Anxiety while breastfeeding is a common and often unrecognized issue. A new baby enters the world, and the mother is filled with emotions that can range from excitement to sadness, all in a matter of hours. For some women, breastfeeding comes very naturally with their new bundle of joy, and for others, it can be a hard, stressful and anxiety-filled experience, both physically and emotionally. Forming a bond and connection with a new baby is an essential key to breastfeeding; however, this can take time. Breastfeeding requires patience, practice and support.
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Physical problems that may arise for women while breastfeeding can cause anxiety, as the discomfort may be painful. As the pain occurs, women may feel the desire to resist breastfeeding, therefore creating a sense of uncertainty about the process. If feelings of uncertainty occur, a woman may feel anxious about feedings and her overall ability to comfortably breastfeed her baby. Physical problems include low milk supply, breast pain and engorgement. Low milk supply will prevent the baby from getting enough milk at each feeding. Breast pain can occur in the nipple area, which sometimes leads to infection. Pain can make the mother want to resist breastfeeding. According to Breastfeeding.com, "Engorgement is a swelling of the breasts caused by expanding veins and the pressure of new milk. Many, but not all women experience engorgement usually two to six days after delivery."
Mother and Baby Connection
The rhythm between mother and baby is an important part of breastfeeding. A baby needs to learn how to latch on properly to his mother so that he can feed properly, which allows for a healthy and nurturing experience for both the mother and the baby. When a baby does not latch on, this can create a feeling of failure for the mother. Some babies are fussy and suffer from colic. According to BabyCenter.com, "If your otherwise healthy baby is younger than 5 months old and cries for more than three hours in a row on three or more days a week for at least three weeks (yes, that's a lot of crying!), then he probably is colicky." Trying to work with a baby to calm him down and help him eat can be a roadblock to successful breastfeeding.
Lack of Sleep
Having a new baby for any new mother means less sleep. It can be several months before a baby is sleeping for long periods of time and then eventually sleeping through the night. She wakes up hungry and needs to be fed. When a mother breastfeeds, she is the only person who can feed her baby when he or she is hungry. Since infants require several feedings a day and may need to eat up to eight times in a 24-hour period, breastfeeding is a commitment that results in less sleep from the mother. Lack of sleep can lead anyone to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Adjusting to this new sleep routine can cause feelings of anxiety and lack of control.
It’s important that women become educated on breastfeeding before and after they have their baby. Taking a breastfeeding course can be useful and helpful to both the mother and father of the infant. Having local resources available is another way to be prepared. A lactation consultant can be a huge help. Lactation consultants are certified to help you with any breastfeeding issues. Some will come to your home to discuss your concerns and work with you to make breastfeeding a positive experience. Having the name of a lactation consultant prior to the baby’s birth may come in handy.
The mother should surround herself with supportive and helpful family and friends. The mother needs people who can lift her spirits and remind her that things will be okay. Having a partner who is willing to help and guide the mother is important; while breastfeeding technically involves only the mother and the baby, a helpful partner can be a great benefit for the entire process. Breastfeeding is a personal choice and something some women feel passionate about. Working on relieving the complications that can occur with breastfeeding will be helpful in reducing the anxiety that it may create.