The reality of learning to breastfeed - Play Nourish Thrive

The reality of learning to breastfeed

Learning to breastfeed can be an incredibly challenging experience. We get used to seeing confident women breastfeeding almost anywhere, which of course is fantastic. But what we don’t see are the new mums crying to themselves at 3am. Wrangling a newborn, attempting to master the latch, giving up all their bodily autonomy for another human being.

If this is/was your experience, you are far from alone.

Up to 90% of women report experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding.(1)

A 2010 national survey found that although 90% of Australian mothers initiated exclusive breastfeeding, only 15.4% of babies were exclusively breastfed to 5 months.(2) Not meeting the WHO recommendations that every baby is exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.(3)

Unfortunately, the recommendation fails to consider the many unique barriers (4) parents face when trying to breastfeed, including:

  • Physical difficulty
  • Pain
  • Inconvenience
  • Body image
  • Embarrassment
  • Pressure to stop
  • Lack of support
  • Medical reasons

We are all familiar with those pictures of angelic mothers gazing lovingly down at their baby peacefully breastfeeding. But that is clearly not the reality for most women, at least in the beginning.

It certainly was not my reality. Despite me being an obvious part of the breastfeeding dyad, I felt like the months of discomfort I was experiencing were shrugged off. As long as the baby was being breastfed, right?! It left me feeling angry and isolated. I remain unconvinced that a breast-fed baby with an angry mum is better off than a formula-fed baby with a happy mum. What helped me however was a visit with a lovely lactation consultant, and finally feeling heard.

Where can you get support?

The National Breastfeeding Helpline (1800 686 268) is available 24/7 and staffed by trained counsellors who have all breastfed a baby themselves. You may also have access to a lactation consultant through your local hospital/health district. If you are struggling, please reach out!

(Refs below)

  1. Chaput et al. 2016. CMAJ Open
  2. Adhikari et al. 2018. Australian National Infant Feeding Survey, 2010, ADA Dataverse, V1
  3. World Health Assembly. Global strategy for infant and young child Feeding: The optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2001.
  4. Brown et al. 2015. J Adv Nurs

Up to 90% of women report experiencing difficulties with breastfeedingWhere to get support? Australian Breastfeeding Association 1800 686 268

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