5 Things New Mothers Fear About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is so much more of a learning process than it’s made out to be.

There can be a lot to fear about breastfeeding for a woman who has never done it before.  In fact, so many women expect it to happen naturally and instinctively that, when it doesn’t, they are left feeling inadequate.  And while there is nothing wrong with having to supplement or formula feed instead, being unable to breastfeed can be heartbreaking for many women who were determined to do it.

Even a mother who has breastfed a previous child has fears about doing it again.  Each child latches differently and has their own feeding preferences and habits.  Breasts also go through changes with each pregnancy and round of breastfeeding.  The most seasoned breastfeeding mom may still have concerns, or run into problems that she has never encountered before.

It’s perfectly normal to experience different levels of fear about breastfeeding.  Here are some common ones that many mothers experience.

Things New Moms Fear About Breastfeeding
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


Fear of Not Producing Enough

This is probably the most common fear about breastfeeding.  Unlike formula/bottle feeding, there is no way to precisely measure how much milk baby is getting.  This requires moms to monitor things like diapers and weight gain to ensure baby is getting enough.  That can be a tough task for a new mom who isn’t quite sure how much is normal. [Download a free printable feeding and diaper tracker from Milkology]

If moms are really concerned, they may resort to pumping their breast milk and bottle feeding it to baby.  But they need to be aware that the amount of breast milk pumped out is not equivalent to the amount that baby can drink straight from the breast.  Even the best breast pumps are not nearly as effective as a well-latched baby.

Another factor that contributes to the fear of not producing enough milk is baby’s eating pattern.  Cluster feeding, which is totally normal in newborns, can make a mother believe that baby isn’t getting enough and is therefore continuously hungry.  Not getting enough hind milk can also cause a baby to feed more often than usual, and not an indication of a low supply.

There are several ways to increase milk supply naturally.  Stress about not having enough can actually hinder the production of breast milk.

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Fear of Pain

A common myth is that it shouldn’t hurt if you are doing it correctly – but even with the proper latch, it can still feel uncomfortable.  The pain does lessen over time, but sore nipples are almost unavoidable for the first few months.  Many new mothers hear painful horror stories and develop a strong fear about breastfeeding.

There are several conditions that can cause pain during breastfeeding:

An incorrect latch

An oversupply or forceful letdown

A clogged milk duct

Blisters

A teething/biting baby

Engorgement

Thrush

Mastitis

It can be difficult to tell the difference between pain caused by a problem and normal soreness caused by breastfeeding.  Here’s a great article from KellyMom about breastfeeding pain, but the best way to know for certain is to get the help of a certified lactation consultant.

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Fear of Breastfeeding in Public

It’s every woman’s legal right to breastfeed their baby in public, but that doesn’t mean that every woman will want to.  The lack of privacy that comes along with breastfeeding is something that can cause a lot of fear and anxiety for new mothers.  It can even cause latching problems because a mother feels uncomfortable and vulnerable feeding in public.

The first few days after birth can be the most overwhelming for a new mother learning to breastfeed.  For a person who has likely never had their breasts exposed to strangers before, there will suddenly be all kinds of interest in them.  Nurses, midwifes, lactation consultants will all want to watch as you latch the baby.  They may even hold or touch your breasts in an effort to help you get into the right position or correct the latch.  Even well-meaning relatives may try to help, not realizing that their presence is causing you stress.  With a steady stream of visitors lining up to see the new baby, it can be difficult to find enough privacy to focus on breastfeeding correctly.

There are also more and more stories circulating about women being shamed for breastfeeding in public.  No matter how discreetly you do it, or how well you know your rights, the fear of being confronted can cause a lot of unwanted anxiety.  Some women resort to pumping and taking bottles when they go out, but pumping breast milk is so much more work that it often discourages mothers from long-term or exclusive breastfeeding.

We all want to be those brave mothers who nurse in public and tell strangers to mind their own business.  But the reality is, when it comes down to it – we end up feeding our babies in a bathroom stall instead because the fear about breastfeeding in public is real!

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Fear of the Unknown

Breastfeeding is a learning process.  There’s a reason why there are entire careers dedicated to the skill of lactation.  Thousands of years ago, women were taught to breastfeed by their mothers who learned from their mothers before them.  If a woman could not breastfeed their child likely died, so it was a matter of life and death.  Thankfully, we have the luxury not to worry about that anymore.  However, that also means that breastfeeding correctly isn’t as high of a priority now.

Being educated about breastfeeding is not just a necessity, it’s our right.  We have so much knowledge available to us that it makes no sense to go about it blindly and expect it just to happen automatically.  We fear things that we know nothing about.  The only way to defeat that fear is to get educated.

Learning about breastfeeding doesn’t have to be complicated and involve tons of research.  Nor does it always mean having to get help from a professional.  There are several resources available that have done all the hard work and research already, such as The Breastfeeding Handbook from Mom Smart Not Hard.  It’s only $9 and includes a ton of information and printables.  It is designed to help you gain the most amount of knowledge, in the shortest amount of time.

If you’re more of a visual person, then there are courses like Milkology which has tons of pictures and instructional videos.  At only $19, it’s quite affordable compared to other lactation courses.  And the best part about online courses or e-books is that they can be accessed so conveniently and privately, that there’s really no excuse why anyone couldn’t do it.

Knowing what to expect and how to handle problems as they arise can help to reduce a new mother’s fear about breastfeeding.

Milkology
Milkology Online Breastfeeding Course

Fear of Stopping

There is so much pressure on mothers to breastfeed that the fear of NOT breastfeeding can cause a lot of stress.  That stress in itself can cause all kinds of breastfeeding problems.  Many mothers don’t get the support they need to breastfeed and end up unsuccessful.  But even doing everything right isn’t a guarantee of success.  Some women try everything possible to breastfeed, and are still unable to produce enough milk.

The fear of quitting breastfeeding and switching to formula can cause mothers to continue doing it despite the pain and stress.   They might worry that they will be less of a mother if they are unable to breastfeed.  Perhaps they are worried about letting down their spouse or feel disappointed in themselves.  There is also the additional costs associated with formula feeding that can add financial stress.

The women who are successful at breastfeeding may worry about weaning their baby.  If they need to go back to work or need to leave baby for an extended period of time, there is the worry that baby will not settle without nursing or won’t take a bottle.  Some mothers might worry that their baby will want to wean suddenly, before they are ready to give it up.

Mothers shouldn’t feel guilty or afraid to stop breastfeeding as long as they are doing what is best for themselves and their babies.  A fed, happy and healthy baby will result in a happier, less stressed out mom.  And the mental health benefits of that are much more important than those of breastfeeding.

Running in Triangles Postpartum Depression Survival Guide .

Some mothers experience a higher level of fear about breastfeeding than they do about childbirth.  When you consider all the pressure there is to do it plus the stigma that still exists about doing it in public, it’s no wonder why.  The best way that mothers can get over their fears is to learn everything they can about it and know where to turn if they need help.  With the right support and tools, breastfeeding can be an enjoyable experience, instead of one to fear.


How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

Many women with postpartum depression report struggling to breastfeed, or at least feeling that extra pressure to do so.

It’s hard to know for certain whether breastfeeding problems cause postpartum depression symptoms or if symptoms of postpartum depression are making it difficult to breastfeed.  It could be a combination of both.

Either way, breastfeeding takes some work.  For a mother with postpartum depression, it’s just another aspect of motherhood that can contribute to more stress, added pressure, and self-doubt.

Here are some tips for mothers who are, or who might be, concerned about breastfeeding with postpartum depression.

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


Do Your Research

Don’t expect breastfeeding to come naturally to you and baby.  Sometimes it does, but don’t expect it to.  Breastfeeding may have come naturally to our ancestors hundreds of years ago when life was simpler, but if we want to be successful at it now, then we need to do some research.

The best time to do that research is while still pregnant, since the first few days of breastfeeding are the toughest.  If you’ve enrolled in a birthing class, it’s likely they will cover breastfeeding as well.  Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can think of and take detailed notes.  You never know which aspect of breastfeeding you might struggle with.

Being prepared for any breastfeeding setbacks can help you handle problems better if you end up suffering from postpartum depression.

If you’re already breastfeeding with postpartum depression, it’s never too late to research ways to improve your experience.  There are plenty of resources available to help you.

A postpartum doula is a great option to consider if you’re worried about breastfeeding.  They are trained to help mothers breastfeed successfully and can help you get enough rest and proper nutrition after giving birth, which is important for milk production.

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Recommended Resources:

Milkologyan online breastfeeding class that offers tons of information for all the different stages of breastfeeding.

Mom Smart Not Hard this site has some really specific breastfeeding articles.  I also recommend taking their Free 5 Day Breastfeeding Course and downloading the Breastfeeding Handbook to use as a reference when you’re offline.

KellyMomthe ultimate online breastfeeding resource.  You can find articles about basically every single breastfeeding situation and/or question you could possibly have.

ABCKidsinc– a great collection of articles about all things breastfeeding.  Includes common questions about health, diet, medications and products.

The Womanly Art of BreastfeedingThis book from the La Leche League is a breastfeeding bestseller for a reason.  You can read it while pregnant and keep it on hand as a quick resource when and if situations arise.

For more resources, check out this post from The Merry Momma – An Epic List of Breastfeeding Tips and Resources


Learn About D-MER

Also known as Dysphoric Milk Ejection ReflexD-MER is a newer breastfeeding condition that often gets confused as a symptom of postpartum depression.  It is characterized by feelings of anxiety, sadness, panic, dread or loneliness that are brought on during letdown.

It is important to note that D-MER is NOT a symptom of postpartum depression, although it is triggered by a change in hormone levels.  The “dysphoric” state that it causes is purely a physiological response to the sudden drop in dopamine levels required to increase milk-producing prolactin.  In other words – a chemical imbalance.

Women with D-MER can also suffer from postpartum depression, which can add to the confusion and increase aversion to breastfeeding.  Simply recognizing the unpleasant feelings as a physiological response, as opposed to a psychological condition, can make a huge difference.

[Related Reading: A Condition Called D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad]

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Start Off Right

There is one epic moment after you have a baby that opens the door for breastfeeding success.  What you do in this moment will set the pace for your breastfeeding journey.  I’m talking about when your milk comes in.

Up until your milk comes in, baby has just been “suckling” and they haven’t really been “feeding” on much other than colustrum (still super important, though).  And then one morning, you wake up with boulders on your chest, pain up to your armpits and a soaked t-shirt and have more milk than you know what to do with.

How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression
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The most important things to focus on when your milk comes in are:

Proper Latching

It will be difficult to latch a baby onto an extremely full breast.  The nipple can flatten or invert, and squeezing the breast to get it into baby’s mouth can be incredibly painful.  Using breast shells was a lifesaver for me during engorgement.

Here’s a helpful infographic about getting the right latch from The Milk Memoirs.

Hind Milk

With extremely full breasts, there is a lot of watery fore milk at the front, and the rich, fattier hind milk at the back of the breast.  You want to make sure that baby is getting enough of the fattier hind milk before they get full.  Otherwise, you can end up with greenish poops and red bums, along with other problems.  The breast compression technique is the best way to ensure baby is getting the good stuff.

[Related Reading: How, When, and Why to Do Breast Compression]

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Clogged Milk Ducts

The name says it all and the last thing you want to end up with is a swollen, red clogged milk duct.  If left untreated, it can lead to mastitis.  Thankfully there are lots of easy remedies to help loosen up a blocked duct.

Regulating Milk Supply

It might be tempting to pump out all that extra milk, but the best thing you can do is just feed, feed, feed.  Baby may go through a cluster feeding phase when your milk comes in so just lay in bed and feed baby all day long if you need to.  Feeding on demand will help to regulate your milk supply so that your body will learn to produce exactly the right amount of milk for your baby’s needs.

Nursing Positions

Once you have an adequate supply of milk, you should start experimenting with different nursing positions.  A football hold is great for managing those XL sized engorged breasts.  Lying back can be helpful if you have a forceful letdown.  Side-Lying is always a popular option for night feedings or to get through cluster feeding sessions.  You can even try nursing with baby in a baby carrier.

[Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding Positions]

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Reduce Stress While Nursing

Stress is the number one killer of a good milk supply.  Stressing out about whether or not you’re producing enough milk is the last thing you should do.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety and feel like it is impacting your milk supply, try to find ways to calm yourself down during feedings.

For more advice on handling and reducing stress, you can find a variety of articles on Better Help – https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/stress/

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Some Suggestions:

Listen to musicput on your favorite playlist.

Aromatherapydiffuse some essential oils, check out the mood collection from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Practice Deep Breathingyoga and meditation can help you to clear your mind completely.  Try to use slow, deep breaths while you feed baby.

Nurse while in the bathnursing your baby (or pumping) while sitting in a warm bath can help your body and mind relax enough to let the milk flow effortlessly.

Watch TVdistract yourself with a good show or movie.

Read a Book or Magazineor use an e-reader or tablet.

Look at old picturesMake an album filled with pictures of happier times and loved ones. (I love these customizable photo albums from Mixbook)

Get Comfortablefind the most comfortable spot in your home to nurse baby and make sure everything you need are within arms reach.  If you’re out in public, do whatever makes you most comfortable – whether it’s nursing with or without a nursing cover.  

Cry it Outcrying is a way to release stress and built-up tension, not always a sign of despair.

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Support vs. Pressure

Women with postpartum depression are extra sensitive to criticism, because they already feel like failures themselves.  They often mistake breastfeeding support as pressure to breastfeed.  I have heard many women with postpartum depression say they felt they would let their partner down if they could not breastfeed.

The truth is, your partner likely doesn’t care as much about breastfeeding as you do.  They want what’s best for the baby, and if they’ve done as much research as you have, they also feel the pressure for breastfeeding to succeed.  But they don’t feel the emotional urge like you do.  They don’t understand what a total body experience it is.

What they do care about most, is you.  They don’t want you to be miserable and in pain simply to breastfeeding.  They will never think of you as a failure for not being able to breastfeed.

If they truly support you, then they will stand by you no matter what decision you make.  And if your partner’s opinions about breastfeeding are causing you unwanted stress, it’s important to tell them, because they may not realize how much it’s affecting you.

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Treatment Options While Breastfeeding

Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.  I wasn’t given the option to take anti-depressants while I was breastfeeding, but I’ve heard that there are several safe options now.  Prescription anti-depressants are not the only option, either.

Therapy is a great option for breastfeeding with postpartum depression.  There are different types of therapy available, including cognitive behavior therapy, support groups or couples therapy.  Online counseling is available through BetterHelp.com.

There are several different herbs, supplements, vitamins, and minerals that have been known to improve symptoms of depression.  If you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend this e-book and treatment plan to learn more about which ones are best for you.

Acupuncture has also been known to help with symptoms of postpartum depression, but make sure to indicate that you are also breastfeeding.

Don’t feel like treatment is out of the question for you if you are breastfeeding with postpartum depression, it’s important to know all your options. 

Online Therapy
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Giving Up IS An Option

Choosing to stop breastfeeding will NOT make you a bad mother.  Yes, we know that breast is best, and that there are so many benefits to breastfeeding.  But at what cost?

When we weigh out the risks vs. the benefits, your mental health is one hundred times more important than the benefits of breastfeeding. 

There are so many advanced options for formula feeding that your baby will never be at a disadvantage.  In fact, they’ll grow up into junk food addicts just like every other kid.  One day, you will watch your toddler eat dirt in the backyard and wonder why you ever stressed out about breastfeeding.

It’s alright to feel guilty for not breastfeeding, but there are so many other ways to bond with, and provide for, your baby.  You will only be able to do those things if you focus on your mental health so that you can be there for them completely.

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My own personal experience of breastfeeding with postpartum depression was actually a pleasant one.  Knowing that my daughter needed me for her survival was what kept me going.  As much as I despised doing it at the time, especially the night time feedings, I realize now that it’s what saved me from detaching from her completely.

No matter what your experience is like, or what choices you make for your baby, remember that your mental health and physical well-being are just as important as theirs.

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression

How to Ensure Successful Breastfeeding with Postpartum Depression