While breastfeeding may be best for baby (and pretty darn good for mom, too, knocking off pregnancy weight and preventing diseases) many moms are reluctant, even afraid to breastfeed. Why? The reasons women can be intimidated by breastfeeding are as varied as, well, women. Any of these concerns sound familiar?
I'm afraid breastfeeding will hurt
Many, many women have a pain-free nursing experience. Others have a bumpier start. We've all heard horror stories about how much breastfeeding can hurt. But it doesn't have to be that way. This is worth repeating. Breastfeeding does not need to be painful. With a correct latch-on and positioning of baby, discomfort should truly be minimal and ease after a few days. Learn about correct positioning by watching a video, reading a book or by attending a breastfeeding class. If soreness continues unabated, it's time to pick up the phone and get in touch with a board-certified lactation consultant to get you on track. Visit www.ilca.org to find an LC in your area.
I'm too much of a worrywart. How will I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
Worries about how much and what your baby eats are normal. With bottle-feeding, keeping track of what baby is consuming is easy. While breasts don't come with gauges measuring intake, you can educate yourself about the three ways to tell if baby is getting enough at the breast. First, check for adequate weight gain. Starting around the fifth day postpartum, a baby should begin gaining approximately an ounce a day in weight and should continue at that rate for several months. Ask your pediatrician if baby is gaining appropriately. Second, keep an eye on the bottom line. Check for 6 to 8 wet diapers a day, and at least three bowel movements a day in the first month of life. After all, what goes in, must come out. Finally, read your baby's cues. Is she sleepy and content after feeding? Or irritable and fussy? A full baby is a satisfied baby.
Nursing in public makes me nervous
If you were a "wiggle-into-your-gym-shirt-under-a towel" type of gal in your pre-mom life--and hey weren't so many of us? -- nursing in public can seem daunting. Work up your confidence slowly. Once you and baby are in an established routine, you may be more willing to try feeding away from home. Many moms use receiving blankets for privacy. Enlist the support of your spouse or a friend and hit the park or a coffee shop for a trial run. Seek out nursing friendly spots where other moms congregate until you feel more secure in your new ability. Remember, you're not required to nurse in public but a wonderful benefit of breastfeeding is its ease and portability. So go ahead, get out and about and make the most of it!
I'm reluctant to face more months of a restricted diet
After weeks of watching every bite and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, its no wonder moms are ready to indulge. The good news? Generally mothers do not need a special diet while nursing. Woman all over the world -- with vastly different diets -- breastfeed. There is little scientific evidence supporting that certain foods cause gas in the baby or affect a mother's milk supply. Similarly, sleep-deprived new moms can also start their day with coffee. Caffeine is allowed in moderation during pregnancy, so there are no further restrictions once the baby is born. Also, alcohol, again in moderation, is fine for a breastfeeding mother. So cheers! A glass or two of wine or the occasional beer is okay!
I have to go back to work and those breast pumps seem scary
At first glance, electric breast pumps can seem intimidating but once you master the mechanics you will be singing its praises. Highly efficient, hospital-grade electric pumps allow you to be away from baby for extended periods. Many back-to-work electric pumps come in stylish, discreet bags, which make transporting equipment your own little secret. And hands-free pumping bras let multi-tasking moms pump while working. Try starting a pumping routine about two or three weeks before you return to work. Working out any kinks will be easier while at home and you can start to lay in a supply of frozen breastmilk.
So...feeling any more confident?
Feeling nervous about the unknown is natural. Consider previewing the breastfeeding basics with a book or video. Attend a support group or ask a breastfeeding friend if you can observe her technique. The more you know, the easier getting off to a good start will be. Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. Nursing, much like mothering, is a natural act but also a learned art. Give yourself (and your baby) time to get used to the learning curve. After all, anything in life you've achieved at this point--your education, career, relationship with your spouse -- all took effort and diligent, loving care. Keep in mind that breastmilk is the gift only a mother can give. You can do it!