When Breastfeeding Is Difficult

breastfeeding-picture

Breastfeeding, women have been doing it since the dawn of time, right?  Then why is it so darn hard?  I could not get either baby #1 or baby #2 to latch on.  I had all of the equipment and accessories to aid this allegedly natural process:  The nipple shield, Haberman Feeder, hospital-rented pump, Medela nursing stool, Boppy, a small syringe to express milk directly into the infant’s mouth, and a team of people (consisting of my mother and husband) holding the baby and pushing her onto my breast. Not so easy.  Then around day two or three, all efforts of getting my newborn child to latch on got harder, literally.  My milk came in.   My breasts resembled large rocks.  I was willing to try anything and everything to get my child to eat.  The responsibility of feeding a baby was overwhelming, especially when breastfeeding did not come easily.

I understand all of the theory behind breastfeeding. I believe in it for my children and for my health and recovery.  I have talked to my share of lactation consultants. Baby must place whole mouth around entire nipple area and suck.  I get it.  I know about the football hold, although I never liked it.  I simply find nursing very difficult and so do my babies.  With my second I pumped with my Medela Pump in Style for three months straight.  I could not get him to latch on at all.  After three months the Pump in Style and I were no longer on speaking term, but then miraculously Baby #2 was ready to nurse, which we then did happily until 14 months.

In my experience nursing, it took me a lot of rigmarole and various accoutrements in the beginning.  But with patience, a bit of forbearance, creativity and definitely a tear or two, you and your baby can work it out.  I do not tout any product as the cure-all.  Perseverance may be your greatest accessory.  The mother-child nursing dance can be complex and difficult, but once the steps are learned and the partners take their places, its beautiful and natural. (To you for whom nursng is easy, be grateful. I of course will be a bit envious!) When the nipple shield and syringe are no longer necessary, it will be you and your baby skin to skin.  All of the struggle will have been worth the effort for the joy of nursing your sweet baby.

3 Comments to “When Breastfeeding Is Difficult”

  1. My biggest mistake was assuming because breastfeeding is natural, that it would be easy. I was woefully unprepared with my first child, but after 15 weeks of trying was finally successful and went on to nurse him for 2.5 years. Here is out story:

    http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/12/29/our-breastfeeding-story/

    With my second child, it was easy. But I think it was easy because I had learned so much about breastfeeding. I knew what to do when my nipples got sore. I knew when to worry and not worry about weight gain, elimination, spit up, etc.

    Educating yourself in advance and having support is crucial to a successful breastfeeding relationship. And if you are someone around a breastfeeding mom, be sure to give her the support that is needed:

    http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/01/what-does-support-look-like/

  2. Kathryn says:

    Thanks for this great information Annie! Your stories are such a wonderful resource for women.

  3. renee beebe renee beebe says:

    Breastfeeding IS natural, and it IS simple, but nothing about having a newborn is EASY! Breastfeeding in the US can feel difficult and strange because most new moms have never seen it up close and personal. And many, many new moms have never even held a newborn! It’s very hard to go it alone–without a village of wise women who have all breastfed their own babies. THAT is unnatural. My best advice, besides educating yourself with book knowledge (which is only marginally helpful), is to attend LaLeche League meetings while you’re pregnant–see lots of babies breastfeed. And insist on expert help immediately after the baby is born.

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