For many women, there are many obstacles to be overcome about nursing, including personal and social issues. These can be overwhelming, in the emotional and physical roller coaster after giving birth, and can ultimately cause many women to quit nursing in the first few weeks or months after starting.
I was talking with my mother, and she mentioned a few of her friend’s daughters, and daughter in laws who quit nursing quickly after giving birth. Here are some of the challenges they gave as reasons for quitting, and why they don’t have to be reasons to stop nursing altogether. I’m pretty insulated from this up here in Vermont, where nursing is highly encouraged. My mom often helps me understand what is going on in the rest of the world.
Many times in families there is a culture of non-nursing that is hard to break. Most of our own mothers did not nurse us, so we can’t turn to them for help. And if our good friends and family members didn’t nurse, that limits where we can turn to for help. I am lucky that I had several friends who were nursing at the same time I was, or who had recently done so. They supported me in moments when I was endlessly frustrated and ready to give up, especially at the beginning. If you don’t have this support system, turn to sites like this one, parent forums, and see if you have a local La Leche League. Just talking with other mothers who are nursing or who value it highly can help you feel less isolated. The La Leche League website it packed with great information to difficult questions about nursing, from an infant to a toddler.
There seems to be this myth out there that if you have a “big” baby, you won’t be able to make enough milk to support him or her. This usually isn’t the case, as your body produces what your baby needs. If the pediatrician says the baby isn’t thriving, that is a different story altogether, and maybe some supplementing is a good idea if that is what the doctor recommends.
Another problem that is linked to this is the idea that you have to know exactly how much fluid your baby is receiving, and it is impossible to know this when nursing. This idea is seriously disconcerting to many moms. It seems many well intentioned mothers in law’s also ask this: “How do you know he/she getting enough?” This is unsettling to every mother, especially anxious new mothers who are simply trying to do their best for their babies. But that is what our bodies are made for. We make milk based on our babies changing needs, and we make what they need, unless there is a special circumstance.
A few of my favorite nursing helpers:
Bravado nursing bras: Super comfortable for wearing 24/7. Not the most supportive for higher activity levels, but great for sleeping and days at home.
Blue Canoe, organic cotton bras: no wire, wide variety of styles, all comfort, all the time. Enough said.
Lansinoh ointment: This saves many of us from dry, cracked and sore nipples at the beginning of nursing, and can ward off painful infections.
Small novels and magazines: Anything you can hold during nursing, especially at the beginning, when it seems like that is all you do.
Here’s a shout out to moms who are nursing right now. When you are alone in the middle of the right, please remember this. At the same time, in the dark, at 4am, women around the world are nursing their babies. You are not alone and you can do this.
Nicole J. says
Support for breastfeeding women is so important. Women need to learn as much as possible about breastfeeding before they give birth, as well as where there are support groups, lactation consultants, etc. for her when she may need them in those first few days or even months later. Newly breastfeeding mom should seek out other breastfeeding moms, it will help normalize it for you and your family. The dad or partner is so important for the breastfeeding mom;s success. The partner needs to be on board and informed of all the benefits of breastfeeding. Without that help, quitting is so much easier.
I think another major obstacle for some moms is low milk supply. I think this issue is more common than we are led to believe. I never had the breast engorgement during or after pregnancy nor was I able to pump out any milk manually (or very little, at best). There are herbs, like fenugreek, that work surprisingly well for this. It was a lifesaver for me and my now 15 month old son who I still continue to nurse.