The Challenges of Infant Feeding by Maxine Da Silva
Recently I posted an article which spoke about the difficulties that we can face as a breastfeeding mum and the fact that sometimes women are led to believe that it will be easy, when for many it just isn't.
I think there's a curious imbalance in society when it comes to talking about breastfeeding. There's this feeling that we shouldn't let mums know it might be difficult in case it puts them off. Sometimes educators can breeze over potential pitfalls or common issues that women experience, and possibly not inform them fully because they don't want to scare off mums who are on the fence. Unfortunately, there is still stigma attached to breastfeeding and how difficult it can be within society, which I think can occassionally cause this reluctance in breastfeeding advocates to talk about the difficulties.
So where do we stand? How do we strike a balance between "it's easy as pie and will feel totally natural" and "it's really hard and you'll probably suffer through X, Y and Z"?
I believe it lies in educating mothers about infant feeding in general. We need to be working towards normalizing breastfeeding so that women can share their experiences, so women can SEE breastfeeding and learn from one another. We need the support of women and a foundation of information to support mothers. Mothers need to feel prepared and informed about all aspects of breastfeeding, including what can go right and what can go wrong. Being given balanced, evidence-based information surrounding these issues is really important, as well as having support and being able to find help quickly and easily.
Likewise, we need women to know how to wash, sterilize and prepare bottles properly, and according to instructions for the safety and well-being of their children. Women need to know about milk storage, where and how to store different kinds of milk (breastmilk or formula) and how to do so safely. There is so much support around infant feeding that women need and a great lack of factual information or the ability to access it easily without prior knowledge for various reasons.
Being prepared makes a difference
Fortunately, a part of preparing for baby coming is thinking about what you want after the birth and being informed and ready for every eventuality. Ask your midwife, mama friends or your ZenBirth practitioners about the support that is available to you locally before baby arrives. Maybe think about attending a class on breastfeeding if that is something you are considering. Make sure you have phone numbers and experienced, knowledgeable, qualified people to contact if you need support or more information. And put those details somewhere easy to find just in case you need help.
But most of all, be gentle with yourself. When baby arrives you are learning a whole host of new skills, bonding, healing. Take that pressure off yourself and prepare as much in advance. Ultimately, if something isn't right or feels off, don't wait, get help right away.
The ZenBirth team have a wealth of information and are here to support you in your choices and signpost you to your local breastfeeding support groups, La Leche League meetings and lactation consultants should you feel you need more support.
Maxine Da Silva is a ZenBirth hypnobirthing instructor, an NCT-trained breastfeeding peer supporter and baby-wearing advocate with many years experience working with babies and toddlers.