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Baby Feeding Guide & SchedulesLactation Consultant’s Tips on Overcoming Breastfeeding Fears

Lactation Consultant’s Tips on Overcoming Breastfeeding Fears

Motherly Collective

By the time I was pregnant with my fourth baby, my medical records called me “geriatric” and my right breast had sustained two breast surgeries. I was scared. Scared that breastfeeding, which had always come so easily to me, wasn’t going to go right this time. 

Even with over 20 years of experience in lactation, I was riddled with fear of failure. What if I couldn’t do it? 

Fear can paralyze us. Especially in the realm of motherhood, we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to succeed. Toxic thoughts creep up… if we fail at motherhood, who are we and what are we contributing to the world? That’s when it’s time to take a long, deep breath and try to look at our circumstances from an eagle’s eye view.

Here are some questions that might help us find some perspective about our breastfeeding fears:

  1. Is my fear about a real issue that is happening to me, or is my fear based on a story that someone told me about them?
  2. Who do I owe an explanation to about how breastfeeding is going for me?
  3. What resources do I need to help mitigate the problem I’m worried about, and how can I access those resources?

Girlfriends, mothers and sisters can be a great source of support when we are having a baby, but it is important to figure out how to separate their well-intended stories and advice from our reality. If you are a mom-to-be, your breastfeeding story hasn’t been written yet, and you are unlikely to experience the same problems that your loved ones had, even if they are genetically related to you. 

Sometimes the pressure that we put on ourselves to succeed in our breastfeeding journey is heavy. 

If what we planned doesn’t work out, we might feel embarrassment or shame in front of family and friends or within our social media circle. Breastfeeding is an intimate and personal act between ourselves and our baby. It’s OK to keep our journeys private or to reveal when we are comfortable.

Group education provides an opportunity to gain skills and camaraderie not available by Googling questions on our own or browsing weekly updates on a baby app. Classes give participants a chance to voice their concerns and share solutions, which can be empowering. The fastest and most economical way to access breastfeeding classes is to contact your insurance company and find in-network lactation providers. 

After my baby was born, my breastfeeding problems were more complex than I expected. I was unable to express any milk from the breast that had surgeries, which meant I needed to double my supply on my functioning breast. I needed help. Even though I had knowledgeable lactation colleagues supporting me, ultimately some new ideas from an IBCLC I’d never met before were what helped get things on track during a virtual visit. For those of us who have a hard time asking for help, breastfeeding might be the ultimate experience of relying on others and trusting that an answer will be found. Most breastfeeding problems do have answers!

5 common breastfeeding fears—and their solutions

1. Breastfeeding fear: Not having a full milk supply

Solution: Typically, moms make enough milk for their babies. While milk intake cannot be precisely measured, feeding when baby asks to be fed and monitoring the frequency/length of the baby’s feedings and wet/dirty diapers can help us feel assured that baby is meeting developmental and growth goals.

2. Breastfeeding fear: Nipple pain and discomfort

Solution: Some discomfort such as tugging or pulling is normal as our nipples acclimate to increased stimulation and use. Pain, however, needs to be investigated by a lactation consultant. Pain is most often caused by a shallow latch or pumping with a wrong-sized flange. Early intervention is key to enjoying a pain-free breastfeeding experience. 

3. Breastfeeding fear: Not having enough time to breastfeed while caring for family

Solution: Babies take time; they essentially demand it. Allowing and encouraging others to take on household responsibilities so we have more time with our babies can be difficult for some, but parenting was not meant to be done alone. Our job as parents is to respond to our baby’s communications with us. If we resist holding, rocking, feeding or other basic needs because a book or app told us to, we will miss out on that conversation that our baby is trying to have with us.

4. Breastfeeding fear: Not getting enough sleep

Solution: It can be daunting to think about not having consistent sleep, but it’s important to keep our babies close at night. Room-sharing or co-sleeping can make night nursing easier, so we don’t have to wake up and go into another room to breastfeed. Setting aside time to go to bed earlier can help balance the stress of waking multiple times each night to nourish our babies.

5. Breastfeeding fear: Feelings of overwhelm about going back to work and pumping

Solution: Preparation is essential for back-to-work success. We should prioritize discussing our leave and pumping accommodations with our managers while still pregnant. We can take the initiative to talk with coworkers who have pumped at work, check out the pumping space, and obtain an efficient pump that works best for our specific job and commuting needs.

A note on overcoming breastfeeding fears

Looking to the future, more support is needed to normalize the act of breastfeeding and acknowledge fears. Our breastfeeding journeys start with the first stories we hear and the examples we see. We can talk to our own daughters as they grow about how their bodies can produce milk for their babies and offer positive stories as their breastfeeding foundation. We can validate a friend’s feeding worries and celebrate her accomplishments. We can walk beside our peers in a support group and reach out to experts when things get sticky. We can hold our babies and know we tried our best.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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