Breastfeeding has its benefits but it sometimes can be a challenge.
WORDS CHERYLENE RENEE
The choice of breastfeeding your little one comes with its own list of challenges. Hormones can bring about some uncomfortable or even nasty feelings before, or even during milk let-down. These can range from weakness, excessive sweating, nausea, or even melancholy. These sensations are usually temporary and often replaced quickly with more positive ones.
Another issue that many mums face is that of painful engorgement, which is when your breasts start producing larger volumes of milk (thanks to prolactin). They can become larger, feel much heavier, and sometimes even be a tad sore. This fullness also occurs because extra blood and lymph fluids are being pumped into your breasts. “Once the breasts are emptied, they will feel soft again,” Dr Yong Tze Tein, second vice president of Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy Singapore (ABAS) advises.
The pain you feel may be heightened especially if you are unable to
nurse your baby thoroughly. Engorgement usually eases off
within the first two to three weeks after delivery.
Engorgement may happen for both breasts, or even only on one single breast. Even when engorgement alleviates, your breasts may look or feel lopsided – due to greater quantities of milk being produced on one side as opposed to the other. This change in the appearance of one’s breasts may be alarming to some, but Dr Yong says that this is not a cause for worry. “It is very common to have one dominant or preferred breast. Once breastfeeding stops, this asymmetry will disappear.
There’s no need to fret too much and mothers can try feeding on the less preferred breast first when baby is hungry,” advises Dr Yong. “Some worry about the appearance of their breasts, but very frankly when your breasts can do such a powerful thing like protecting and feeding your baby, a different type of beauty shines through. For most mothers who breastfeed successfully, they feel very empowered, and enjoy breastfeeding and the very close physical and emotional bond with their babies,” remarks Dr Yong.
Aches and Pains
Some mums also report aches elsewhere in the body, usually in their back or shoulders, as a result of breastfeeding. Dr Yong says that pain is usually “not likely,” but can be attributed for the most part to poor postures while nursing. “[These aches] can be avoided by making a conscious effort to sit back and relax with back support and support for your hands once the baby is latched. Some mothers find the nursing pillow useful,” says Dr Yong. She explains that in their anxiety for baby to latch on, new mums may sometimes forget that they themselves should find a comfortable nursing position.
“First-time mothers are understandably very anxious about their newborn and strive to do everything perfectly,” says Dr Yong. This stress and anxiousness for baby to feed successfully may sometimes even translate to inhibited milk let-down – and it can evolve into a vicious cycle.
Mothers hoping to nurse their little ones must most importantly
have sufficient sleep and food, in order to produce milk.
Learning the Ropes
There is a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding, and every new mum – and baby – will progress along it differently. Always remember that as mothers, we only want the best for our children – and your body is doing the best it can to provide for your little one.
“Accept that you and your baby have to learn to breastfeed and nothing like practice makes perfect,” advises Dr Yong. “The newborn too has a lot of adjustments to life outside the womb, and breastfeeding is part of that transition.”
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Growing as a New Mother
Having trouble coping with breastfeeding, not sure if you’re doing it right, or feeling overwhelmed? Do not be afraid to seek help. “It takes time and the first few days to two weeks are the most difficult. It is good to ask for help from lactation consultants, and also get help from your husband and family with other domestic work. Outsource other duties and concentrate on breastfeeding. Maternity leave was given to fulfil maternal responsibilities,” advises Dr Yong.
Life as a new mother is daunting, to say the least. Caring for a newborn calls for your constant attention, and too often result in sleepless nights. “[New mums are] dealing with unfamiliar expectations and demands, plus altered body image – it can be challenging. Some women wonder if they have ‘lost’ themselves, without realising that it is actually a time of growth,” says Dr Yong. She describes breastfeeding as “the fourth trimester of pregnancy, the continuation of the very close relationship that began in the womb.”
If anything, breastfeeding is a rare, unforgettable experience that only you can share with your little one. As Dr Yong puts it, “The opportunity to breastfeed is limited, so do not lose out on this experience.”