4 Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

I did a lot of preparation for the arrival of my daughter. I read the books, went to classes, scoured the internet to find out what my baby was doing during each day of the pregnancy… you know, all the normal stuff. Nothing could have prepared me for the crippling sleep deprivation or the alarming increase in laundry, but what I really wasn’t prepared for (and could have been with the right information) was my experience in establishing breastfeeding.

The four things I wish I had known are not secrets and in fact with hindsight some of them seem just common sense, but like lots of other new mums, I had no reason not to take the images of maternal bonding and instant latch-on at face value.

1) I wish had known that everyone would have an opinion about how I feed my baby. Not just that, but an opinion about why she wasn’t latching on, why my milk hadn’t come yet and what I should be doing differently. I wouldn’t mind if it weren’t for the fact that 99% of those opinions were based on their own situation and not mine. I have to admit that the unrestrained opinion and judgement from all sides took me by surprise.

2) I’m not saying I would have done anything differently, but I wish I had been more informed about the effect that pain relief could have on my baby’s ability to breastfeed straight after birth and my milk supply. As I attempted to feed my baby, midwives told me that it might well not work because she was sleepy after the diamorphine I had during my 40 hour labour. An informed decision about pain relief would have made it easier to come to terms with the potential effects.

3) It sounds silly now but I think I really thought that if I followed the instructions and took help from the midwives, then everything would go swimmingly. Baby in a straight line, nose to nipple … baby opens their mouth and the rest is history. The books and classes dealt with some problems that might come up (engorgement, mastitis) but nothing as fundamental as what to do if the baby just never opens their mouth! The experts who I asked for help simply followed the same steps as I had religiously memorised from my breastfeeding leaflet and when they didn’t work they had no plan B. As a result I, being unprepared for this scenario, was also stumped.

4) I wish I had know that it would be hard, really really hard. The video we were shown at our antenatal class showed a woman give birth and then successfully start breastfeeding as if it were as simple as making a cup of tea. I’m not exaggerating – it was the breastfeeding equivalent of those wartime propaganda campaigns. I was about to give birth to my first baby, I’d had a healthy pregnancy and I just wanted everything to go well, so why wouldn’t I believe it? It would be perfectly possible to give women realistic information whilst still telling them all of the benefits of breastfeeding, then they could cope more effectively if it doesn’t happen immediately and probably more would persevere.

I don’t blame the hospital staff, midwives, books or the internet for the fact that my baby could not take milk directly from me. Even if I had known all of the above, I don’t think she would have had more breastmilk than she has had via a breast pump. However, more knowledge would have allowed me to spend more time in those first few weeks enjoying my new baby, and less time worrying about why I wasn’t like the lady in the video.


14 thoughts on “4 Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

  1. “However, more knowledge would have allowed me to spend more time in those first few weeks enjoying my new baby, and less time worrying about why I wasn’t like the lady in the video”
    They need to tell us, NOT EVERYONE or EVERY BABY is the same.
    They need to tell us its painful.
    They need to encourage us that it is a struggle but to pull through and in the end it will get better. Whether that means exclusively pumping, formula feeding, or exclusively breast feeding.

  2. Agreed entirely. I’m 7 months pregnant, and feel like I have now heard enough stories about difficulties with breastfeeding that I am actually expecting it not to work and will be pleasantly surprised if it does. I just wrote a post with very similar ideas after going to a recent ante-natal class where it was acknowledged that it might be hard, but we were essentially instructed to “soldier on” and persist because it would be worth it. Sure, most mums want to breastfeed, but there needs to be the idea out there that it’s not going to work for everyone and you are not Epicly Failing if you are one of those people. Like you say, they can still encourage it and talk about the benefits without insisting breast feeding from the breast is the ONLY way.

    • So the message from your class was ‘it will be really tough but you have to do it or you are a failure’?! That’s even crueller than pretending it will be really easy! (Like they did with me). Very best of luck to you…with the baby, not just the bf. Just make sure you feed the baby with something! 🙂

      • The implication was that it could be tough but that with persistence it would be fine. There was no real acknowledgement that it might not be fine and that if you didn’t continue it was because you chose to quit, not because it really was not working.

  3. Just wanted to say that my story sounds almost exactly the same as yours! My son also never latched for reasons that are still unclear (I think a combination – he has a deep latch, I have very flat nipples, he was very jaundiced and sleepy etc etc I could go on!). Short version is that I pumped exclusively for him for 4 months, have combined with formula for 2 further months and at 6 months am now just winding the pumping down. It’s been an emotional journey and reading your blog has really highlighted for me just how much of an emotional issue feeding in general is!

    I too, wish I had fully understood just how many women struggle with breastfeeding. But in hindsight I’m not sure I would choose differently – for me and my son pumping was the right thing and I’d likely try again should we choose to have another child.

    I’d really like to encourage you to keep the blog going as I know if I’d read it in those first tearful weeks I would’ve felt encouraged!


  4. Pingback: Formula Milk Samples | Prudent Mummy

  5. Yes! Never did I think I would have a problem with producing enough milk. When our pediatrician asked if my milk had come in, I didn’t have a response. I didn’t know. The 1st lactation consultant I saw was a waste of my $40. The 2nd I talked to had simple advice: pump 8x a day. It started to work, but I cut down to 3-4x a day, because I’d rather use that time to spend engaging with my daughter than trying desperately to make milk when she’s getting plenty of formula. And people are so judgmental! I wasn’t prepared for that, either. So thank you for posting this!

  6. Your first point is so familiar to us. I’m sure all midwives and opinion givers are genuinely aiming to help, but you are correct in that many focus from their side of things rather than the mother and child’s.

    Whilst frustrating at hearing varied ways and all proving unsuccessful, we took a little from each and when we met Kelli Zakharoff from the Midwife Clinic in Brisbane, we could see where the others were coming from, they just didn’t articulate it correctly or tailor to our circumstances.

    As mentioned above, we’re also behind finding the right way of feeding that suits mother and child.

  7. Just wrote a massively long comment but then somehow managed to lose it 😦

    In a nutshell….

    There is so much propaganda out there it’s untrue. Medical personnel have a duty to provide enough information for new parents to make their own, informed choices, and not feel bad when things maybe don’t go according to plan. Don’t be too harsh on your caregiver though. They’re actively told not to provide information on bottle/formula feeding unless you specifically say you are going to do it and want/need advice.
    Having had no problems at all breastfeeding my first I am now expecting my second and am under no illusions that it will all be plain sailing. Though that is purely from speaking with other Mum’s. Midwives and Health Visitors are pretty mute on the subject…
    I almost hate myself for saying it because, frankly, it’s none of my business… but well done for managing the six months.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I had real trouble BF my daughter and no matter how many specialists we saw, no one could help her latch on and feed.
    The biggest problem for me is that everyone seems to be under the assumption that BF is ‘easy’ and that if you’re bottle feeding in public it’s because you didn’t make enough effort to BF your child. No one talks about the difficulties that you’ll experience except for Mastitis and when you speak to ‘specialists’ they are just keen to fob you off on to a different team for a different reason.

    I too wish I had known then what I know now if only to feel less guilt and pressure. I’m pregnant with my second child now and I am worried that I will encounter the same problems again but if baby no.2 doesn’t latch on, I know it’s not the end of the world. I will try but I refuse to get as upset as I have done in the past. My daughter got the colostrum and expressed milk in the early days and that’s more important to me than disgusted looks from the public when I brought out a bottle.

  9. It sounds like we might have had similar problems! I didn’t go to a specialist, and part of me does wonder what they would have said, but the experiences of others doesn’t leave me with much hope that they would have had a solution.
    Best of luck with your second baby – breastfeeding and everything else! I would be very interested to hear how you get on (if you get a minute!) x

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