Common Apprehensions About Breastfeeding

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Like most breastfeeding moms, I get very excited whenever someone I know is pregnant. I will try to ‘convert’ the new mommy to breastfeeding. Most people, when they are first pregnant, know little about breastfeeding. Whatever little they know are also mixed up with half-truths or completely bogus information.

Not knowing much, new mommies have a lot of apprehension about breastfeeding. I will try to address a few common ones that I always come across. I hope, if any new mommies are reading this, that I will help to dispel your apprehensions and give you that extra boost towards breastfeeding.

1. What if I don’t have enough milk?

This is one of the most common questions. They may come from mommies who have failed at breastfeeding before due to ignorance, or heard of others who ‘didn’t have enough milk’. You will have enough milk as long as you nurse often and don’t supplement with formula. Always remember that in the first few days, your breasts will produce colostrum, the ‘liquid gold’ which is full of goodness and antibodies. However, the amount may not be much. This does not mean that you do not have enough milk. Don’t start panicking and resort to supplementing with formula milk. It is a sure ‘formula’ for failure.

For other issues relating to difficulties in breastfeeding, please read Tips on Breastfeeding.

2. I need the rest and sleep at night

Mommy dearest, you have to be prepared that once your little one arrives, you will no longer have the luxury of 8-10 hours unbroken sleep. This is true whether you feed formula or breastfeed.

Of course, your mother or mother-in-law or your confinement nanny may encourage you to give your baby formula milk so that someone else can do the feeding at night (most likely your maid?) while you get your beauty sleep. But I raise my objections as such :

Firstly, this pattern of broken sleep will last only a couple of years in your child’s life. The well-being of your child is far more important. Look at the big picture.

Secondly, to those of you who are intending to rely on your maids to do the night feedings, I urge you to reconsider. Being a SAHM with no domestic help, I know what it is like to do housework, cleaning, washing, and taking care of young children. Chances are you will require your maid to do far more than what you would do yourself (without maid) as far as housework is concerned. Let me tell you that it is almost humanly impossible for someone to do all that work during the day and still can keep up with all the feedings at night. You risk having a very tired and sleepy maid who may be more prone to accidents during the day, and one who may mixed the formula wrongly at night or use scalding hot water or prepare the formula in unhygienic manner in the middle of the night.

Thirdly, think long term. In the short run, within your confinement month, of course it is nice to have someone take over the night feeds and you get your sleep. But what happens after that when the helpers are all gone? Then you will have to do the night feeds and isn’t it easier to pick up the baby in the middle of the night and latch him on, rather than to have to stumble around to fix up a bottle of formula?

To overcome the sleep problem, some people feed their babies in bed. This way, they can also catch some sleep at the same time. In fact, it is certainly more convenient to breastfeed at night than to struggle to wake up and mix a bottle of formula. Another way of catching up on sleep is to try as much as you can to sleep when the baby is sleeping, and nap when the baby is napping.

After the first month, once breastfeeding is established, if you really wish so, you can start expressing some milk and someone else can do the feeding at night by giving the baby expressed breastmilk.

3. Formula milk will make the baby sleep longer

And hence, you will also get more sleep? It all boils down to the sleep issue. Let me tell you that it is a myth that if your baby feeds on formula milk, she will sleep through the night. By the way, sleeping through the night is defined as 5-6 hours of unbroken sleep, NOT 8-10 hours as you may believe. Just ask any formula feeding mothers and they will tell you that they still have to wake up at night to feed their baby. As I said, it will be more convenient for you to latch your baby on in your half-asleep state, than to get up and mix a bottle of formula.

If you know the loads of trouble formula milk can bring, you will not consider sleep more worthy than the well-being of your child. If you are still wondering why formula-fed babies ‘seem to last longer’ as far as hunger goes, well, the fact is that formula is harder to digest than breastmilk. Now, don’t be too happy now, thinking that formula milk will make your baby sleep longer since it ‘lasts’. Consider the fact that harder to digest means more work and stress on your baby’s system, which means the organs, the digestive system has to work harder than it should be doing.

4. Breastfeeding means I cannot go out

Breastfeeding means you can go out more conveniently! You don’t have to lug at 2 tonne bag full of bottles and stuff around every time you go out. (I have seen bags with 7-8 different bottles inside, no kidding!) Read Breastfeeding in Public for more information. With more nursing rooms & nursing wear available now, it is possible to breastfeed in public very discreetly.

Now, I must qualify that if you are the only one who can feed your baby, it is a little more inconvenient compared to feeding formula. You can’t go out without the baby. However, you can always express your breast milk so that other people can feed your baby in your absence. Do watch out for bottle rejection and do not introduce the bottle too late. Nevertheless, even if your baby rejects the bottle, he can always be fed using the cup or the spoon.

5. My husband can’t get involved in the feeding

This is another common whine. My friend, feeding is NOT the only way for the father to get involved in the life of the baby. Although, I must admit that sometimes, I do wish that God had given men breasts to breastfeed.

Coming back to the father’s involvement, there are plenty of other ways for the father to be involved. E.g. changing the nappy, bathing the baby, playing with the baby, help put the baby to sleep, etc. During the initial days, daddy can help bring the baby to you for feeding and keep you entertained during the feeding, or give you the encouragement you need, etc. Later on, when breastfeeding is established, you certainly can expressed your breastmilk and get daddy involved in the feeding sometimes.

All too soon, junior will be starting solids and daddy can get all the involvement he wants feeding junior solids.

I breastfed Dominic directly all the time and because Dominic rejected the bottle, Richard didn’t have a chance to feed him. Even then, I must say (very objectively) that he is one of the most involved fathers I have met. Those who know us well will agree with me on this.

6. It will be difficult to breastfeed when I go back to work

Breastfeeding for work-out-of-home (WOHM) moms can be tough. I salute all those who have persevered on. Be encouraged by the fact that many have trodden on this path before you and they have succeeded at breastfeeding even with the most unfavourable conditions (e.g. having to express milk in the toilets, having to lug pump and cooler box everywhere they go, etc). Some of the ‘pioneers’ managed to succeed without pumps – they hand-expressed!

These days, we have less things to complain about. Good pumps are available aplenty and it helps a lot to have good pumps. Nursing wear are also easily available. More and more people are open to the idea and some companies even have nursing rooms for mothers who need to pump.

Sheer gumption and perseverance is needed for success in breastfeeding. This applies to the workplace too. You will be surprised how accommodating your colleagues can be. If the culture is not established in your workplace yet, be the one to start the change and open the way for other new mommies down the road. They will all thank you for it.

Many mothers who strongly believe in the benefits and importance of breastfeeding have overcome odds at workplace to succeed. You can be one too. Don’t let circumstances overcome you. Be an overcomer!

7. My husband/Mother/Mother-in-law is/are not in favour

Firstly, I am almost 100% certain that the reason for this is because of lack of knowledge. They do not know the benefits and importance of breastfeeding or wrongly believe that formula milk is more superior. I encourage you to do your research on this issue and try to convince them with facts. (This website is a good place to start, *ahem*).

But before that, you have to be convinced of the goodness of breastfeeding yourself before your can convince others. Once you know the facts and the truth, would you let the ignorance of other people deter you from giving the best to your baby?

Here’s a tip : I would suggest you get your husband on your side first before tackling the rest of the family.

8. Physical ‘disability”

E.g. small breasts, inverted nipples, sensitive nipples, etc.

There are ways to overcome these so-called ‘disabilities’. I would strongly encourage you to see a good lactation consultant if you feel that you have some physical problems that may hinder you from breastfeeding. In short, I just want to encourage you by telling you that many women with so-called ‘physical problem’ (perceived?) have successfully breastfed. All you need is some professional help.

And by the by the way, it does not mean that bigger breasts means better at breastfeeding.

9. I heard Breastfeeding is very painful

This is also in relation to the above point. Just make sure that your latch is correct, and if you need to, seek help from professional lactation consultant, and breastfeeding should not be too much of a problem.

Frankly, I cannot assure you the breastfeeding will be smooth-sailing and painless. What I can assure you is that at the end of the day, you will find it all worthwhile. You will NOT regret it. I can also assure you that all these difficulties don’t last long. You days will get better and better.

10. I am a new mom and I am afraid that breastfeeding will give me additional stress or lead to Post Natal Depression (PND)

Being a new mother can be stressful because it is a completely new experience and you may not know how to deal with a baby who may be colicky, not sleeping well, crying all the time, etc.

Breastfeeding seems to be a contributing factor to PND. But the root of the problem is actually not breastfeeding per se, but other factors relating to it – e.g. pressures from naysayers, high expectation from the new mother herself, lack of information, lack of support, etc.

The best way to protect yourself from PND is not to avoid breastfeeding but to deal with all these factors. This is why I encourage all new mothers to do a lot of research, and arm yourself with useful information, not just pertaining to breastfeeding but also pertaining to the care of a newborn infant, so that you will not be so helpless and at the complete mercy of supposedly more experience people who may give you contradictory advice.

You need to be prepared and know what to expect. There is no point setting high and noble targets (e.g. breastfeed for 1 year) when you are completely unprepared and crumble at the first hurdle.

You should also surround yourself with people who can give you the necessary encouragement and support. Turn the naysayers out of your house! Or at least, learn not to listen to them.

With proper preparation and knowing what to expect, you will then not be caught by surprise and get completely overwhelmed. You will be able to take things in stride.

Remember, breastfeeding is not the source of your problem.

11. I don’t want to end up with sagging breasts

Actually, breastfeeding does not cause sagging breasts. It’s pregnancy that causes the changes in your breasts. It has got something to do with you hormones, and is also related to hereditary factor.

Last words

Lastly, I want to encourage you again : no matter how difficult it may seem, no matter how difficult it actually is, you will not regret breastfeeding your baby. Chances are, you will regret not breastfeeding your baby after hearing all the good things and seeing other mothers succeeding at it.

For a little while, you may find breastfeeding ‘troublesome’. After you have breastfed for a while, you will look back and be convinced that it is worth all the troubles that you went through.