What if breastfeeding doesn’t feel ‘natural’?
Is it normal for breastfeeding to feel completely unnatural, when it is meant to be so natural?
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a hundred times, that is that breastfeeding is natural and that you and your baby will instinctively know exactly what to do when the time comes. So, the question then arises, if it is meant to be so natural, why does it feel so unnatural for some mums and babies?
Breastfeeding specialist, Geraldine Miskin shares her advice for new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey.
Remember, you’re doing it for the first time…
We tend to forget that anything that feels natural now, once felt very unnatural. We were very awkward and nervous until we got the hang of it, learnt the ropes and how to navigate little challenges over time, as we became more experienced.
I remember learning to drive in London shortly after arriving from South Africa, how stressful and complicated it felt and how I would get flustered implementing the MSM (mirror; signal; manoeuvre) bit before pulling out. Everything was new, I had no reference point and many times it felt like my instructor was talking a totally different language. Now it feels like second nature and happens so effortlessly, that I barely even noticed myself doing it.
Breastfeeding is very similar, but instead of just you learning the in’s and out’s of breastfeeding, your little one is learning too. Neither of you have done it before. You have no reference of what you’re doing and whether it is working, until you start to get feedback from your baby with regards to weight gain, feeding patterns and general well-being.
When you get to know what to look for, it will give you confidence that you are doing really well, even if it looks or feels different to what you expected.
You don’t really know what to expect…
For many mums, breastfeeding doesn’t start how they imagined it would and this can be disheartening. Maybe it’s a flawed expectation that everything is going to fall into place so easily, that creates unnecessary pressure when it starts out very normally, it feels wrong.
It might also be that when you’re expecting your first little one, there is understandably a lot of focus on the birth and delivering your baby safely, with an assumption that there isn’t much you can do to prepare for breastfeeding. Let’s be honest, the dolls and the knitted boob from your breastfeeding class hardly resemble your breast or baby who has completely lost the plot and is behaving like his/her last feed was weeks ago.
I used to think you’d learn better once baby arrived, until I realised how many practical tricks you can learn in preparation for feeding. Clear, simple and well-timed tips that make your life so much easier to navigate.
Things like knowing how to tell when your baby is swallowing at the breast, rather than just suckling, and how to help baby swallow more to keep baby awake and drain your breast better, can give you so much confidence.
Over the past few years, breastfeeding has become complicated, and many new mums tell me that it feels like you need a degree to get it right and sift through all the research.
That’s why my goal this year is to help as many mums and professionals as possible, go back to basics and work with what you can see, hear and feel.
You can learn your baby’s language
They say that communication is the response you receive, and in many ways, that is the same for breastfeeding. When breastfeeding is going well, you’ll see that your baby is gaining weight well, is doing the right colour and number of wet and dirty nappies, that your breasts and nips feel fine after the feed and that you both get enough time to rest.
When breastfeeding isn’t going well, you’ll get the opposite feedback, and you’ll know that you need to make a few minor changes to get back on track easily.
Starting with the nappy department, you know that your baby is getting enough milk when poos change quickly from black, to green, to brown, to orange, to yellow by day ten.
Your baby will lose between 5-10% of birth weight by day 5 and regain all that lost weight between day 14 – 21. Then your baby will continue to gain roughly 30g/day on average for the first 6-8 weeks.
Whilst you and your little one are learning to breastfeed, be patient with each other and ask for help and guidance. It pays to get professional help. I’d probably still be circling the roundabout if I didn’t have a patient and experienced instructor.
Embrace the feeling of being completely out of your depth and know that it will get better, breastfeeding will get easier and that you can do this when you take one small step at a time. Soon, it will feel completely natural, and you and you’ll soon forget just how awkward it felt to start with.
Geraldine Miskin, is a breastfeeding specialist with over 25 years experience. She offers objective, unbiased and non-judgmental support and information. Providing practical, tried and tested tools to create a positive experience that works for you and your family. Geraldine is based in West London (UK) and also has an international client base. For more information check out https://breastfeedingmadeeasy.co.uk/