I never get asked this question but when I see families at home or at the clinic where I work, I see it in their eyes; why am I struggling?!? Why is something so “natural” so, so hard.
Being Responsible for another Person is a BIG DEAL: You come home from the hospital or your midwives leave you at home after the birth and you are in charge of this PERSON, oh and you’re recovering from one of the biggest events of your life (and it may not have been what you expected). It is far more emotional to feed your baby than you ever imagined, especially if the way you had envisioned is not working out the way you thought it would. If there is pain, or your baby is not latching, how terrible does it feel?? Sometime it takes more effort (it’s supposed to be easy right?!?) and time than you ever imagined. And you also get to do this with little or no sleep. Even parents that don’t have pain, their baby’s latch on well and weight gain is good, it can take a good couple of months to feel like they’ve got this. Don’t forget, you’re becoming a parent too, this is a big change. Even if you’re adding to your family, you are welcoming a new person and that takes time for everyone to get used to.
Medicalization of Birth : Sometimes induction, augmentation, epidurals and caesarean sections are vital and needed interventions. Sometimes they are over used. We do need to be aware that increased fluids during the birth can inflate the baby’s birth weight (those fluids are absorbed by the baby too!).1 This can also make it seem like the baby is getting lots of milk because their urine output is exceeding expectations in the early post partum period. Bowel movements, that increase in volume and frequency as well as change in colour (from black to yellow) are a great signal that your baby is getting enough. We also need to be patient after the birth where the parent and baby got medication, because sometimes this means these babies need more time skin to skin with the birth parent. When baby and parent are healthy, there is no reason we can’t delay weighing the baby and all other checks can be done while baby is skin to skin with baby (yes, even stiches if necessary!).
Lack of Knowledge: Is this parent’s lack of knowledge or health care providers? It can be a bit of both. Everyone wants to breastfeed(and wants us to breastfeed) but we often get conflicting messages from our friends, family, health care providers, nurses and even lactation consultants! Do research on reputable sites (this one comes to mind! or www.ibconline.ca) and get some prenatal breastfeeding education (that is not part of your childbirth education). And ask about training! I am happy to talk about my education and experience.
Normalization: Breastfeeding is not seen frequently in North American culture. Think about your last trip to the toy store, how do kids feed their doll babies? That’s right, via bottle. So everyone thinks they need bottles to feed their baby. I’m not saying their is not a place for bottles, but why do we think it is a must. When was the last time a movie or T.V. show or commercial showed a breastfeeding family in a positive light? Of course there are jokes about extended breastfeeding or how much it hurts (not normal!!!! common but not normal). Then there are medications and breastfeeding; often it is fine to breastfeeding while taking most common medications, if you are unsure, it is best to ask someone who is educated with regard to breastfeeding.
Feel free to reach out to tell me what you want me to address in my future blog posts!
1. Noel-Weiss J, Woodend AK, Peterson WE, Gibb W, Groll DL. An observational study of associations among maternal fluids during parturition, neonatal output, and breastfed newborn weight loss. Int Breastfeed J. 2011;6(1):9. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-6-9.