Can you convince me to breastfeed?

Justine Davies
Justine Davies 

"I have never, ever liked the idea of breastfeeding. The thought of having a baby suck milk from my breasts makes me cringe and – because I’m currently pregnant with our first child – it’s an attitude that I’d really like to change.

It’s not so much an attitude actually as a physical reaction. I don’t have a problem with anyone else breastfeeding and I have read and support the “breast is best” literature and message. But I still don’t physically want to do it myself.

It hasn’t helped that the (few) women around me who have had children and who have breastfed are full of “horror” stories. Descriptions of hungry babies unable to attach, of cracked and bleeding nipples and mastitis. Not to mention breasts that are either leaking or engorged (or both, I guess).

I would love to hear some positive stories about breastfeeding. Not vague: “Oh, it’s all wonderful” type of stories, but genuinely encouraging stories. I would love to know whether there are any other readers who dreaded breastfeeding beforehand but who found it not too bad – or even nice! It’s really not something that I feel comfortable asking my friends because there seems to be a public perception that any mother who doesn’t want to breastfeed is lacking maternal instincts. I don’t want to be judged that way and made to feel guilty for whatever decision I make. But by the same token, if I do decide to breastfeed I want it to succeed. Any tips?

Belinda.”Hi Belinda,

There’s more to mothering and a relationship with a child than just how we feed it.

Great question! And definitely one that is easier to ask via the anonymity of an online forum rather than at a BBQ. I’m sure that there will be plenty of EB members who will have some great suggestions but to kick it off I have asked Carey Wood, an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor as well as their national spokesperson, for some advice.

“Firstly, congratulations to Belinda for being courageous enough to say what a lot of women probably think,” says Carey. “It’s fabulous that she is thinking about this issue now and planning ahead to give her the best chance of breastfeeding success, if that is the way that she decides to go."

In relation to breastfeeding there are three main things which Carey believes can make a significant difference to your ease and success of breastfeeding:

“The first thing is to get a really good book on breastfeeding and read through it before you have your baby,” she says. “That’s will give you a great theoretical headstart.”

Secondly, as well as doing an antenatal class, think about attending a breastfeeding class where the focus of the class is on breastfeeding techniques and management. (The ABA run a breastfeeding class – you can check out the details on their website).

“Thirdly, it’s important to tap into support groups, whether that be a group of people or an online community,” says Carey. “Having a support group with whom you can discuss any feeding issues as they arise can be an invaluable source of both comfort and practical help.”

“As an ABA Counsellor my role is to encourage Mums with their breastfeeding. I listen to and empathise with their issues, offer practical support and always respect the decision that they make with regards to breastfeeding decisions. If they decide not to continue with breastfeeding then I help them to wean.”

And Belinda - Carey advises that in terms of guilt, be comforted that all mothers do their best in relation to raising their babies. “There’s more to mothering and a relationship with a child than just how we feed it,” she says. “The most important thing is that a mother feels supported and valued. So irrespective of whether she decides to breastfeed or not she shouldn’t feel guilty – I’m sure that she will be a great Mum either way.”

EB Members: What is your advice for Belinda? Click here to discuss.