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Is Breastfeeding instinctual or a Learned Skill?

This article delves into personal experiences, the impact of postpartum depression, and practical tips for navigating this “natural” aspect of motherhood. Grab a glass of wine and join me as I share my story and insights on breastfeeding.

Capitoline Wolf
Now I imagine my face looked like hers when I was trying to breastfeed my daughter.

Interesting how something that seems so natural as pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding can feel so difficult. At least, pregnant women tend to hear a lot, about how natural is everything from pregnancy to taking care of your newborn. And then, when your baby arrives, you feel like a complete failure because you have no idea what to do… It takes a village to raise a child and it is mostly true. However, we’re going to talk about the “village” some other time. This article is going to disclose my memories and experiences with one particular “completely natural” aspect of maternity – breastfeeding! You may need a glass of wine if you’re too susceptible or a cup of herbal tea if you breastfeed and can’t drink alcohol.

My breasts were not always this sensitive. They got sensitive during pregnancy and super sensitive after birth. Now I understand my mom when she had that painful expression on her face when I would horse around as a child and would kick her in her bosom. Or when she remembered how she experienced breastfeeding… I couldn’t even imagine how painful breastfeeding can be!

The first time was ok, but the second one, the third one, and the fourth… It felt like thousands of needles were punching me through the nipples and reaching my brain. My tiny human was ruthless. She was hungry and I thought at that moment that she had a black hole instead of a stomach.

A newborn’s stomach is incredibly small though, roughly the size of a cherry on the first day, which can only hold about 5-7 milliliters of milk. By the third day, it grows to the size of a walnut, accommodating 22-27 milliliters. By day ten, it reaches the size of a large egg, capable of holding 60-81 milliliters. This rapid growth requires frequent feedings to meet the baby’s nutritional needs.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Depression and Milk Supply

Unfortunately for me, I began to feel signs of baby blues and postpartum depression right after I gave birth. Anxiety, feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and bitter conscience that I’m no longer my own master settled in my mind even though my husband was with me during the labor and after it. My brain shut down and I think that was the main reason I was unable to produce enough colostrum and then milk for my baby even though I tried to breastfeed and pump. I couldn’t bear the pain and it didn’t get better even though it should get better as I was told.

Breastfeeding can be painful, especially in the beginning. Many mothers experience sore nipples and discomfort as they and their babies learn the process. The pain usually diminishes after the first few weeks as both the mother and baby become more accustomed to breastfeeding. Proper latch techniques, nipple creams, and seeking advice from lactation consultants can help alleviate pain. However, if the pain persists beyond a few weeks, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider as there may be underlying issues such as infections or improper latching.

Here are some devices you can use to make breastfeeding less painful and simpler in the beginning. I have created a list of these products that you can find here.

The whole first month I was torn between the desire to stop this torture and rational thoughts about how beneficial breastfeeding is for the baby.

I stopped trying after I spoke with my Hebamme (Hebamme is the German word for midwife, a professional trained to support women through pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period) and my psychiatrist. They both convinced after all me that I was not a terrible mother, that my baby would be fine and healthy even being fed formula, and that I should stop torturing myself both physically and mentally. At this stage, I have been diagnosed with postpartum depression, and accepting this difficult decision made my condition a little bit better.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Postpartum depression can cause significant difficulties with breastfeeding. Symptoms such as severe fatigue, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness can impact a mother’s ability to produce milk and engage in regular breastfeeding sessions. The stress and emotional strain associated with postpartum depression can lead to reduced milk supply and difficulties with the baby’s latch. It’s essential for mothers experiencing these symptoms to seek professional help, as addressing mental health is crucial for both the mother’s and the baby’s well-being.

If you wish to re-establish breastfeeding, several methods can be effective. Using a breast pump regularly can help stimulate milk production. Medications like Piulatte, which are herbal supplements designed to support lactation, can be beneficial. Additionally, maintaining skin-to-skin contact with your baby and allowing them to nurse frequently can encourage milk supply. Consulting with a lactation consultant for personalized advice and techniques is also highly recommended. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary to increase milk production. Persistence, support, and patience are key when attempting to re-establish breastfeeding.

All in all, breastfeeding is quite a journey. It was a very turbulent time for me due to my depression. I can imagine that many mothers experience breastfeeding as something very natural; something that brings them closer to their child. Unfortunately, it was not my case but I still think that if you want to breastfeed, this is the best thing you can do for your baby and you. Take care of yourself and good luck!

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