About the author: Suhayla is one of the primary content creators and contributors for the MMM team. When she’s not writing for us, she’s busy being a Mama to two young children and also is a pharmacist in one of London’s NHS Trusts. She particularly enjoys writing about Islamic parenting, promoting wellbeing for mums and is an advocate for breastfeeding, after a challenging journey with her first. Want to reach out? Send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The reality of breastfeeding is a topic that is not spoken about enough. It’s usually one that is brushed under the carpet with no one really giving you the honest truth about its challenges. Why we wonder? Islamically speaking, breastfeeding comes highly recommended so surely we should be doing everything we can to empower our fellow Mamas on this right?
Well here at MMM, we want to make that happen for you. So here come the sometimes ugly and often untold truths about breastfeeding, first hand from mamas that have struggled, felt like giving up, and had it tough.
The Ten Untold Truths of Pregnancy: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
1. It’s definitely not overrated
There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, so if this is the option you choose to select to feed your baby go with your gut and trust in yourself. If you are passionate about it, one thing we will say is stick with it and inshAllah it does get easier. Having said this, your mental health trumps it all and so if it’s getting to a point where it is affecting you, remember happy mum = happy baby.
2. It’s exhausting especially at first
Feeding a newborn at least 8 times every 24 hours is exhausting and this number is usually higher in the first few weeks for breastfed babies because they seek comfort in nursing. Coupling that with your husband not being able to help or pick up any of the night feeds makes for a very exhausted mum. Trying to rest and sleep when the baby sleeps will help you to make life a bit easier for yourself and we promise as the baba grows it does get easier.
3. Milk supply doesn’t go from zero to hero overnight (or vice versa)
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just wake up one morning with a plentiful supply of milk (well most of us don’t anyway). Milk supply needs to be built and this is done on a supply and demand basis, hence why those first weeks are crucial. The more baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. Believe that you can make enough milk even if you can’t see it; hydrate yourself, skin to skin and dedicate those weeks to the cause.
4. More often than not it is difficult to establish
The first few weeks can be quite intense, especially if nursing doesn’t start off on the right foot. With regular weigh-ins and monitoring, it can all be quite worrying. The potential issues are endless; sore nipples due to a poor latch, tongue tie (which is more common than most people realise), and mastitis (infection of the milk ducts in the breast). Try not to be discouraged if it’s tough at first, you definitely aren’t alone – being prepared for what may come is a good way to help yourself, so that if you want to breastfeed you will inshAllah be successful.
MMM Tip: Before you give birth, find a friend who’s been through the experience – someone you trust and can be honest with. When the time comes, having someone who you can call upon can be a really valuable support – both mentally and also for advice.
5. It’s not always easy to get the help you need, when you need it
Whilst the healthcare services are great and offer lots of support postnatally for new mums, it is often difficult to find the right help for you when you need it (usually in the middle of the night). Moreover, when you are in the thick of it, it’s usually the type of situation where you want help now or on the same day (remember 8 feeds a day!).
Breastfeeding isn’t a science and every health visitor and midwife you come across may tell you something different. Mixed opinions can be stressful and confusing at the best of times, but are especially challenging when you’re hormonally high strung. Remember that with breastfeeding, there is no one right way – a lot of it is trial and error. You may have to try many different positions to find which works best for you or need to pump to build up your supply if the baby is struggling with their latch. Don’t be afraid to ask to be referred to your local lactation consultant as soon as possible – they are the best resource available for breastfeeding support.
6. It can actually feel like the most unnatural thing you’ve ever done
It really depends on you and your experience. For women who are larger chested, the idea of feeding in public can be terrifying and completely unnatural. It’s hard getting the right position so you don’t worry about suffocating your newborn and it’s not all fun and games when you have a living being attached to you for a lot of the day. It’s okay to feel like this, a lot of Mamas do. Equally, it’s amazing if you do find it to be the most natural experience of your life. No one’s judging here.
7. It’s not always easier than formula feeding (especially at first)
We’ve all heard the ‘myths’ that formula fed babies sleep better. Although not scientifically proven, there may well be some truth in this linked to the amount of milk we feed babies when giving them a bottle; effectively we control their appetite when we bottle feed, however when breastfed they control their own appetite.
In those first few months, it may seem like formula feeding would be a lot easier however once established most mums will vouch that breastfeeding is hassle-free in so many ways (less washing up, less equipment needed, and less disruptive to sleep in the middle of the night). However, for those of us who like to be in control, formula feeding might always seem like it’s the easier option.
8. It’s okay to not enjoy it
We’re all human and we’re all different. Some mothers will love the breastfeeding journey from start to finish, for others it may be less their thing. That’s okay. This is your journey – don’t ever feel pressured into having to feel or think a certain way – do your best and inshAllah Allah (SWT) will reward you for your efforts.
9. It can get messy
Leaky boobs are a thing. They’re real and they’re annoying. Having said that, they don’t affect everyone so you may be one of the lucky ones. Rest assured that with time and milk supply regulating, this tends to wean off (pardon the pun!). In the meantime investing in some nursing pads will prevent any embarrassing encounters.
10. Every breastfeeding experience is individual and every baby is different
Some babies will feed endlessly for comfort, whilst others will only nurse for 3 minutes and be done. Some will latch on themselves, whilst others will need a guide throughout their breastfeeding journey. Some are biters, whilst others prefer to scratch your arm off whilst they feed. One thing we can guarantee is that with each baby you will learn and your confidence will inshAllah prepare you for all eventualities.
Ultimately, breastfeeding is a journey – it will have its highs and its lows. Many women that choose to breastfeed really love the experience (eventually) and we hope that this aspect of your motherhood is everything you want it to be.
What were your highs and lows? Let us know in the comments below.