As a general pediatrician and lactation consultant in a busy pediatric practice, my days are often filled with the stories and tears of new mothers. After all, giving birth is the single most life-changing experience most of us will ever have. While rewarding, it can throw even the best of us for a loop. And, breastfeeding certainly isn’t easy. I get it! To succeed, it starts with the expectation.
That being said, I find that the moms who tend to have the most difficult time, and often the least breastfeeding success, are the ones with the most unrealistic expectations. Realistically, one should expect the first 3-4 weeks of breastfeeding to be challenging… to say the least.
I, myself, have been there and with experience and time, I learned that while breastfeeding can be very difficult—at first—once you catch your groove and get past the sheer exhaustion that having a newborn naturally results in, it is infinitely easier to attach a baby to your breast at 2 AM than it is to get up and make a bottle. The trick is having a bit of patience and perseverance until you get there.
I completely understand the expectation that breastfeeding should be easy—After all, it’s a natural process, right? Unfortunately, in today’s world, we often don’t have the same support that most women used to when it comes to learning how to nurse. Many of today’s new moms were not nursed themselves and therefore are often facing opposition rather than support from their mothers. Realistically, it will take time to get used to the most comfortable positions, the almost hourly feeds, and the sleepless nights. Here are just a few of the “new normals” to expect in those first few exciting and tumultuous weeks:
- It’s normal to feel like the baby is attached to you.
- It’s normal for baby to need to eat 12 times within a 24-hour timeframe.
- It’s normal for you to get barely the time to pee between feeds.
- It’s normal for you to feel like you will collapse from exhaustion, and it’s normal to feel like it is not humanly possible to do what is being asked of you.
- It’s normal to feel like giving up…
…but hang in there: that “hump” is more of a very steep hill and as soon as you reach the crest, it’s smooth sailing! Really! Feeds spread out. You start to get some rest. You may even find the time to pick up the phone. And as a bonus: no need to worry about bottles, no chance of forgetting to buy baby’s formula (mommy brain never goes away!), and so, so many health benefits. Your baby is at a reduced risk for a multitude of infections and diseases because of your hard work, which translates into fewer doctor appointments, fewer nights awake with a sick kid, and more time to yourself.
So fret not ladies. The initial effort is a monster, but believe it or not, there will come a time when you will effortlessly nurse your baby singlehandedly while sitting on the potty and texting… all at the same time. All it takes is a bit of time and realistic expectations.