Preparation for birth: Will I be able to breastfeed?

By | October 8, 2013

Yes. That was my answer to this question. After all, my friends who had babies were able to breastfeed without any major issues. It’s a natural act, I thought. I might not know exactly what to do, but the baby will, right?

Wrong! Breastfeeding is not something that comes naturally. It’s a skill that has to be learnt. Don’t get me wrong, I’d done my share of research and all my pregnancy books confirmed this point. I’d studied the pictures, the different positions and tried to imagine how to hold my baby. It was difficult to imagine though. I was uncomfortable with the thought of milk coming out of my nipples. It was just weird.

How to build up your breastfeeding confidence?

people-5908Was I confident about my ability to breastfeed? At first yes. I thought that if my friends had done it, I could do it too. My confidence dropped when I encountered the first problems at breastfeeding. I just couldn’t get my baby to latch on properly and as I watched the other women in the hospital lying down with their baby suckling on their breast I quickly became nervous. Why couldn’t I get it right? With nervousness came my lack of confidence. I felt ashamed every time I called in for the nurse to come to aide me and my baby at breastfeeding. I was upset at myself for not getting it right. At that stage I’d already lost all my confidence.

With my confidence gone, a chance to breastfeed also vanished.

“A woman’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed is crucial to her success”, claim Tine Vinther and Elisabet Helsing from the World Health Organization. They are right. This lack of confidence triggers a process chain:

Lack of confidence = negative feelings = stress = slow/no let-down = screaming baby = lower confidence = ….

How to prevent this from happening?

  • Recognize your struggle. Ok, so it’s just not working. No matter what you do, breastfeeding is just a nightmare. It’s painful and your baby keeps coming off your nipple and screaming. Don’t get mad at yourself or your baby. Give your little one a bottle of pre-pumped milk or formula to satisfy her hunger. Pump your milk in the meanwhile and try again at the next feed. Try to pinpoint the cause or possible reasons for this. Does it seem to be your nipple shape? Are your existing bruises making it difficult for you to relax? Once you pinpoint the cause, it becomes easier to find a solution.

  • Never blame yourself for breastfeeding failure. Shake off any negative remarks that come from the voice at the back of your mind.
  • Don’t be ashamed. Talk about it with your friends and loved one. Talking about your obstacles puts them in a different light than thinking about it yourself and avoids you from blowing up your negative feelings in your mind.
  • Ask for help. Remember health care workers and lactation consultants know that breastfeeding is not automatic. They are there to help you. But remember lactation consultants shouldn’t make you feel inferior or give you the feeling that you are overstating your problem. Drop them and look for a new lactation specialist. Mothers, whose breastfeeding confidence has generally declined by this stage, are generally hesitant to look for a second opinion. The failure for the lactation specialist to help confirms their newly found suspicion of their inability to breastfeed. Don’t be tempted to drop yourself deeper in the chain. Look for another lactation consultant.
  • Be positive. Think and speak positively about your progress even if you don’t feel it.

Breastfeeding is a matter of confidence.

Remember: Don’t loose your confidence when you get off on the wrong foot. You have plenty of time to get back on the right track.

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