Why is breastfeeding so hard?

If you’re reading this, it may well be the case that you’re a week or 2 into breastfeeding your newborn, and have developed excruciatingly painful cracked nipples, and you may dread the next feed. In fact, you’re ready to give up, and who can blame you.

Or an alternative scenario – your newborn is reluctant to latch to your breast.

Or how about this – you’re worried about your breastmilk supply?

All in all, not exactly the easy, picture-perfect breastfeeding experience that you had imagined.

Why is something that is supposed to be so ‘natural’ so difficult?

Because breastfeeding is not, and never has been instinctive; research show us that mums who have never observed or experienced breastfeeding face a strong likelihood of failing to breastfeed. Women are far more familiar with bottle feeding, and see baby feeding through the eyes of a bottle feeding regime i.e. 3 hourly, which is a million miles apart from the realities of breastfeeding. So now, if you reach a crisis point with breastfeeding it is likely that you have no immediate support network. Your neighbour, sister, aunt, friends have no experience/knowledge of breastfeeding. And you’re left wondering – why is breastfeeding so difficult? Who can I turn to for support?

Well support comes in two guises – the well meaning encouragement, and the ‘specialist help’, and there is a big difference between the two. Currently community breastfeeding support groups are propping up the system. They are vital, but sometimes are not appropriate for significant feeding problems. But unaware of this, you visit your local group and are given support, which makes you feel that you should therefore be able to succeed – after all, parents are told often that ‘Most Mums CAN breastfeed, with the right support’. But if you’re really getting the right support, the result is you admit defeat, with every likelhood feeling that you’ve failed. But please don’t feel that way.
As a Lactation Consultant, almost every reason I come across for giving up breastfeeding is something that could have been easily prevented or overcome with the right help. -

So, here’s my message to you:

  • Be kind to yourself – breastfeeding is hard and you’re doing everything you can to get it right
  • If feeding is too painful/difficult to contemplate, don’t give up. Express your breastmilk so you can choose your options, and
  • Get 1-1 specialist support