One of the main positive points touted about breastfeeding is how easy it is. But at the same time, many people who have breastfed for a short while before switching to formula will say that they found formula feeding to be easier. So, why the stark difference of opinion?
It is usually because the people who stop breastfeeding at an early stage stopped because they were having problems, or because they didn’t have adequate support. The truth is that breastfeeding can be really flippin’ hard at the beginning. However, a lot of the reasons why it can be hard are based on us do-it-all women are making it harder for ourselves.
In this post I am going to lay out a few tips and ideas on how to make the demands of breastfeeding a small baby easier to deal with. I hope some of them are helpful! Please do feel free to comment to share your own ideas.
Don’t Create Extra Work for Yourself at Night
We’ve all read the articles in the mainstream baby magazines and books written by “baby experts” that tell us what we should be doing at night-time with our babies. We follow their advice, and it usually goes a little something like this — Awake to your screaming child. Check the time. Get out of bed. Glare resentfully at soundly sleeping husband. Pick up screaming child and carry to a chair somewhere. Sit down and feed child whilst struggling to stay awake. Change child’s diaper. Attempt to settle child down in its own basket/cot. Fail miserably, and rock child to sleep, all the while feeling guilty about doing so.
Ladies, it doesn’t have to be like this! Why not try it another way — Awake to screaming child. If the child isn’t already in bed with you, bring them in. Check that child hasn’t pooped. Don’t change diaper unless full of poop. Feed child whilst still lying down in bed. Doze contentedly whilst your baby feeds. When feed is finished, either quietly return them to their own sleeping place, or (if you are already bed sharing) simply fall asleep.
Now, doesn’t that sound a lot nicer?
Accept Your New Status
This is probably the hardest challenge that any mother faces, especially one that is solely responsible for nourishing her infant. It is so hard to accept that, for a little while, all your baby is going to do is feed and require constant physical contact. Relinquishing your control over how you spend your time is difficult. But, trust me, it’s a lot easier if you allow yourself to surrender to the changes and try your best to embrace them. For the first 6-8 weeks at least, your baby will want to feed a lot. This can be disheartening, especially when you are surrounded by friends (who perhaps haven’t had much or any breastfeeding experience) who are telling you that their babies only fed every few hours. Breastfed babies do tend to feed more frequently, but there is good reason for this. Babies feed for so many reasons other than hunger — nursing your baby is nurturing your baby physically and emotionally. If your breastfed baby is feeding every couple of hours and for long periods, then perhaps that is exactly what babies are supposed to do. Rest assured in the knowledge that, despite what others may say, your baby is behaving just as nature intended and your consistent nurture and quick response to their needs will show them that they can trust and love with all their might.
Just because you are the sole provider of your baby’s nourishment doesn’t mean that you are responsible for everything. There are a million and one other baby-related tasks that your other half/mother-in-law/older children can help you with that don’t involve feeding. Some of these are listed below:
- Burping — this is a good one to get the hubby involved at night-time. If your baby is the type that requires burping after feeds at night, let them do it. As soon as feeding is finished, hand the baby over to your previously soundly sleeping partner (you will surely enjoy this part!) and go off to sleep yourself!
- Snuggling — I don’t know very many people who don’t enjoy snuggling with a soft, cuddly newborn baby. Once you’ve fed them, hand over to waiting arms and enjoy having yours back for a little while! It is well worth investing in a good wrap sling. You will be able to pop baby in and get on with your day completely hands free. Most babies sleep better and for longer whilst being carried in slings and the constant physical contact will comfort them.
- Changing clothes and diapers — this needs to be done almost as frequently as feeding, and can be a lovely bonding experience.
- Housework and cooking — your primary job at this time must be to focus on looking after yourself and feeding your baby. Tell your possibly-reluctant family that this is the most helpful thing they can do for you at this stage.
- Bathing — this is something the whole family can get involved with, and will provide you with 20 minutes to yourself whilst you let your partner and older children get on with the task at hand.
Breastfeeding is harder than bottlefeeding in some ways, in the early days. Bottle feeding mums, although they have to deal with all of the scrubbing and sterilising of the equipment, are able to leave the baby in other peoples’ care for extended periods of time, and are able to let someone else take charge of night feeds. However, after the initial few weeks of intense need, your baby will settle down. Feeding will become quick and easy. Night time wakings will become less. You will become more efficient at using your time. Those mums who seemed to have it so much easier in the beginning will still be scrubbing and sterilising and making up feeds.