So you’ve made the decision to breastfeed – that’s wonderful. There are many potential obstacles to getting started, not to mention the issues we can face along the way. So it’s vital that you consider how to prepare for breastfeeding in advance – and not only practically. But, if you are determined and persevere, nursing your child is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful experience.

Do you have any preconceptions about breastfeeding? It’s likely that you’ll find yourself having to challenge some. You may also be surprised to battle with personal demons, or clash with peers and/or professionals.

Because breastfeeding is an enigma until you do it.

Breastfeeding

How to Prepare For Breastfeeding

The best way to prepare yourself, is to familiarise yourself with the products which may be helpful (but are not essential), and to be aware of the potential obstacles, attitudes, and difficulties you may face when breastfeeding.

The physical difficulties I had no idea about included:

There are many hurdles not spoken about – and therefore not known – until you’re in it. So I’m going to address some of those here, not least because I’ve had no choice but to reevaluate my own feelings about breastfeeding again and again.

How to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant. These tips will you to prepare for breastfeeding before birth, both physically and emotionally.

Preparing for Breastfeeding Before Baby Arrives

There’s not enough discussion before the baby arrives about how hard it is to breastfeed. Among my peers at least, there was an expectation that because it’s natural, it should also be easy. And if it’s not, then it must mean there’s a physical barrier to successful breastfeeding.

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Infant Breastfeeding

I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and now hold the (potentially controversial) belief that the vast majority of women could nurse – with the right support and – critically – with enough determination. I’ve since written a comprehensive post about the subject and have even released an ebook too.

Breastfeeding is unequivocally the best start you can give your baby, and this is protected in law.

That said, there absolutely does come a time when difficulties sometimes mean the balance between giving your baby tailor-made nourishment versus your mental health, tip in the wrong direction. And if this happens, formula is an excellent, valid, and perfectly acceptable alternative.

Breastfeeding is Your Ticket to Solitude

…And that doesn’t necessarily mean loneliness – it can be the most precious time.

Breastfeeding myths

It’s something nobody else will ever experience with your baby. And it’s your trump card for every challenging situation:

  • The ready-made excuse for those hectic family visits when you just need five minutes peace,
  • The method for quieting your hysterical baby like nothing else can,
  • A way to reinforce the bond between you when you’re losing your patience,
  • Even a technique for reasserting yourself as the primary caregiver when necessary around the in-laws!

The Self-Consciousness You May Feel

I’m an intensely private person, particularly about my body, and I found this extremely difficult initially. Yet over time, my embarrassment dissipated and I became less and less bothered about feeding my daughter in public (until toddlerhood). Breasts cease to be ‘boobs’, instead becoming a feeding vessel – functional, not sexy – and this helps to minimise those entirely unwarranted feelings.

Also keep in mind that you are protected by law to breastfeed wherever you want to.

Breastfeeding

Health Professionals Sometimes Get it Wrong

Some health professionals are incredible when it comes to breastfeeding support. But others are not educated on the subject and give incorrect advice, which can ultimately lead to women’s breastfeeding journeys ending prematurely.

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If you require support for any reason and don’t feel you are getting the help you need, try another avenue. I’m always happy to help too, so please contact me if you’re unsure where to turn.

Extended Breastfeeding Just Happens Sometimes

I somehow never quite expected to reach the six month milestone, but I blinked and it was upon us. I’d given little thought to how long I’d nurse, with my stock answer to the impertinent question being ‘for as long as it feels right’.

I once thought I’d never go beyond 12 months; with my second I went till past her third birthday.

Breastfeeding a Toddler

The point is, this is one aspect of breastfeeding that it may be wise not to plan for at all. Circumstances change, and so do our values and priorities once we have babies. Feel free to borrow my answer and simply take each day as it comes.

Extended Breastfeeding Offended My Greatest Champions

Some people I expected to fully support my pro-breastfeeding-beyond-6-months choice (based on their initial stance), were nigh-on outraged that we continued going strong.

That attitude is sometimes hurtful and always ignorant – and more common than you may think! Progress is being made, but society still has a long way to go when it comes to breastfeeding beyond infancy.

Weaning (Off the Breast) Can Be a Battle in Itself

Weaning is not simple. In my pre-educated oblivion, I thought it would be a smooth transition from nursing at every meal, to combined feeding, to fully weaned. Aha. Ha. HA.

Which brings us nicely on to:

Some Babies Are Averse to Weaning (Onto Food)

Breastfeeding is to (some) babies as cake is to (some) mummies. Or, in other words, they can’t seem to regulate themselves. In the same way that we sleep-deprived zombies subsist on caffeine (minimal – we’re breastfeeding) and sugar (maximal – we’re breastfeeding), our babies (mine at least) would exist solely on mummy’s nectar if allowed to do so.

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We took taken the baby led weaning approach and tried to remain relaxed, but it’s tough when your baby won’t eat! 

Baby Being Fed

Breastfeeding Aversion

Breastfeeding aversion is a ‘thing’. It’s barely happened to me, but sometimes when I’ve been sore and cracked, I’ve found an understanding of it. Most often it occurs when the baby is older, and the mother is ready for some autonomy this was when I best appreciated the phenomena.

Breastfeeding a Toddler is Quite Different to Breastfeeding a Baby

Extended feeding in public is difficult – my daughters didn’t believe in modesty for feeding implements. In fairness, I’m quite blatant about using a glass or a fork in public so I couldn’t really blame them. We had an ongoing battle between my choice of discretion versus forced exhibitionism. This led to me actively reducing daytime feeds.

Mum and Little Boy Snuggling

Weaning is Tough on Mum Too…

Trying to cut back or stop altogether is tough. It’s natural to comfort our babies and breastfeeding is the king of comforting. It feels cruel to refuse them, particularly when they’re too young to understand and simply feel rejected.

That said, there does come a time when it is no longer the pinnacle. Breastfeeding is a relationship, and it’s vital to your mutual bond and to the mother’s mental health that you pay attention if breastfeeding is no longer working for you both. Aversion, poor sleep, or a return to work may force the issue.

While a natural transition at your child’s pace may be desirable, ultimately our babies are resilient and will bounce back from weaning when the time comes. Providing lots of cuddles instead of offering the breast is a pretty good substitute.

For more breastfeeding posts, head over to Breastfeeding – Help, Advice, Support.

Tags

Newborns and babies, Toddlers

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

9 Comments

  1. Another wonderful post, I always feel like I relate so well to how you feel.
    Breastfeeding is a topic close to my heart, one that I am truly passionate about.

    Here I am ‘still’ feeding my 22 month old but like you I am implementing boundaries.

    Pre baby I believed I would feed until she had teeth, then move her on. Wow so naive. This journey has been a truly wonderful one that I can compare to nothing I’ve ever experienced.

    I can relate to you on so many levels, the poorly educated health ‘professionals’ came as the biggest shock for me. I have been told to wean unnecessarily so many times. Considering the NHS promote feeding until 2 and beyond I can not understand why their own advice is not filtered through the organisations staff. Very closely followed by my own friends and family who were supportive until a point (about a year I think!).
    The key is to surround yourself with like minded people and reach out to online communities. A friend shared a post saying ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ I believe that to be so true, it’s really stuck with me.

    Once I reached our year milestone I too like you reached to a stock answer which I still use now, because honestly I don’t really know why people need to ask! I would far rather be rude and answer with something like “what’s it got to do with you!?” But the people pleaser in me pleasantly smiles, nods and quotes the NHS and WHO, hide behind others! Although I particularly like the look I get back when it is an NHS employee I’m telling!
    I think you’re so right, eventually everybody in their journey gets to a point where they intervene. Some may choose they’ve had enough and it’s time to stop, whilst others simply need their child to eat or sleep more. Either way until your ready you just do not know when.

    I am so looking forward to reading more about your journey, it’s refreshing to read such ‘tell it how it is’ posts. People just don’t and I really think they should. You never know a post like this just might help an unsupported woman push forward and continue feeding.

    Thanks Kate x

    • Kate

      Thanks so much for your comment Jaime. The best part of blogging for me is seeing that others relate to my posts, so I really appreciate you sharing your story.

      I too thought I would end our bf journey when my daughter was teething, but as you say – quite naïve! The thing is, nobody discusses the feelings involved with breastfeeding – before we have children it is simply an ideal based upon nutritional value and general health. Once our babies arrive, however, it becomes so much more than that. And it’s something we cannot prepare for.

      As you say, the best we can do is to surround ourselves with like-minded parents, and I love the idea of my blog lending support to women that need it!

  2. I completely agree with you. I didn’t realise how hard it would be to start with and I also didn’t think it would be this hard to stop. Breastfeeding is a two way relationship, it has to be the right thing for both you and your baby/toddler.

    • Kate

      Thanks for your comment, Claire.

      I couldn’t agree more. The emotions involved with weaning are what have most surprised me. But whatever comes next, we have successfully breastfed these babies, and I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of that achievement.

      Good luck with weaning, if that’s where you’re at.

  3. When I was pregnant with my son, no one told me that it would be hard or that I many not even be able to. So when I gave birth and I wasn’t producing any milk I felt so horrible and didn’t know what to do. I agree that it everyone needs to talk about it more!
    Great post! #coolmumclub

    • Kate

      Thanks Kayla. I’ll be writing a post about the mechanics of breastfeeding soon, to address exactly this. It makes me so cross when I hear about mums desperate to feed their babies but not given the information they need to do so. X

  4. Kate

    Thanks Talya! Wow, you’re a saint for doing that! X

  5. Oh my goodness, you have encapsulated perfectly so many truths about breastfeeding. I can completely relate. The biggest thing for me is that more support and information is needed for Mummies as only a tiny percentage actually can’t medically breastfeed. We’re 22 months into our breastfeeding journey and I hope it will end naturally, but you are so right that sometimes Mummies have to make those tough decisions for their little one’s own good. Beautiful writing x

    • Kate Tunstall

      Thanks so much as always for your lovely comment! ? xx