Does breastfeeding ever get easier?

January 20th, 2014 by Dionna | Leave a comment
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, natural parenting

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This article is part of the Building Blocks to a Healthy Breastfeeding Relationship series, a series I wrote to accompany a presentation I did for the Healthy Child Summit. Be sure to sign up for a free 22 day sneak preview at the Healthy Child Summit website. Beginning in February 2014, you’ll get access to presentations from over 50 natural health, wellness, and parenting professionals on topics like healthy pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding, natural medicines, toxin-free homes, and more. After the sneak peek, please use my a href=”https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=246594&c=ib&aff=212969″>affiliate link if you’d like to purchase access to the presentations.

Does breastfeeding ever get easier?

With all of the challenges breastfeeding mothers can face (from the physical to the emotional and cultural), it is common to wonder – does breastfeeding ever get easier? And what can I do to get me through the challenging parts?

Is there a typical learning curve with breastfeeding?

When I asked my readers how long it took them to get the hang of breastfeeding, several of them said it only took hours, most of them said anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, and a few said several months. Regardless, the resounding answer for most mothers is “yes” – breastfeeding does get easier.

The funny thing about breastfeeding is that it is not a static relationship. Your newborn is growing and developing at such a rapid rate, and that often means that her nursing habits, patterns, and quirks will change too. Just when you think things are going well, she hits a growth spurt, and you are left fearing that she will never stop nursing every 45 minutes around the clock. Or you’ve rocked along for several months with nary a bump in the road, and all of a sudden she starts teething. Sore gums means cranky baby and irregular nursing. What’s a mama to do?

For starters, make sure you have a support system to reach out to, and educate yourself about what to expect in the early weeks of breastfeeding (read more about that in the first post in this series on “preparing to breastfeed before baby is born“, and the second post on “typical challenges breastfeeding mothers might encounter“). Having a village and knowing what to expect will make you more confident.

If you’re not sure how to find a good lactation consultant, check out this article from Kellymom on how to find breastfeeding help, and this article on how to find a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant or other trained breastfeeding counselor can help you with the technical aspects of nursing, such as how to help a weak latch or how to properly position baby.

Here are some more bits of wisdom from my readers on how to get past breastfeeding challenges:

  • Abigail remembers the huge benefits for her baby. “If you believe you should keep going, then don’t let anyone stop you. I’m pumping for my 14 month old. She stopped nursing at 6 months after a long cold but I kept at it. I’ve been pushed to quit pumping but not only are there great health benefits for her but it also saves money on formula.”
  • Lori took it one step at a time: “I was determined to get to six months, then she had so many allergies that I decided formula wasn’t an option, so I eliminated all of her allergens from my diet (15+ foods). So then I focused on a year. After that I decided I would let her decide when she was done (she weaned herself at 34 months this August). With all of the challenges we faced with food, I at least knew she was getting my breast milk. Trust me, it was hard at times, but worth it in the long run. Our bond is so strong! Also, having weaned so gradually (towards the end she was only nursing at nap once a day) I wasn’t faced with any issues of drying up, no pain or engorgement. My body knew that my daughter was done. Do I miss it? No, not one minute! I’m very happy to have my body back to myself (as much as a mom actually does…). We have cuddles and plenty of other ways to keep our bond.”
  • Joy shares her humorous take on facing challenges from others on breastfeeding past infancy: “Mothering magazine published a wonderful story about a woman who breastfed her son in Mongolia, where wrestling is the national sport. They have a saying that ‘the best wrestlers were nursed until they were AT LEAST six.’ I have held onto that and anytime anyone says ANYTHING about us still nursing, I hit them with that gem.”
  • Angela very honestly shares that she keeps on because she knows it is what her 2 year old needs. “I have wanted to quit so many times. I’ve sat in LLL meetings and sobbed, Googled things like “I hate breast feeding,” and looked up how to wean at various ages. But my two-year-old clearly still needs it, although I limit it to bedtime now, and I’m willing to nurse at bedtime awhile longer, even though I’m ready to be done. She isn’t ready [to wean] yet, so we nurse on.
  • Tanja reminds us to “Never give up, use all resources available, be patient with yourself and ignore all negativity from unsupportive people. Even if you are not exclusively breastfeeding, give what you can. The benefits to your child are tremendous. Breastmilk is a perfect food, a magical soother and medicine. . . This time with baby is precious. You won’t realize how much until its gone.

How can I feel more confident nursing in public?

Let’s say you get past the physical challenges of breastfeeding, or better yet, that you’re never hit with a blocked duct or have to deal with a poor latch. New mothers who are not surrounded by breastfeeding may still feel uncomfortable responding to their babies’ needs in front of friends or family. How can you feel more confident nursing in front of others?

  • Find a support group: To find a breastfeeding support group in your area, check out La Leche League’s website, Google for an attachment parenting or breastfeeding support group, or check out this article from Kellymom on breastfeeding support groups. A breastfeeding support group can help you feel more normal while nursing – nothing normalizes nursing like seeing a circle of women nursing their newborns, older infants, toddlers and preschoolers on demand while laughing and chatting.
  • Get your partner on board: Breastfeeding may be a new experience for your partner, too, and it is just as important to get help him or her feel comfortable with your nursing relationship. The more supportive your partner is, the more confident you will feel nursing in front of others. Educate your partner on the many benefits of breastfeeding. Celebrate milestones with your partner. Ask for their assistance, telling them specifically how to help you feel more comfortable in public places (do you want them to sit next to you? Put an arm around you? Offer you a drink of water? Help you position the baby? Just sit back and smile? Tell them!). Read more ideas in How to Help Your Partner Become More Comfortable with You Nursing In Public.
  • Breastfeed with friends: Just as seeing others breastfeeding can help normalize it for you, breastfeeding in public with someone nursing right alongside you can help you feel more confident. It normalizes the experience for you, your friend, and anyone else passing by.
  • Know your rights: Most states (and the federal government, in federal spaces) protect your right to nurse in public in whatever way you and your baby are most comfortable (i.e., with or without a cover). You can find your specific state law at BreastfeedingLaw.com, and you can read more inspirational stories about nursing in public at NursingFreedom.org. Consider writing the law down and carrying it with you. Having your rights at your fingertips will make you more confident.
  • Prepare yourself for criticism, but remember that you’ll probably never deal with it: The vast majority of nursing mothers never have a mean-spirited word said to them while nursing in public. In fact, you are much more likely to get an encouraging smile or a word of praise from a fellow mother. So while you might want to brush up on some breastfeeding comebacks, you’ll probably never need to use them.

Further resources for feeling more confident while nursing in public.

Photo Credit: Lauren Wayne of Hobo Mama

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