Have you looked at the portrayal of new mothers in mainstream media and expected that your first experience of motherhood will be as effortless and natural? 

Have you also been worried and embarrassed when motherhood duties such as breastfeeding did not come as easily to you as they looked for others?

Do not worry and do not think you are alone. Every woman’s motherhood journey is different. Although breastfeeding is a natural part of the process, it is not easy for everyone and many women need help with it.

Breastfeeding has various health benefits for the child and the mother. It provides all essential nutrients to the child in an easily digestible form and reduces the risk of many infections, diseases, and allergies for the child. 

It also helps strengthen the bond between the mother and child and lowers the risk of various illnesses, including postpartum depression and breast cancer in the mother.

Let's have a look at some tips to make breastfeeding a smooth and comfortable experience for first-time mothers. 

How Can Breastfeeding be Made Easier?

1. Practice and learn before delivery. Breastfeeding is a completely new experience for you and your baby, and both will learn how to be good at it over a period of time. Do not expect that you will be able to perfect all techniques overnight. 

If you have not given birth yet, you can take antenatal (birth and parenting) classes to learn more about breastfeeding. 

Inform your doctor and nurses beforehand that you wish to breastfeed your baby, even if you end up having a C-section (Caesarean section, the surgical procedure for delivery of babies), and take advice from them. 

2. Start breastfeeding early after birth. Soon after delivery, your baby’s sucking instinct is usually strong. Hold your baby right after birth, cuddle together, and try breastfeeding immediately. 

In the first hour after birth, babies are neurologically wired to find the breast and tend to latch (how a baby attaches to the mother's breast to breastfeed) on correctly. 

Having your baby close to you after birth also promotes a sense of closeness and a strong hormonal response that may help with breastfeeding. 

3. Try various breastfeeding positions. There are different positions for breastfeeding, including the football hold, cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, laid-back position, and side-lying position. Read up about the positions or watch videos demonstrating these. 

Choose a position in which you and your baby are comfortable, and your baby can latch on and breastfeed well. For example, a mother that has given birth by C-section may prefer the football hold so that her stomach does not hurt while breastfeeding. 

4. Establish a proper latch. An improper latch is the most common obstacle for a mother. It can cause the baby to be dissatisfied with the feeding and give rise to sore, painful, and bleeding nipples for the mother. 

Make sure that your baby has a large portion of the areola (the dark-coloured area on the breast that surrounds the nipple) in his/her mouth and not just the nipple. 

Due to improper latching, your child may keep feeding from the nipple and not get enough milk, thereby leading to reduced milk production.

5. Nurse on demand. Though newborns need to nurse frequently, they do not follow a fixed schedule. Notice your baby’s hunger signs, such as when the baby is chewing on his/her hands, bringing his/her hands to the face, or opening and closing his/her mouth. Feed your baby on demand and your breasts will keep producing more milk.

Until your body adjusts to your baby’s feeding demands, you may also notice engorgement of your breasts due to the high amount of milk produced. This is temporary and nothing to worry about. 

If you are worried that your breast milk may not be sufficient for your baby, keep a chart of the frequency at which your baby passes stool and urine. 

If the baby is passing adequate stool and urine for his/her age, and his/her body weight is improving, your breast milk is sufficient for him/her.

6. Take care of yourself. Breastfeeding is as new to you as it is to your baby. Be easy on yourself and have patience for things to fall into a predictable routine. 

Eat a balanced diet, and add extra calories to it upon suggestions from your doctor. Keep yourself well hydrated, and get enough sleep and rest. 

Do not hesitate to contact your doctor or lactation consultant for help and advice if breastfeeding is painful for you, or if your baby does not appear to be adjusting well to your breast milk. 

Challenges With Breastfeeding in India

Although breastfeeding has been an essential part of every mother’s journey in India, Indian women face a unique set of challenges, including:

1. Lack of awareness about the common problems with breastfeeding, and who to seek help from in this regard. 

2. Very few lactation consultants across the country for nursing mothers to consult and get their problems addressed. 

3. Difficulties with breastfeeding for working mothers who thus need to introduce their infants to bottles. 

4. Lack of acceptance for breast pumps as an alternative option for mothers.

5. Problems with breastfeeding in public places due to lack of discreet nursing stations and the social attitude to breastfeeding in public. 

To raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and to urge global action towards promoting breastfeeding, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week (वर्ल्ड ब्रेस्टफीडिंग वीक or विश्व स्तनपान सप्ताह in Hindi) every year from 1st to 7th August.

Contribute in any capacity you can, by raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding through your social media, and discussions with friends and family. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.