Breast is best. Babies can’t get a better start. The mother and baby bond is stronger. All true.
What they don’t tell you about breastfeeding is how frustrating, painful and upsetting breastfeeding can be. And how sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan. In fact, if you look at the statistics, most of the time it doesn’t go according to plan.
At our NHS antenatal class, I remember F. raising a question with the midwife about breastfeeding. What if it’s painful? The midwife said very definitely, that it should not hurt if you are doing it right.
F. gave birth to our daughter at home and with no pain relieving drugs. Not even an aspirin. And she did it with an amazingly positive attitude throughout the labour. So when she tells me, in floods of tears, that the let-down and the latch-on she experiences when breastfeeding are both too much to bear – then that is what it is.
However, my wife is also a determined woman. And she had decided that V. was to be breastfed. We tried different positions for breastfeeding, for both mother and baby. We read books, and watched demonstrations on YouTube. Nothing worked. And for two months – several times a day – F. endured the pain and discomfort, even though it was getting worse and worse. Finally, F. would wince even before she put V. to her breast.
Finally, we found an understanding and experienced lactation consultant. She told us we were doing everything we could. She suggested a plan to try block feedings. Her proviso was that this approach reduced the number of feeds per day and that possibly we might experience a reduction in milk supply. But it might also ease the pain. We would supplement V.’s breastfeeds with formula. The strategy worked. Its been six weeks since then and the pain associated with breastfeeding has almost gone.
At that antenatal class, the midwife was a perfectly fine teacher. But, when it came to breastfeeding, we experienced a dogmatic response that seems quite common on this subject.
Guys, if your woman is having problems with breastfeeding, don’t let anyone else tell her she’s ‘doing it wrong’. She’s trying her best. That’s enough.