If you’re pregnant and scared about breastfeeding, you’re not alone. Many moms are scared to breastfeed. Here are practical steps you can take.
You’ve heard the benefits of breastfeeding. And you’re excited to meet your baby. Except you’re pregnant and scared about breastfeeding.
You don’t understand how other moms can’t wait to nurse their babies. Or how they see breastfeeding as a time to bond. All you’ve got on your mind is how you’re ever going to pull it off.
If you’re scared to breastfeed, you’re not alone. Many moms dread the thought of breastfeeding a baby. First time moms might not know what to expect, and veteran moms may have had a negative experience with their older children.
Below are seven common reasons you might have a fear of breastfeeding… and what to do about them.
7 reasons you’re scared to breastfeed (and what to do):
#1: You’re scared to breastfeed in public.
The thought of nursing in public can be scary. You don’t want to expose yourself or get caught in the debate to nurse in public or not. And you don’t want to stay confined at home each time the baby needs to eat. Sometimes even being in a friend or family’s house is already awkward enough.
You might feel scared to breastfeed in public because you’ll feel vulnerable. Even the thought of nursing in the hospital after delivery makes you feel awkward and shy.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: Yes, you’ll be exposed at the hospital. The delivery itself will already be challenging enough. But during those few days, feeling exposed will likely not be on your mind. You’ll channel your emotions toward your baby and feel too tired to bother with being exposed. And nurses and doctors have seen everything and more, that it’s not a big deal to them.
Out in public, you can pull breastfeeding off with these tactics:
- Nurse with a breastfeeding cover like this one or even a large, light swaddle blanket
- Ask to nurse in a private bedroom if you’re at a friend or family member’s house
- Plan your outings around your baby’s feeding and sleeping times
#2: You’re scared your milk will leak.
You’ve heard the horror stories. Moms in meetings or standing in line with shirts stained from leaking milk. Cue the embarrassment.
Our bodies do strange things, leaking milk included. Maybe your baby overslept or you missed a pumping session. You feel engorged and the milk has nowhere else to go but out.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: Don’t worry. I breastfed all three kids for a year each, and not once did I leak milk. Leaking milk is not inevitable.
Why? Because you’ll come prepared with nursing pads. Washable or disposable nursing pads prevent your milk from leaking onto your clothes. Wear them underneath your bra so you don’t leak.
#3: You’re scared of breastfeeding pain.
I won’t lie: Breastfeeding my eldest did hurt in the beginning. It felt uncomfortable, over-sensitive, and painful. Cracked nipples, blisters and bleeding are common among the early weeks of breastfeeding. It hurt so much I had to remind myself every day why I should give it one more shot.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: Your body adjusts. After the initial weeks, you’ll take to breastfeeding smoothly. Your breasts will “toughen up” and not feel so sensitive to nursing. You’ll also learn how to latch and unlatch your baby so it won’t hurt.
What can you do to help with the pain (or avoid it altogether)?
- Learn how to latch and unlatch a baby
- Apply lanolin cream before and after each nursing session
- Take Tylenol for mild pain
- Relax— stress doesn’t help
The good news? Everyone is different, and even every baby is different. When my twins arrived, I nursed them with zero pain. Nothing. Almost like I had never stopped nursing my eldest and went straight to nursing the twins.
So the pain that you’ve heard about or may have felt with your older child? It’s not always guaranteed you’ll feel it this time around.
#4: You’re scared to breastfeed because it’s inconvenient.
If you’re like me, you don’t like the idea of being the only one who can feed your baby. That everything about your baby comes from you and your body. I’d get annoyed when anyone suggested I feed the baby if they so much as whimpered. (Even if they were probably right.)
You’ve heard how often babies nurse. Especially in the early days when you’re feeding on demand. When the baby cries, you feed, sometimes for long stretches. You’re stuck on the couch with nowhere to go, while everyone around you can come and go as they please.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: As a first time mom, I resisted the idea of feeling tied down because of breastfeeding. I wanted to be up and about like everyone else. I didn’t like the new changes in my life, and I blamed a lot of it on needing to nurse all the time.
But this won’t last forever. I learned the second time around to accept it. Fighting or resisting the inevitable only fanned the flames and made me feel worse.
Instead, relish the fact that someone else will bring you breakfast in bed or clean the kitchen. That you don’t have to change diapers because you’re breastfeeding. And that you’re encouraged to rest and relax to produce milk and bond with the baby.
#5: You’re scared your body will change (or won’t go back to normal).
You forget your body doesn’t shrink to its pre-pregnancy size right after delivery. In fact, you’ll still look six months pregnant. And whether you breastfeed or not, your breasts will change as well.
For some, this might be a welcome change. For others, you dread the thought of you breasts getting any larger. You already have back problems with your regular cup size. Now you’re dealing with even larger breasts.
You’re also scared about what happens to your body after you stop breastfeeding. Will your breasts look deflated like old balloons, you wonder?
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: By now, you’re used to your body changing. Your belly is large, your body is swelling, and everything changes for the baby. You’ll find breastfeeding support for your changing body as well.
And your body does go back to normal. They seem small after weaning from breastfeeding because you’re used to its new size. Your breasts won’t shrink to a size less than what you had pre-pregnancy.
#6: You’re scared breastfeeding feels sexualized.
Some women are concerned about what breastfeeding will do their mental state. Even though breasts are for nursing, we’ve grown used to it becoming sexualized. As a first time mom, it can be hard to peel away this thought and you worry how strange this will feel nursing a baby.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: There is nothing sexual about a baby breastfeeding. You’re in a different mental state. Sleep deprivation leaves you with no sexual inclinations whatsoever when your baby is nursing. Breastfeeding will make you feel relaxed because of hormones, but not in a sexual way.
#7: You feel scared of failing with breastfeeding.
You’ve heard the debates. The mom guilt. How important breastfeeding is for you and your child. Long before you’ve even started, you’re afraid of not being able to breastfeed. You worry you don’t have what it takes to meet your goals. Maybe you weren’t able to breastfeed the first time around, or you don’t think you have it in you to keep going.
Why you shouldn’t feel scared: It’s funny how I view breastfeeding. On one hand, I write articles on the blog about how to stay motivated with breastfeeding. But I’m also a big advocate of doing what works for you. If that means quitting or not even starting, that’s okay.
Probably not what you thought you’d hear. But letting go of this pressure is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I pushed myself every day to keep going, but I always told myself that if it got too hard, I could always stop. That it didn’t make me any less of a mom, or that I failed my kids.
The less you tie breastfeeding as a measure of your self worth, the more successful you’ll be as a mom. This doesn’t mean you’ll breastfeed longer. But you’ll see yourself as a mom—a great one—regardless of how long or whether you breastfeed or not.
Feeling scared to breastfeed is normal for many moms. You feel scared to nurse in public or have your milk leak for all to see. You don’t want to feel tied down to round the clock breastfeeding and wonder if breastfeeding will hurt or that your body won’t go back to normal. And you dread the possibility of failing at something you want.
Though normal to feel scared to breastfeed, you also know how to overcome these fears. You’ll find ways to make it work. You’ll take practical steps like using a nursing cover or nursing pads. And you’ll shift your mindset to accepting your current situation instead of resisting it. And breastfeeding can be successful for you and your baby, regardless of your fears.
Get more tips on breastfeeding and parenting:
- Essential Things You Need After Giving Birth
- Do You Feel like a Confident Mom?
- When is Parenting Hard?
- 7 Breastfeeding Essentials to Keep You Motivated
- Would You Breastfeed in Public?
Tell me in the comments: Were you scared to breastfeed?
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