Choosing to breastfeed is simple. The truth of breastfeeding can be less direct.
During those last few months of pregnancy, you will have to think about how you want to feed your baby. Your midwife will ask whether you want to breast or formula feed, encouraging you to breastfeed because – as everyone knows – ‘breast is best’. The vitamins, minerals and antibodies in breast milk provide everything your baby needs for the first six months. In addition to the nutritional benefits, the closeness and bonding that breastfeeding helps to establish is well documented, along with many other benefits for both mother and baby.
Lots of women have an ambivalent attitude towards breastfeeding before their first baby is born, not wanting to add unnecessary pressure when they have the birth and the baby care basics to get through first. When the baby is born however, the instinct to breastfeed can be very strong.
Sometimes breastfeeding your first baby goes as well as the ante-natal video promised; your new baby is placed on your chest, skin on skin, and their little puckered mouth naturally finds its way to your breast and begins to suckle. This however, is not the end of the story and is not the scenario many women find themselves in.
Lots of new mothers find breastfeeding difficult. To give just a small number of examples, difficult can mean: the baby cannot latch on properly; the baby isn’t getting enough milk and is constantly crying or feeding; breastfeeding is extremely painful; the new mother is desperately exhausted by the every two-hour, night and day feeding schedule. Whatever the difficulties are, many new mothers find themselves shocked and completely unprepared for them. The conversations about the benefits of breastfeeding will have been plentiful, but the ones about what to do when it isn’t working may not have been.
Moving on to formula if breastfeeding is difficult can be the best solution for some new mothers, others simply need some support. Finding out where to go for help when you are taking care of a newborn however, can seem like an impossible task, and physically getting yourself to that help even harder.
Breastfeeding problems are extremely common and some of the best breastfeeding journeys have had a rocky start. Help is out there, and half an hour with an experienced breastfeeding counselor can make a huge difference. Whatever your issue, they will have handled it before, understand how you are feeling and be able to offer practical advice. Many counselors can visit you at home if you aren’t able to attend a breastfeeding clinic and make follow-up visits to see how you are getting on.
Deciding how to feed your baby is a very personal decision that only you can make. If you are planning to breastfeed or even thinking you might want to give it a try, do some research before the baby arrives. Talk to your midwife, ask questions, find out where your local breastfeeding clinic is and when they are open, find out who your local breastfeeding counselors are, how and when you can contact them.