You see the subject lines on online forum posts once in a while: “Sick of breastfeeding” and “Breastfeeding and bored,” where moms candidly share and vent a bit. And it’s true—there are times when breastfeeding is blissful and bonding, and times when breastfeeding is a frustrating puzzle, and yes, there are times when you’re going to be a little tired of it.
It’s a totally normal feeling. “There’s some pressure to feel and act in love with every aspect of being a parent, and a misconception that if you’re not loving every moment, you’re not loving your kids,” says Tiffany Gallagher, a Certified Lactation Counsellor in Minneapolis, MN, who blogs at TheBoobGeek.com. On the other hand, she says, we seem to be growing more comfortable with talking about our feelings around breastfeeding. “This might be because more people are breastfeeding, or maybe we’re feeling the desire to be more ‘real’ with our friends. Some prominent breastfeeding bloggers are vocal about how breastfeeding hasn’t always been rainbows and moonbeams, and I think this resonates with a lot of women.” Here’s what to keep in mind if you’ve got the breastfeeding blahs.
Take care of mom
“Figure out what refills your cup and do that,” says Gallagher. “It sounds trite and simplistic, but fitting in a shower, exercise or cup of tea can work wonders.” And while breastfeeding can be an amazing time for cuddling and intimacy, if baby is utterly focussed on feeding, it’s fine to engage the other side of your brain by reading, watching TV, talking on the phone, going online or listening to music, a podcast or an audiobook, says Gallagher. She does point out some preliminary research that suggests when we use technology like texting, there are physiological changes in mom like shallower breathing and increased heart rate and temperature, and the baby may unconsciously adjust his breathing, heart rate and temperature too. “However, I think that the benefits of connecting with other people or distracting yourself a little when you’ve nursed for the umpteenth time that day can outweigh those changes,” she says. “I imagine that we’re not the first generation of women to spend time multitasking while breastfeeding!”
Alida Quittschreibe, who blogs at TheRealisticMama.com, wrote a popular post about avoiding “breastfeeding burnout” when her daughter, now one, was six months old. “I needed to remember to breathe and take some me-time, just a simple thing like a shower, reading my favorite book, hopping on Facebook and chatting with a friend.”
Enlist the power of dad
Jennifer Abbass Dick is an assistant professor in the faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. She researches the role of dads in support breastfeeding—an interest she developed during her 15 years working as a registered nurse and lactation consultant. “The literature supports the importance of involving fathers in breastfeeding education and support,” she says. “Fathers who had positive attitudes towards breastfeeding greatly impacted breastfeeding success, and those who had negative attitudes often had babies who were not breastfed, or supplemented more and weaned earlier.”
Her own study, published in the December 2014 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, found that a “coparenting” approach—that is, a couple working together to achieve their goals—increased breastfeeding duration, and moms reported satisfaction with their partner’s involvement, help and support.
This approach means that a breastfeeding course or lactation consultant appointment is not a woman-only thing. “Fathers can be involved in a number of ways, such as monitoring the baby’s wet and dirty diapers to making sure the baby is getting enough, assisting with positioning and ensuring mom is comfortable with feeds, problem solving and finding community resources should issues arise,” says Abbass Dick.
Not surprisingly, communication is key. “It’s important to listen to mothers and find out what they think needs to be done to make their lives easier while breastfeeding. Family and friends should value the work the mother is doing and praise her for her efforts,” she says, “Breastfeeding is a big, important job and mothers deserve a lot of credit for doing such essential work.”
Squeeze in more sleep
Looking to outsource a feed so you can get five hours of sleep in a row? That’s a tricky one. Gallagher points out that breast milk is driven by demand and supply: if you’re regularly sleeping longer than your baby at night, and not pumping to replace that feeding at the breast, your milk supply will go down and you will either need to work hard to bring it back up, or feed your baby formula to replace it. “Skipping a nighttime feed once a week will probably not have a huge impact if breastfeeding is going well, but there are potential risks—not just decreasing supply, but plugged ducts and mastitis as well. Lactation consultants (IBCLCs) can help you figure out good strategies for dealing with breastfeeding and sleep.”
Gallagher adds that research shows that breastfeeding moms do in fact get overall more sleep than moms who bottle feed—perhaps because prepping a bottle of formula wakes you up more than breastfeeding in low light. Some couples find that if dad gets up a few times a week to bring the baby to mom for a night feed, and handles any burping or diaper changes, mom can more easily fall back asleep.
Remind yourself of your goals
It helps to remember why you want to breastfeed. “I knew I wanted to breastfeed for at least a year, because of the all the health benefits for my baby,” says Quittschreiber. “ That helped me not give up in the beginning because I knew the long term was worth it.” Posting Gretchen Rubin’s quote— “the days are long but the years are short”—on the fridge has helped more than one frazzled mom!
While it’s important to carve out a little time just for yourself, chances are you also crave some time with other family members too, where you can focus just on your relationship with them. Maybe this means having your baby hang out a bit with a trusted friend or relative so you and your partner can get some alone time, or you can have uninterrupted time with your older children. “Establishing a network of people who can help you—and actually using that network when you need it—will make you feel better and make others feel better because they’re doing something helpful,” says Gallagher. Breastfeeding is not a solo mission!
Source: Breastfeeding facts
Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis is a Professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto and holds a Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Community Health.