Lactation Guru Breaks Breastfeeding Mental Blocks with Expert Advice
As most first-time mums know all too well, expectation rarely lines up perfectly with reality. On the topic of breastfeeding, even veteran mums may get blindsided when the times comes for them to ‘free the nipple’. Suddenly, experience means less than getting into the right head space.
Nurse Manager at Subang Jaya Medical Centre, Ms. Lim Lay Lee, is all too familiar with this scenario. In true Motherhood style, we sat down with the lactation counsellor to pick her brain about breastfeeding mental prep.
Breastfeeding Battle Plan
Many expectant mums tend to prepare for seemingly everything: nursery prep, maternity wear and cute onesies shopping. But then the baby comes and suddenly the only thing they should have prepared for comes into play: breastfeeding.
When asked about the importance of mental preparedness before breastfeeding, Ms Lim says true success lies in knowing their bodies inside out, and not reaching for the stars. Setbacks are inevitable, so have a battle plan to confront any challenges that may arise.
Despite the natural expectation of breastfeeding, it is not as simple as it may appear in books or imagination; rather, it is a skill that both mother and baby need to learn. New parents especially are the ones who experience this lack-of-preparedness the most.
The secret recipe for a successful breastfeeding journey requires multiple ingredients. Namely, effort, time, practice, sacrifices, perseverance, motivation, and support.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, says Ms Lim. There is no denying the physical and emotional toll that motherhood takes on women.
From the sleepless nights of pregnancy to the labours of childbirth, the mental pressure only builds up. Ms Lim stresses on the importance of joining antenatal and breastfeeding classes as well as trusting the wisdom of experts: from lactation consultants to healthcare professionals alike.
But one should not overlook the insight of loved ones either. Friends and family members who have been there and done that can offer valuable advice to help you in your preparation and readiness.
According to Ms Lim, understanding the needs and quirks of your babies is also important when breastfeeding. “It is important to remember that every baby is different, so giving yourself time to understand and bond with your baby is crucial in this journey,” she stresses.
According to Ms Lim Lay Lee, understanding the needs and quirks of your babies is also important when breastfeeding.
Mind Over Milk
Out of all the cruel games that our minds play on us, stress is one all-nursing mums should be most wary of. Ms Lim shares that maternal stress and anxiety can trigger the release of adrenaline, which interferes with the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the let-down reflex. This interference can affect breastfeeding by hindering the milk flow.
“Anxiety can diminish a mother’s self-esteem, cause distress, and potentially disrupt the bond between mother and infant, ultimately impairing breastfeeding outcomes,” says Ms Lim.
Fortunately, the opposite is true. A calm, happy mind helps a mother’s body produce what it needs to nourish your newborn. When you are mentally ready and in a positive state, your body responds in the same way.
This is the role of oxytocin, the so-called the love hormone not only experienced by enamoured couples but also nursing mums. Oxytocin creates a relaxed and loving feeling between mother and child. This deep state of relaxation and bonding is the secret catalyst to abundant breast milk.
When asked about the common mental barriers that all nursing mothers face, Ms Lim lists several. The first is lack of knowledge about breastfeeding, which can lead to uncertainty and anxiety. Another one is lack of support from the husband and family members can make the journey more challenging.
Ms Lim also adds that educational and social reasons are not the only barriers to breastfeeding. They can also be physical or bodily in nature.
Breastfeeding itself comes with its fair share of challenging symptoms. These include engorgement, difficulty with latching, and experiencing sore or cracked nipples. Some mums also have cosmetic reasons for not breastfeeding, such as fear of saggy breasts.
Postpartum depression, a common medical condition associated with new motherhood, can also be detrimental. But that’s not all.
Personal reasons may also often be to blame. Whether that’s working abroad, having a busy work schedule, or previous negative breastfeeding experiences.
“Recognising and addressing these barriers is crucial in overcoming them and fostering a successful breastfeeding experience”, Ms Lim advises.
Overcoming Booby Traps
New mothers are no strangers to the hurdles of breastfeeding. But Ms Lim has some pearls of wisdom that could help nursing women breastfeed their babies with confidence and efficiency.
When asked about some techniques that can help mothers mentally prepare for breastfeeding, Ms Lim says: “Patience is key”. Obstacles will definitely arise, but be positive and stick to it. You’ll eventually find your rhythm. The lactation expert advises nursing mums to be brave.
“Don’t hesitate to ask questions, even if they may seem silly. Seeking clarification and guidance can provide valuable insights,” she advises.
She also encourages mums to attend breastfeeding classes before they deliver. A trick she recommends in addition to this is to practice breastfeeding with a baby doll familiarise yourself with the techniques.
Another tip is again, prior to childbirth, ensure you have essential items on hand. For example, a breast pump, nipple cream, breast massager, and warm or cold pads.
Each of these items can be helpful during different stages of breastfeeding.
Then once your baby is born, engage in skin-to-skin contact with your baby. This promotes bonding and supports breastfeeding.
However, you may not need all this advice after all if you’ve ‘been there, done that’, says Ms Lim.
Experienced mothers may already know what to expect with their second, third, so-on child. So, the mental preparedness is already there. Overcoming the challenges of yesteryears may just be the motivating factor some women need to improve their breastfeeding skills for consecutive children. Having experienced those difficulties, they now have a better understanding of what to expect and how to handle potential obstacles.
Reach Out for Helping Hands
There’s always help around the corner of nursing mothers. Your lactation specialist and your spouse are the first line of defence.
Ms Lim says lactation specialists all about giving mums the knowledge, guidance, and support they need to feel totally confident in breastfeeding. But let’s not forget the role our partners and husbands play in supporting mental readiness for mums.
Ms Lim advises to have an open and meaningful conversation with your husband about why breastfeeding is important. Make sure he understands the benefits it brings to you, him, and the baby.
“Breastfeeding is a team effort, and your husband can be your strongest teammate as he understands you better,” says Ms Lim.
That’s why it’s important to involve your hubby in the journey. Take him alone to parentcraft activities, antenatal visits, and even shopping for baby stuff. It’ll help him understand everything better.
Little things matter too, says Ms Lim.
A few sweet gestures like giving you words of encouragement, bringing you food or drinks, surprising you with a flower, or helping with baby care can make a huge difference. Being a good listener, cheerleader, and supporter is just as crucial to make sure you have a positive breastfeeding experience.
So, dads, take note. Never underestimate how much a partner’s support matters.
You’ve got this, mums!