This is what I would have wanted government and NHS, Breasfeeding Network and NCT, midwives and friends to say before my son was born:
Breastmilk is amazing. It tastes different every time, depending on what you have eaten. It contains all sorts of vital antibodies and nutrients, especially tailored to your baby. It changes as your baby grows up, adjusting to his or her needs at every stage. You can keep it at room temperature for up to 6 hours, because of its antibacterial properties. It is free. It is always at the right temperature. It doesn’t require any preparation or washing up. Babies and mothers were designed for breastfeeding, it is your baby’s natural source of food, it is what breasts are for.
It is natural, but not easy.
You will struggle in the beginning. You and your baby are both beginners. You have to learn to latch the baby on properly, and when you make mistakes, which is natural when you are learning a new skill, it will hurt and you may end up with very sore, even damaged and bleeding nipples for a while. This could sort itself out within a week or so, or it could take a month or two or three or more.You will probably have times when you are stressed beyond belief by feeding your baby. You might be in pain, worried about whether the baby is getting enough, dreading every feed.
All this will pass. It will. It won’t feel like it, but it will. Your baby’s mouth is only small, but it will grow and then latching on will be easier. You will both learn how to do it, and it will become second nature until you can feed while walking around and drinking a glass of water. It will be easier, hopefully painless and it will become something special between you and your baby, as well as just being an excellent portable source of food for him or her.
So persevere, because it is so worth it, and Get. Help. There is plenty of free support out there. Make use of it. Go to support groups and baby cafes. Meeting with experts and other mums going through the same thing helps keep you going.
This is the true story of breastfeeding. The smiling, idyllic pictures are only half of that story and raise expectations that are not usually met. If you want women to try breastfeeding and keep at it, they need to hear how hard it can be, but also that they will get through it and that there is help to be found.