How many women do you know who tried to breastfeed and gave it up, feeling like they failed? Maybe someone told them they didn’t have enough milk, or nursing was painful, or they resorted to a bottle when their baby was crying and they didn’t know what else to do any more. Sounds pretty dismal doesn’t it?
Now, how many women do you know whose babies breastfed easily and comfortably from the very beginning? There are many more of these women, but just like the labor and birth stories, the ones we hear about are the difficult ones.
These stories shape our expectations of what our experience will be like. Let’s look at some typical expectations and sort out what the realistic expectations are as you begin breastfeeding:
“I’ll give it a try.”
When starting some new activity, I say “I’ll give it a try” when I have a basic lack of confidence that I can do it. When anticipating going to bed and sleeping all night, I don’t say “I’ll give it a try.” I expect to go to bed and sleep all night. And even though now and then I don’t sleep all that well, it is still my basic assumption that I will go to bed and sleep all night.
Look at what you say to yourself about breastfeeding. Since you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, let your mindset be, “I am breastfeeding.” Don’t sap your own confidence with, “I’ll give it a try.”
Breastfeeding is instinctive; baby and I will know what to do.
Most of us have not grown up around breastfeeding women. We haven’t heard the discussions while doing dishes in the kitchen; we haven’t seen babies at the breast since we were toddlers ourselves. We aren’t surrounded by lots of female relatives who themselves have nursed their babies and share their wisdom.
A realistic expectation is that there is a learning period. Initiating breastfeeding takes patience, practice and time. Do expect that for the first week or two, your job will be to breastfeed your baby and rest — period. Once you are past this initiation period, you can expect breastfeeding to be more easy, convenient and rewarding.
This is my second (fifth?) baby. No problems before; I’m a pro.
Every mom and baby pair is different. I mentioned before there is a learning period for both mom and baby. Even if mom is experienced (and yes that is a plus!), baby still has to learn. We all know how different our kids can be; this applies to breastfeeding too.
If I have problems, I’ll have to stop breastfeeding.
Remember the reasons you chose to breastfeed in the first place. Before resorting to formula and the diminished immunities and nutrition for your baby, take advantage of the help that is available. A lactation consultant can bring all the wonderful scientific information supporting breastfeeding that we have today together with the real experience of working with hundreds of moms/babies to get them started.
Set realistic expectations and breastfeeding will be a wonderful, satisfying experience for you and your baby.