What’s the first thing that we think when we hear of breastfeeding? Natural? Normal? Good way to bond? Yes, it is all that and more. We always hear only positive adjectives associated with breastfeeding. But is it always easy? Or fun? Or positive?
The reality is, nursing is not always easy, fun and enjoyable, even when a mother is committed to it. I think we as mothers put too much pressure on ourselves to always feel positive about nursing. While the overall experience has much more positives, the negatives need to be acknowledged so that mothers know they are not all alone in occasionally having negative feelings about breastfeeding. Today, I am going to list some reasons when breastfeeding may not be enjoyable and some strategies to help the mother work through this.
First few weeks
The first few weeks postpartum, nursing is difficult. Mother is still recovering from the birth, baby needs to feed pretty much constantly. Most mothers have this vague idea of nursing a newborn baby every 2 to 3 hours (baby is supposed to feed 8 to 12 times a day after all). Then the baby is born and wants to be latched on pretty much constantly. And then the new mother is wondering if is this supposed to be so hard? The truth is yes, breastfeeding is hard for the first few weeks and yes that is all you will be doing till baby is 6 to 8 weeks old.
There are sleep regressions when babies nurse pretty much constantly at night. Is that fun? I personally found it very hard.
Babies get sick and they want to nurse round the clock. Although I knew that nursing a sick baby was the best, I still resented it sometimes.
Baby is now a toddler and still wants to nurse at night. That’s hard. I had serious aversion to nursing at 2 plus years old.
Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex
Some mothers have a condition called Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex, where they feel sadness or dread or become anxious just before the milk let down happens.
Coping with the feelings
These were just a few examples of when nursing is hard. The question is what do we do with these feelings?
First and foremost acknowledge them.
Don’t try to tell yourself that nursing must always be an easy, fun, enjoyable experience. It is ok to feel angry, impatient or annoyed. Mothers are human and taking care of a baby or a toddler is hard work.
Set age appropriate limits
Second, know that is ok to set age appropriate nursing limits for your baby.
A newborn’s need to nurse is much more urgent than a 6 month old. For example, older babies (more than 3 or 4 months old) can wait for a couple of minutes. Please reassure them verbally that mama is coming, she is in the shower and she will be out in a minute.
A toddler can wait even longer. You don’t always have to drop everything and nurse a toddler unless they are sick or it’s some kind of emergency. It is ok to tell a toddler that we can nurse once lunch is over. I personally night weaned my toddler at 27 months old, because I had a very strong aversion to nursing. Setting that limit helped me to continue day nursing for more than a year after that.
Invest time in self care
Third, have a good support system.
Mothers are not meant to take care of babies all alone and without a break. Every day, please take 10 or 15 minutes to do something to nurture your self. Read a book, have a cup of coffee, listen to some favorite music or whatever you like.
Join support groups
Join a support group for breastfeeding mothers. There are many internet and in person support groups available for new mothers to join. It is very reassuring to know that you are not the only one
to have such feelings.
Take one day at a time
Don’t give up on a bad day. We all have days when nothing is going right, but often the next day is better. Take it one day at a time.
Last, know that one day all babies will wean. And then you will look back at those nursing days and miss them. The days are long but the years are short ?