Despite its many benefits — both nutritional and emotional — breastfeeding doesn't just "happen" for all mothers who choose to experience it. For some, it takes a lot of practice, and even more patience, to get it right. Where some can't seem to make it work no matter how much time and effort they invest in nursing, others swear it gets easier once you push through the barriers of discomfort. So, when does breastfeeding become enjoyable? Due to the personal nature of feeding and sustaining another human being with your body, it seems to vary from woman to woman.
According to the Lactation Consultants of Central Florida, breastfeeding becomes easier once the newborn period has passed. That could mean a matter of days for some nursing women, but weeks or even months for others. It takes time, and regular feedings, for a mother's body to produce the milk your baby needs and, as a result of that steady production, becomes capable of supplying enough milk to meet her baby's demand. The more you're breastfeeding through the newborn period, the easier it should become. And the easier it becomes, the more enjoyable it should be.
Another roadblock on the path to breastfeeding enjoyment might involve how long it takes for your milk to come in. The Bump states that while your body starts making breast milk around 33 weeks of pregnancy, the milk your baby needs should come in between the second and fifth day after following your baby's birth. If the milk hasn't arrived, though, or is low in volume, of course breastfeeding is going to feel that much more frustrating for both you and your baby. Today's Parent suggests a few possible reasons your milk might be delayed. Things such as insufficient milk ducts, hormonal or endocrine issues (such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), breast augmentation, previous usage of birth control, medications, and even an issue with your baby's tongue. can all impact how your milk comes in It's best to rule-out all of the aforementioned possibilities before considering a dramatic change in how you feed your baby.
During those early days and weeks or nursing and adjusting to live as a parent, Philippa Pearson-Glaze, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), says the importance of breastfeeding or hand expressing within the first hour after birth, in order to get the milk moving, cannot be overstated. Otherwise, Pearson-Glaze adds, milk production can actually "slow down," which will only make breastfeeding that much more difficult for everyone involved.
Regardless of what your milk supply consists of — be it colostrum, which is the earliest milk, transitional milk that comes after, or the thicker, more filling mature milk — helping your baby practice latching onto the nipple, and enjoying as much skin-to-skin contact as possible, can help improve your breastfeeding sessions. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) adds that the latch shouldn't be painful, and, if it is, consider your posture and maybe use a little nipple cream to aid in cracking. You can also break suction and try to re-latch. If all else fails, a lactation consultant can help find possible solutions so you can enjoy the bonding experience.
If you're still feeling like breastfeeding may never feel like an enjoyable, bonding experience, take a page from Dr. Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach's, pediatrician at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Illinois, book. Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach told The Bump that she, too, became frustrated with breastfeeding her three children for a couple weeks after delivery. "By a few weeks postpartum, the babies and I both got it," she said. Though it might not be two weeks for you, it may feel more enjoyable once you pass the stressful learning curve that is the newborn period and postpartum hormones begin to shift back to normal levels — usually around three or four weeks post-birth.
And if you've continued breastfeeding despite not feeling any joy from it, do a personal inventory to rule out more serious conditions such as postpartum depression (PPD), which can affect breastfeeding, the ability to bond with your new baby, and your overall enjoyment with anything. All that aside, ease up on yourself if you're just not feeling it. Eventually (as long as you're otherwise healthy), something will clique. And if it doesn't, there's no hard and fast rule that says you have to breastfeed your baby. In the end, the only one who knows what's best for you, your body, and your baby, is you.
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