When Breastfeeding is Hard

Sep 11, 2018

This week on the Green Baby blog, I shared some breastfeeding basics and how to get started with some important tips and facts. Breastfeeding is like birth – everyone has their own story around it and they tend to share with other mamas both the good and the bad about it. This can really help a new mom, or do the opposite - completely overwhelm her before she begins her breastfeeding journey – even if this is not her first time doing it! Just like every pregnancy is different, so is every breastfeeding experience with each baby.

However, I do not think mamas should be necessarily silent either about their breastfeeding experiences because a well-informed mama will be better equipped to handle anything that arises with breastfeeding. It is just a matter of how you share your story versus what you say. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was a young 21-year-old college student and therefore, none of my friends were mothers yet. Did this help me? Yes and no. It definitely kept me away from any worries, but it also kept me in the dark! It was very difficult to navigate anything back then, never mind breastfeeding and know what to do or if something was normal. Needless to say, there was a lot of calls to the pediatrician when she was a baby!

Breastfeeding Classes

Is a breastfeeding class worth it? Short answer is – YES! But why?

Let’s start with what it is. A breastfeeding class is a workshop that will teach you all things related to breastfeeding and especially if you are a first-time mom, this class can really help you break it all down.

What you will learn:

  • How you can prepare for breastfeeding before birth
  • Things to do right after birth to promote exclusive breastfeeding (something like skin-to-skin contact, rooming in, and so on)
  • Feeding cues: How to tell if the baby is hungry or just crying due to other things
  • Positioning and latching the baby to nurse
  • What to expect when nursing a newborn
  • How to tell if the baby gets enough milk
  • How to deal with common breastfeeding struggles in the early days
  • What to do if you plan to return to work and want to continue breastfeeding

Grab this FREE PDF on Pumping, Storing & Returning to Work

Yes, all of this information can be googled and found online, however attending a class in person is still recommended. This is because you will be access to a lactation specialist and know where to find them in your area and saves you from hours of scrolling online with a crying newborn trying to find an answer to something!

When things are difficult…

My second daughter was born via belly birth (C-Section) and of course from the work that I do, I knew that my milk could be delayed as a result, but I didn’t think much beyond that.

When you are blessed with an easy transition into motherhood and breastfeeding with your firstborn, the picture of how it will go is going to be more positive – in other words – I was naïve to thinking it will all go smoothly with my second daughter. That could not be further from the truth!

Was my milk supply late? Yes, it absolutely was – by seven days! That first week left me defeated many times, in full blown crying fits and to top it off – she was tongue tied!

Why is milk delayed with C-Sections?

Remember – breastfeeding is not only physical, but it is impacted by emotions as well. It is truly a mind, body and spirit experience with your baby.

Physical - The use of medications during labor and cesarean birth have a negative effect on breastfeeding, so does the separation of mother and baby after birth and during the hospital stay. Anesthesia is passed through the placenta and can cause a delay or hardship in getting the baby to latch. A baby’s latch is the best stimulation for breasts to initiate milk production.

Emotional – The emotional impact on breastfeeding can be especially rough on a mother’s emotions if the C-section was an emergency or traumatic prior and during. A traumatic birth or unexpected C-section may cause sadness and a sense of failure. If the birth did not occur the way you imagined, you might also be feeling a sense of loss – making the mother feel more and more stressed. This can also happen after a traumatic vaginal birth too.

Stress, Emotions and Breastfeeding?

All stress impacts your body by releasing cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. While these hormones can temporarily help your body deal with a stressful situation, over time, they can have a negative effect on your body both physically and emotionally. One of the hormones, cortisol, can enter into your breastmilk, affecting its contents. This is called “secondhand cortisol,” the hormone enters the baby’s intestinal tract and prompts neurotransmitter signals that go to the brain, affecting the areas that regulate emotion. This can make is more difficult to get the baby to latch and also settle to sleep. Stress also impacts your endocrine system – particularly your thyroid which regulates the hormones needed to help your milk production.

Note: Stress alone doesn’t directly affect milk supply. The amount of milk your body makes depends on how often your baby nurses. The more milk he or she drinks, the more your body will make. Stress can, however, indirectly affect your milk supply, if you aren’t taking the time to eat or drink enough water or don’t have the time to nurse your baby as frequently as he or she needs because you are dealing with an emotional overload – starting right after birth.

Birth trauma can bring out immediate emotional responses from a mom and especially if her baby is not given to her right away for skin-to-skin – this can escalate trauma and emotional distress even more. For me personally, I was dealing with prior grief and trauma from the year before after losing her brother. Her pregnancy was extremely difficult, and I felt so disconnected from her before she was born. The C-Section while it was not an emergency and was actually quite peaceful and fast, did however shock my body. After she was born, all my emotions seemed to come out at once after holding my breath and getting through the labor and surgery. All of this effected my body both physically and emotionally – making it harder for her to latch on top of her tongue tie.

For me, I found the right support and help to pull me through that difficult breastfeeding start with her and was able to successfully breastfeed. However, not all mamas are able to do this or have any help around her. Whatever choice you make with breastfeeding – it does not determine your worth as a mama. You are a warrior and the best thing for your baby – despite how you end up feeding him or her.


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