Breast feeding; when it doesn't come so naturally!

The ideal

You’ve seen the pictures, mothers serenely breastfeeding baby; you’ve listened to the advice of professionals and friends; you’ve read the books and you’ve seen the DVD………you’re almost ready to buy the T shirt!

Of course you’re going to breastfeed, it’s the most natural thing isn’t it?

Eagerly, we await the anticipation of our bub’s arrival; we smile to ourselves as we picture enjoying those “precious” moments of our bodies nourishing our babes. We’ve heard and we’ve read about colostrum, the let down reflex and our milk coming in.  We’re mindful of the benefits and we rarely think twice about the, what if?  But, for more than we realise, breastfeeding is not so natural and it can arrive with  discomfort and pain. It raises questions of inadequacies and the weight of guilt. You see, most mothers want to breastfeed.  Most want to offer nature’s best and most will try their absolute best. 

 

The challenges

Don’t get me wrong I’m a great proponent of breastfeeding and was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed both of my children (though not without some challenges.) However, I’ve had friends and clients who, despite battling their hardest, despite their strong desires and efforts, sometimes breastfeeding does not come so naturally and it doesn’t always work out. 

There are reasons why this can’t and doesn’t always come naturally; a poor latch, surgery (caesarean section or prior breast surgery,) mastitis, low milk production, premature babies, medications contraindicated in feeding or pain that’s too unbearable………. the list goes on.............

Don't beat yourself up

To those who’ve tried, who’ve exhausted themselves in trying to conquer their less than natural experience, who have kept on keeping on for fear of family, friends and social judgement, be proud of your efforts!  Whether a day, a week, a fortnight or a few months, each breastfeed you have given is a gift to your child.  Instead of beating ourselves up about formula feeding our baby, just ponder this….when infant formula gained popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and a consequent decline in breastfeeding, did we witness a generation of lesser intelligence, sicklier or more allergy sensitive children? 

Formulas have become more nutritionally sound and complex over the years, they’re strictly tested and screened and provide a valuable alternative to those who do not have a choice. Babycenter’s expert advice, “When you just can’t breastfeed” article, reports Jan Barger, international certified lactation consultant stating that, "sometimes babies just don't breastfeed, and sometimes moms just can't take another day struggling to try.”  (http://www.babycenter.com/0_when-you-just-cant-breastfeed_1172801.bc)

Sometimes, when the struggle just feels too hard, when the effects of the feeding wrestle leave us and our baby upset and dissatisfied; when our baby shows signs of not gaining sufficient weight, where our bonding opportunity can be so negatively impacted by our physical pain and emotional distress, how can we question those who need to call it a day? 


It's not about good parenting

Remember, good parenting is more than breastfeeding. To those who sit in judgement, who may frown as we watch a mother take a tin of formula off the shelf, who might feel the urge to “advise” of the benefits of breastfeeding, just remember this; most mothers want to breastfeed and will give it their best shot.  Rather than raise your eyebrow, just think for a moment, consider how you might feel if you didn’t have the choice?

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