The reality of breastfeeding is very varied – from simple and straightforward to challenging and almost impossible, with a range of emotions and needs in-between.
And it is not a linear journey – there can be great days, easy days, brilliant days, impossible days, tough days, can-I-keep-going days, I’ve-had-enough days, this-is-amazing days. I-just-want-a-break-days and we-need-a-plan days. All are normal and support is essential.
To sum up how unique breastfeeding is, I asked for you to share some of your experiences…
Reality of breastfeeding – your words of wisdom
“relax and get help if you are struggling
don’t beat yourself up, every mum and baby are different
no pressure, just give it a go
anything really worth it has its challenges
it’s not all the be all and end all
never give up on a bad day
make sure they latch properly
work on establishing a good latch at the beginning
use whatever tools work for you, your baby and your nips
What surprised you most about breastfeeding?
- It solves pretty much anything for your baby. it’s magic!
- How much I miss it
- How much I loved it – and I wasn’t going to do it
- How hard it was to stop
- Even though its natural, I felt waves of anxiety when in public
- How difficult and tiring it actually was
- Post birth injuries impacted so much on breastfeeding in the early days
- The pain at the start – thought it would be natural and easy
- How trapped I felt
What did you find most challenging?
- Getting myself and my baby into a comfy position
- The latch!
- Establishing a good latch
- Cluster feeding
How long did you breastfeed for?
- 6 weeks
- 5 months
- 9 months
- 8-9 months
- a few weeks
- 17 months
- 22 months
- a year
- 19 months
- 2 weeks
- 16 months
- 2.3 years
- 13 months
- 8 weeks exclusive, 6m in total
- 4 months
- 10 months
- 7 months
- 16 months
What prompted you to stop?
Mental health & exhaustion
I wanted a break before having another baby
We were both ready – I wanted to get a bit of me back
Mental health was taking a battering
Having an older child to care for
Just couldn’t get the hang of it
A few words from me…
It can be the toughest, most challenging and emotional experience. Feeding is as individual and unique as birth. Breastfeeding can be a hard slog, it can be painful, overwhelming and all-consuming. It can take a lot of support and it can be a lonely place, especially when hearing comments about just giving a bottle and bringing it all on yourself.
Parents can also reach a point where they have to stop, possibly much sooner than they want. It’s important to gather as much good support as possible so you can talk through the challenges, get the help you need to keep going and to be able to make a decision to stop.
- It can help to know in pregnancy where to go for additional support when your baby is here and to make sure you are given contact details for NHS support before you leave the hospital.
- For general support and confidence boosts you need people like me – for consultations and for small group sessions – so you can ask questions and gather good knowledge and reassurance.
- For specific breastfeeding problems you need expertise which can come from an NHS Infant Feeding Team (ask your midwife for these details), La Leche League and from a Lactation Consultant (you can google to find one near you).
Here’s some more reading: Mother Cuppa Magazine | Feeding Your Baby
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting