Breastfeeding: Expectations Vs Reality

The normal expectation for a new mother is to breastfeed her baby. Our society has embraced the ideal that all babies have the right to expect to be breastfed. 

However we live in a realistic world where reality sometimes does not match our expectations. It is only when a mother finds herself being challenged by the difficulties, that help is needed to negotiate the difficulties…

Human breast milk has certain qualities that are not found in formula milk and any amount of breastmilk your baby gets provides benefits that cannot be replicated in a factory. 

Human breast milk has all the nutrients required to feed your baby, with no added nutrition required, till the addition of solid food after 4 months of age. A woman’s body is designed to feed her baby, and mother and baby work intricately together to ensure that breast milk nourishes the baby.

However, because breastfeeding is deemed to be a natural process, the expectation is that it will come naturally and proceed without difficulty. Idealistically, all babies are breastfed, however we live in a realistic world where reality sometimes does not match our expectations. It is only when a mother finds herself being challenged by the difficulties, that help is needed to negotiate the difficulties

Although a woman’s body is designed to feed her babies, it is a process that can take some work before it is successfully established.  

For some mums, the journey will be harder than for others. Although the decision to breastfeed is the start of a journey with your baby, there are times when you cannot predict or control the path you are on. There may be many bumps in the road and for some even unplanned detours and even possible dead ends!

Because I have spent many years helping mothers feed their babies, I know all too well the struggles that may lie ahead for some mothers. I have therefore tried to be very realistic in my approach to this topic. 

I do not see the point in presenting breastfeeding in such a way that it will leave women crushed and wondering what they have done wrong! We have all heard the “Breast is Best” message, but this is only true if your baby is getting enough nutrients and you are comfortable while feeding your baby. 

If either of these two things is not happening, then the situation has to be re-evaluated.

It is my deepest desire that every mother will be able to exclusively breastfeed her baby, but the reality is that there are many things that can have an effect. During my work as a lactation consultant I have supported thousands of mothers who, for some reason, have needed to find an alternative way to feed their baby. 

This is mostly never out of choice but rather out of necessity! When a baby is hungry because breastfeeding is not working, there is no choice but to seek another way to ensure that the baby gets the required nutrition to be content and grow.

It is important to also to have answers to some of the many questions that surround the use of infant formula. I wish to clearly state that I am not advocating the use of formula over breastfeeding! If your baby is happily breastfeeding, is growing well and you are enjoying feeding your baby, then there is no need to even contemplate giving your baby a bottle or formula. 

I have been working with babies for long enough though to know that there are times when the use of bottle and formula is inevitable. I very strongly believe that I would rather see a baby getting sufficient milk to grow and be contented than to deny a baby vital nutrition just for the sake of realizing a goal that, for some mothers and babies, is not always attainable. Of course, we want all babies to be exclusively breastfed! How wonderful would that be! But if breastfeeding always went so well, I wouldn’t have a job!

As you watch your baby feed and observe him/her grow and thrive, you will be captivated by the wonder of what it is to watch your baby develop! But you too will grow as parents, becoming more confident with caring for this new little person who has turned you, as a couple, into a family.

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