Finding out you’re pregnant is such an exciting time! But for someone (like me) with anxiety, it can lead to a lot of research, questions, and what-if scenarios. One of those big issues is, should I breastfeed my baby or formula feed? When I was pregnant with my oldest, I knew I “needed” to breastfeed for her health. But I was completely clueless!
I had heard a lot of horror stories such as, “It hurt so bad I couldn’t do it!” Or “My milk dried up when the baby was just a week old!” I was terrified. What if I couldn’t do it? What if something went horribly wrong?
Now, seven years and four breastfed kids later, and I think I’ve in a position to share a few things that I learned about the relationship between anxiety and breastfeeding, and what you can do about it.
Get Good Breastfeeding Supplies
Supplies? For breastfeeding? Don’t you just need your body and your baby? Yes. But some good supplies will make your journey into breastfeeding so much easier! Here are some of my must-haves!
Lots and lots of people say you should have a Boppy. I’ve personally used one and found it cumbersome. It moves around, the baby kicks it, etc. My Brest Friend was MUCH simpler for me when feeding. It was easier to adjust, stayed put, and put the baby at a much better height for me to be able to feed.
Admittedly, I did NOT have a nursing bra when my oldest was nursing. And BOY did I miss out! Having to maneuver around a regular bra can lead to a lot of issues including clogged ducts, mastitis, and destroyed bras!
In addition, however, nursing bras help me to avoid anxiety when nursing in public. It is much more difficult to nurse discreetly when dealing with a regular bra. So, do yourself a favor and get a good nursing bra that makes feeding the baby more convenient and less painful!
While breastfeeding is natural, it isn’t necessarily easy! It is VERY common for soreness, and even cracked nipples to occur, even in people who know what they’re doing. My youngest child was by far the easiest to nurse, however, I still suffered and found myself getting lanolin as well as gel pads to ease the pain in the beginning.
I didn’t realize the importance of a good, high quality pump. But trust me, you NEED one, even if you’re going to breastfeed exclusively. Why? Because anxiety can make us crazy! And the times of, “What-if I get sick and have to go to the hospital and there’s nothing my baby can eat?” caused me a lot of stress and I’ve heard the same from others. Having a small supply of pumped milk in the freezer, just in case, was a HUGE help.
In addition, it’s also important for those times when the baby sleeps through the night one time but you know it’s not going to be constant. Being able to pump when you’re fully engorged is SO helpful in avoiding severe pain and/or illness.
You Can Feed In Public, But You Don’t Have To
I already mentioned, nursing in public caused me a lot of anxiety. I was always nervous about, “Will people get upset with me?” or “Will I show my whole breast to the world?”
It really did make me nervous. So much so in fact that I didn’t even try until my third baby came along. And that’s okay. I would go out to the car to nurse and cover up with a blanket.
But when the third child came, I started a feeling a bit more brave. I started practicing the tw0-shirt technique in front of a mirror and became comfortable, sort-of. I was still very nervous until the day a male family member who was normally quite uncomfortable with me breastfeeding, walked into the room while baby was snacking.
He knelt in front of me and proceeded to show me this “awesome new thermometer” he had found at a store. He took my baby’s temperature while she was “sleeping”. I about died! He was inches away as my baby was eating and stayed there for several minutes. And he NEVER knew. In fact, he still may not know to this day!
After that I realized just how little people really do pay attention and I have been much more likely to nurse in public since then. I have NEVER had a single person say something rude to me. But you know what? If they do, it’s okay. The world won’t end. We’ll move on and keep right on going.
If you want to feed in public, GO FOR IT! If you’re too nervous, that’s okay too. Don’t feel pressured into it!
Research and Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
As you’re preparing for your little one to enter into the world, research is SUPER important. Breastfeeding is no exception. Watch videos, take some classes, read articles, etc.
One great place to get started is a free online class from fellow blogger Jada, a certified lactation counselor. Throughout the class, Jada will teach you some tips to maximize your supply, avoid common mistakes, and even some foods that may be good to avoid. Click here to sign up today!
I want to caution you, however, to avoid getting carried away. Many people with anxiety tend to get obsessed with research and determining you have to understand each and every potential situation. Researching breastfeeding is no exception.
Learning, studying, and researching are GREAT, but be sure to understand that you might not understand it fully until you hold that beautiful baby in your arms, and that’s okay!
Lactation consultants are readily available around the country and they’re ready and waiting to help. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if you need someone to sit and guide you through some of those early feedings. In addition to online counselors, like Jada, you can also find a local lactation consultant here.
Stay Calm (Funny, Right?)
Hard advice from someone with anxiety, but I’m serious. Babies feed off of your energy. If you are tense, they will have a much harder time nursing. Try to find a way to be calm when it’s feeding time, even if it’s not something always recommended. Yes, looking at your baby while they’re eating is GREAT! But if it stresses you too much, watch TV or play on Facebook.
Make sure you are well hydrated and getting as much sleep as you can. Remember, your physical health affects your mental health and your mental health will affect your breastfeeding relationship.
If you absolutely cannot relax because of anxiety, consider talking with your doctor about some form of professional help.
You Do Not Have To Breastfeed!
I had postpartum depression after my second child was born. While I was determined to breastfeed, the lack of sleep, the physical pain, the struggles of handling the needs of a fifteen month old and a newborn, was all just too much for me!
I could not handle it. And that’s okay! I breastfed for about two months, and then we switched over to formula and that was the best thing for my family at that point. That allowed my husband to be able to handle feedings at night at times, as well as making it possible for her to spend a few nights with others so I could get some good quality rest.
If you come to the decision that you cannot or should not breastfeed, rest in confidence that you’re doing the best thing for your child that you can do. It’s okay if you can’t. Don’t feel shamed. Don’t feel embarrassed.
Ultimately, FED IS BEST.