Knowledge and patience are key to a successful breastfeeding experience. Here are some of the challenges of breastfeeding and how to tackle them.
3. I don’t know how much she’s getting
It seems so much easier to gauge how much milk your baby’s consuming if you’re bottle-feeding. Many moms worry that their babies aren’t “getting enough”. This becomes even more stressful when we weigh our babies at the clinics, and the nurses tell us that the scales aren’t showing a positive growth percentage.
However, your milk is not designed to be measured; it’s not about the number of millilitres your baby consumes daily. Breast milk is designed to change in accordance with your baby’s needs, so it will have more of a certain nutrient when necessary and less of others when not needed.
Test-weighing your baby is not ideal. This process involves weighing a baby before and after a feed. The problem is that babies don’t drink to a schedule and might have more milk today and less tomorrow.
The growth charts used by clinics are based on a statistical distribution of measurements in a particular group of babies. Half of the normal population is above the average and the other half is below. Factors such as genetics, regular or consistent growth (as opposed to piling on the kilograms to keep the scale happy at a clinic visit), and your baby’s overall health and disposition are just as important – if not more so – than weight.
Worried that your baby isn’t “getting enough” milk? Here are solid clues that she’s getting all that she needs and that you’re providing plenty of nutrition:
- She has moist, sparkling eyes
- She has an average of five to six wet or dirty nappies daily
- She’s reaching her milestones
- She’s energetic and alert when awake
Weight is not the sole indicator of your baby’s health or your milk-producing ability. In fact, the standard growth charts were actually based on a set of formula-fed babies who were not exclusively breastfed for the first six months – and were put onto solids early! Breast babies may pick up weight very quickly initially and then slow down, while their formula-fed counterparts are different. Don’t let the weight debate get you down.
4. Lack of support
Throughout history, the process of pregnancy and childbirth has been celebrated by tribes of women dedicated to helping young mothers enjoy the journey. Nowadays, we tend to remain in our “nuclear family”, struggling alone at home once visitors have left and relatives are no longer on hand to offer advice.
- It’s vital to identify at least one female relative/friend as your rock of support while breastfeeding. This isn’t just a nice option, but a non-negotiable one. Be it your own mother, partner, a good friend, a lactation consultant or an elderly aunt, that emotional and practical cheerleader will help you to overcome nursing hurdles simply by being there.
- Don’t ask all and sundry for advice. If you’re confused and your support team or individual can’t help, then speak to a professional – and have your “cheerleader” go along with you.
- Many women give up breastfeeding because certain people have made them feel uncomfortable about feeding in public, others insist that the baby isn’t weighing enough, and still others offer ridiculous, though well-meaning, amateur advice.
- You can breastfeed! The world simply needs to give you the time and support to do it. If you try and then choose not to, don’t succumb to guilt either. What’s most important is that you did the very best you could, and ultimately, all that matters is that happy mother equals happy baby.
By Angela Barry
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