When I first attempted breastfeeding it wasn't the most natural thing in the world. Every session was a struggle for all involved. In fact, I stressed about breastfeeding my baby so much each consecutive session became less and less desirable. It wasn't until I threw in the proverbial breastfeeding towel that I realized my anxiety was being fed by all the normal things all breastfeeding moms panic about. In other words, there wasn't anything "wrong" with me when I was feeling so overwhelmed and frustrated and lost.
My breastfeeding panic began in the hospital just after delivery. In those early hours with my newborn on my chest, the nurses suggested I try to breastfeed. With all eyes on me, I couldn't help but feel anxious. That initial feeling only snowballed with every additional feeding, and nothing about breastfeeding felt "right" to me. What I was experiencing isn't what I had envisioned, so I panicked. I was afraid I was doing it wrong, afraid my newborn daughter wouldn't get any milk due to her incorrect latch (she didn't), and terrified I'd failed. I'd only been a mother a few hours and it felt as though I already let my child down.
Over time, unfortunately, things didn't improve. I had a seasoned lactation consultant, but by then I was too stressed and depressed to let my dream of breastfeeding kill the relationship with my child any longer. Thus, I reluctantly went to the bottle and continued pumping the little bit of milk I had available. I panicked about every part of the feeding process, and never felt OK until my bottle-fed baby was happy and healthy. So, with that in mind, here's some other totally normal things breastfeeding moms panic about. Don't worry, moms. I promise, this too shall pass. Eventually.
How Unnatural It Feels
As I mentioned, breastfeeding for me was an awful, stress-inducing experience from the very beginning. Some women overcome that initial feeling of discomfort (if they feel it at all), some don't but continue trying, and I, ultimately, had to stop altogether. The panic was too much for me, and it caused my baby to stress out, too. I didn't want that.
Now I know I wasn't doing anything wrong and nothing is or was wrong with me. For some of us, breastfeeding just doesn't and never will feel "natural."
The Baby's Inability To Latch
Maybe my expectations were set too high before I actually had my baby, but when my daughter couldn't figure out how to latch my panic increased. All the rooting, then not grabbing ahold when her lips would find the right places, frustrated me. Session after session, day after day, this continued despite all the efforts to guide her towards the breast milk. I became so anxious the longer this went on, I dreaded feeding her — I hated it, actually. This, too, is normal, and while I thought she and I had to endure this for the long haul, our relationship improved once we went to the bottle.
Low, Or No, Milk Supply
Along with the latching issues, it's also quite normal for milk to take its sweet time coming in and even if you're enjoying frequent feedings.
Initially, a newborn feeds off the first sign of milk (colostrum) but will still need the real deal soon after. My breast milk just didn't feel like coming in, and when it finally did it arrived in very small amounts. It wasn't enough to sustain my girl, causing me to panic, us to have more difficulty breastfeeding the next time, and finally, supplementing with formula that was mixed with pumped breast milk. Every part of this is normal and OK — breastfeeding isn't for everyone.
I heard, repeatedly, that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. Still, every time I tried to feed my daughter with my body I was in pain. I'd break the suction and try to reposition, but it never felt less than agonizing. It's normal to freak out about the pain, and normal to question whether or not it's worth it. Hell, I did both.
When I endured all the pain and discomfort, my immediate thought was that something was wrong with me. What could've been the start of mastitis turned out to be an issue with the milk supply itself. It's definitely normal to worry things aren't quite right, and even more so to get it checked out. You know, just in case. It might mean having to go to the bottle (like I had to), but that's better than getting a massive infection that puts me, or anyone else, in the hospital.
Ugh. The swollen breast issue wasn't the end of the world, but I panicked whenever it happened nonetheless. It was so uncomfortable, and whenever I was engorged I couldn't help but feel as if my swollen boobs were all anyone could look at. I would end up cranky, anxious, and paranoid of any whispering (because obviously it was about me, right?).
I absolutely was not prepared when I experienced my first public leakage. The sudden saturation of my shirt in a crowded space gave me a massive panic attack. I wanted to run far, far away and hide under a big blanket. Yes, it's natural. Yes, it's normal. But oh my god no I never thought about it happening before delivery.
After that day, I never left home without piles of leak pads stuffed inside my nursing bras, in hopes of regaining some kind of dignity back. I've learned since, as a new mom, it'll be a long time before that ever happens.