Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby, but it doesn’t always feel that way. At some point, most nursing moms experience challenges, whether they are short-lived or long-lasting. Sometimes, those difficulties can derail a mother’s plans to nurse altogether.
While most mothers originally say they want to breastfeed and The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, about 70 percent of moms in the U.S. don’t follow those recommendations. All women should absolutely do what feels right for them in terms of the way they choose to feed their baby, but for moms who do wish to nurse., sometimes it can feel harder than it should.
We asked a group of mothers what their biggest breastfeeding challenges were, and here’s what they said:
1. Feeling Exposed
Many women said their biggest struggle was how to go about nursing in public. Discomfort with being exposed or being given dirty looks while feeding was a big concern, especially because many mothers had never seen another mom nursing in public before they attempted it on their own. Also, when mothers are getting kicked out of public places for nursing every time we turn around, why shouldn’t it be scary?
Helpful hints: Remember, the laws in almost all 50 states protect nursing mothers. And if you feel eyes on you while nursing, remember that most people are happy to see a mom and her baby breastfeeding. It’s a beautiful sight to behold! Plus, the more moms nurse in public, the more comfortable the public gets with moms nursing, too.
2. Crying Over (Every Drop Of) Spilled Milk
Some women were simply not producing enough milk to meet the needs of their baby. And almost all moms admit to worrying about whether baby is getting enough to eat at some point or another. Even when supply issues are not present, trusting your body takes time, and most mothers say the second or third time they nursed a baby they felt more confident. Research shows that milk supply often comes in and regulates quicker the second time around, too, so mothers often report longer-lasting nursing relationships with subsequent children.
Helpful hints: Milk supply can take several weeks to regulate. So if baby is nursing around the clock, often times, he is working on getting your supply up — so let him/her. Intervening during the early weeks may not always be necessary. While most mothers worry about supply, remember only about 5% of nursing mothers do not produce enough milk for baby, due to issues such as hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue. If you believe you are low on milk, you should definitely seek help from a lactation consultant. They may also be able to recommend supplements to boost supply, such as Fenugreek.
3. Pain, Pain, Go Away
From latching issues to clogged ducts, mastitis, and raw nipples, nursing discomforts are not uncommon. You name it, we heard about it. But while some discomfort in the early weeks of nursing can be quite normal, pain is not.
Helpful hints: If nursing becomes painful, don’t wait until it is excruciating before you get help. Sometimes mothers are told to pump from the affected breast until the problem has resolved and nurse from the opposite breast. But if you’re in any pain, always seek help from a lactation consultant rather than suffering in silence. There might be a quick fix to get you back on track.
4. Doctor Said What?
Many mothers said they did not receive any guidance or hospital support right out of the gate. Also, moms who said they were having success with nursing initially, ran into troubles later on when a doctor gave them confusing advice. Some moms were told to begin formula before they felt ready, or disrupt their baby’s natural rhythms, like waking them in the night or pulling them off the breast before they were finished.
Helpful hints: If you aren’t having trouble nursing, listen to your instincts first and foremost. If you are having trouble, seek the advice of a lactation consultant. Most doctors actually have very little training in regard to breastfeeding, so while advice is sure to be well-intentioned, it may not always be spot on. A lactation consultant specializes in breastfeeding and has done a great deal of training on the subject, so go there first.
5. Pumping Dilemmas
When it came to pumping at work, many moms chimed in to say what a degrading debacle that was. From lack of pumping space and trying to hide in bathrooms, to having to lug supplies to and from work, to struggling to find time in their work day, let’s just say, for most moms in the U.S., this is not an easy feat. This easily took the cake in terms of the biggest reasons why moms struggled to continue breastfeeding.
Helpful hints: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need at work. The hope is, that if more moms speak up and ask for more, more work places will be forced to start accommodating working mothers. Also, according to La Leche League, some breastmilk is better than none. Even if you aren’t pumping out five bottles a day for your little one while at the office, keeping your supply so that you can still maintain some nursing or bottle feeding sessions, is still providing your baby with your milk and that is an amazing thing.