I’m part of an unspoken sisterhood and hey, I just love sending my sisters positive vibes! As busy as my days get, I love catching up with my mommy or mommy-to-be friends. It’s so important to have a go-to support system which includes a fellow mom (and by mom I’m not referring to someone born in the 1950s or 60s). There are some things that are minimally, if at all, discussed before a woman gives birth, and sometimes it’s best to hear those truths from a girlfriend, instead of pushy nurses or grandparents! Now I’m not talking about the new shapes and sizes your lady parts will take, or the surprise leaks. I’m talking about the joys and sorrows of the B-word. Breastfeeding.
I’m not an expert but I have had the good fortune to see both sides of the coin. Nursing your baby can be 1) a straight hit, 2) a tumultuous journey to a hit or, 3) a tumultuous journey to a miss. But it’s never a straight miss because mothers aren’t given the liberty to leave it at that. We are urged to try, try, and try again. With good reason of course. Breast milk is custom-made by the mother’s body for her child, packed with nutrients and antibodies. There is an abundance of benefits to feeding your child breast milk. Check out what the Public Health Agency of Canada has to say about it if you need more convincing. When things go awry though, it can be as frustrating as it could be rewarding. Those hazy, tiresome, discouraging days following childbirth make you feel like you’re the lone soldier on this sometimes cruel mission to breastfeed- trust me it wasn’t easy for me the first time. But I’m back to my senses now, and believe me when I tell you that you are not alone! I’ve come up with tips for the Top 6 Challenges that could make your journey with nursing quite the roller coaster ride, as they did for me.
1. The baby won’t latch. Remember that your little bundle of joy is as new at this as you are. He or she might need your guidance and especially your patience. Be mindful of his/her body temperature. Suckling is quite the workout for their little bodies so don’t overdress them at the time of feeding. You’re probably a sweaty mess too, which can add to the potential discomfort. In fact, it’s recommended to undress them to their diapers for maximum comfort and to keep them awake. Tickle your baby’s cheek or toes to remind them to keep going!
2. Your milk supply is low. You should keep yourself well-hydrated and don’t diet! Juices, milk, and especially water are beneficial to keeping your milk supply going. I had been advised by my doctor to drink a full glass of water right before feeding. My mother used to encourage drinking milk and mother-in-law encouraged soups. Some women even take fenugreek pills, as it is linked to promoting milk flow.
3. It may happen intermittently which can cause blocked ducts. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. My little guy wasn’t (and still isn’t) keen on eating much. He always lasted 10-15 while nursing and I don’t think he was getting much because my supply was low. All his on and off in those early stages kept me engorged here and there, ultimately blocking my ducts and giving me DUN-DUN-DUN mastitis. I will never forget that day. Pumping, massaging, cold compresses, and at worst, antibiotics will have to conquer this challenge.
And if all does go well…
4. Pump and introduce the bottle right away. Second time around, I had non of the above-mentioned issues. Being without friends and family though, I didn’t put importance on bottle-feeding because I thought that I wouldn’t need the freedom and the breaks. Oh but 8 months later is it ever a regret! I know time is short when all you want to do is sleep, but try to dedicate a few minutes to pumping and bottling your milk. That way your little one won’t be overly attached to your body and others can help with feedings.
5. Expect less sleep, less rest, and a more dependent baby. This is mostly true. Nursing your baby can give you quiet moments in the day when you have no choice but to sit down with pillows propped up behind you, but you’re also more likely to have a baby who wakes for feedings at night and needs your particular attention more often. This has been my personal experience, as compared to my first born who mostly drank formula, slept through the night, and was quite independent.
6. Be prepared to be hungry all the time. Losing the baby weight had been a cloud over my head from the moment I left the hospital until I decided to just let it go for now and focus on being happy and active for my children. The biggest challenge after lack of sleep has been dealing with the hunger pangs. I avoided eating “too much” at first but it wasn’t working for my energy level and it definitely wasn’t going to benefit my exclusively breastfed baby. While junk should still be avoided, do not diet! Try these for a healthy boost.
Finally, what do parents do when breastfeeding just won’t work? After speaking with lactation consultants, nurses, doctors, others you trust, and most importantly your partner, things still may not flow (pun intended) the way you’d hope. So infant formula has to be the route to take, and don’t feel bad about it! Infant formula is an alternative to breast milk, full of vitamins and nutrients. In fact formula even has vitamin D, unlike breast milk. Read as of page 4 at this KidsHealth.org link to find out the pros and cons of formula-feeding.
I’ll end with this: bonding with your baby will happen regardless. No matter how you feed your precious baby, he/she will love you, need you, and want you just the same. Do not fear a disconnect from your child if breastfeeding is not a hit for the two of you. What baby needs from mommy is love, warmth, and her strength. That doesn’t mean that you have to get up and cook dinner with one hand while Swiffering with the other. It means you have to believe in yourself. Your care, worry, and perseverance proves that your maternal instinct is switched on and the well-being of your baby is your priority. But pressuring yourself to breast feed perfectly and exclusively, may not work. The mental and emotional strain alone will be trouble for both of you. There is no right or wrong answer to how this mothering thing works, and you are definitely not alone on this ride.