When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Come Naturally0
I’m a perinatal specialty-trained registered nurse and I help first-time mothers learn to breastfeed every day. I had no idea that when it came time for me to breastfeed my own son that learning how to do it would prove to be such a challenge.
Before having my baby, I took courses and attended events all in the name of learning to support women with breastfeeding. I had passion about dispelling myths around breastfeeding and was an active supporter of friends who were nursing. I had no idea that when my own baby was born I would have such a tough time learning to breastfeed. How was it that I taught women how to breastfeed but here I was a bumbling tired woman feeling like I was learning a new language?
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed and I actually never thought that it would be a challenge once I had my baby. I was shocked back to reality. Breastfeeding was very difficult to start and trying to do it every hour or two gave me a lot of stress in those early weeks. Despite lots of experience and education, I did not know that it was completely normal to feel overwhelmed about breastfeeding… it was normal to feel frustrated when latching seemed impossible.
I did not know that breastfeeding could be so hard. I had watched my girlfriends and my sister nurse their babies and they latched with ease and speed. I had helped many women in the first 48 hours and I thought I had it figured out. So why did it turn out to be such a difficult thing for me to learn?
My actual experience around learning how to breastfeed was full of engorgement and a baby born a little prematurely who didn’t really get how to suck for the first while. He was a sleepy, jaundiced baby born to a diabetic mother and he needed frequent glucose checks and blood tests for the jaundice. It was vital to get in calories; soon the consumption of those much-needed calories became the focus and breastfeeding got off track.
When Ben was about 9 days old I ended up emailing a friend from work who was also a lactation consultant. My husband sent her the first SOS and I sent her a follow up message. I needed support and I needed someone with clear rested eyes to give me that support. Learning a brand new skill at the same time you are also completely exhausted from birth is difficult enough and on top of that there is a sweet baby exclusively dependent on you.
Breastfeeding is natural but there is still a learning curve and many different things to learn about breastfeeding. Many first mothers I’ve met have said that they thought breastfeeding would be easy and that latching would ‘just happen’. You just cradle the hungry baby and the baby opens their soft mouth and things would just flow. It was nature!
The thing is, the term nature and the word natural don’t necessarily mean the same as easy. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it will go along without hassle. Natural doesn’t mean that you won’t feel frustrated at times. Breastfeeding can be hard and can be a steep learning curve but it gets easier!
I think of how much effort and attention went into latching on a tiny newborn and then I think of casually nursing my hungry 7-month old in the rose garden at Stanley Park. So, my sweet readers if you are going to be new to breastfeeding surround yourself with support and know that it can get easier!