If you’re pregnant and scared to breastfeed your baby, you’re not alone. Learn 7 common fears many moms have and how you can get past them.
For many soon-to-be moms, the thought of breastfeeding not only draws anxiety and worry, but outright fear of the unknown.
Will it hurt? What if my breasts keep leaking? Will breastfeeding be hard? Will I produce enough milk? How do I nurse in public places? And will it feel… weird?
You don’t get how other moms can’t wait to nurse, or how they see breastfeeding as a time to bond with the baby. All you have on your mind are the nagging fears and questions of how you’ll ever pull it off. And with so many people encouraging breastfeeding—for good reason—you still feel guilty for not being enthusiastic.
Many moms dread the thought of breastfeeding a baby. First-time moms don’t know what to expect, worried about potential pain or the pressures to pull it off. Veteran moms may have had a negative experience with their older children, skeptical about this time being any better.
Table of Contents
7 reasons you’re scared to breastfeed (and how to tame them):
No matter the breastfeeding issue you’re scared or worried about, know that how you feel is normal.
After all, we hear so many mixed messages about breastfeeding. For every story about how it hurts, the effects it will have on our bodies, and the inconvenience it brings, is another one saying the opposite. Never mind the “controversies,” from nursing in public to doing so into toddlerhood.
You’re definitely not alone in your trepidation. That said, I want to reassure you that many of your fears and worries likely won’t last. Breastfeeding isn’t perfect, but there’s a good chance you’ll have little to worry about when the time comes to do it.
And should you run into complications like thrush or mastitis, know that you’ll also get through them, as you have with other challenges in your life.
What are the most common reasons moms have a fear of breastfeeding? Take a look at the top seven below—and what you can do to ease your fears:
1. You’re scared to breastfeed in public
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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. Nursing in a friend’s or family member’s house still feels awkward, but you also don’t want to stay confined at home each time the baby needs to eat.
The thought of breastfeeding in public—even in the hospital after delivery—makes you feel vulnerable and shy.
Feeling exposed during the first few days in the hospital will likely not be on your mind. Your attention will be on your baby, or you’ll simply feel too tired to bother with being exposed. Plus, nurses and doctors have seen everything and more, and will also respect any requests or decisions you make.
Now, what do you do about nursing in public?
To start, you can nurse with a breastfeeding cover or even a large, light swaddle blanket or scarf. If you’re in someone’s house, nurse in a private bedroom away from others. And you can always plan your outings around your baby’s feeding schedule, so you can breast feed at home as much as possible.
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2. You’re scared your milk will leak
You’ve heard the horror stories. Sitting in the middle of a meeting or shopping in grocery stores or the mall with a shirt stained from leaking breast milk. Cue the embarrassment.
Leaking happens when your breasts produce a lot of milk and need to get drained. For the most part, you can predict when this is likely to happen based on your baby’s feeding. For instance, you may have overslept or missed a pumping session at work.
But sometimes, leaking happens out of the blue, and your milk has nowhere else to go but out.
Thankfully, you can always come prepared with reusable nursing pads to prevent your milk from leaking onto your clothes.
3. You’re scared of the pain
I won’t lie: Breastfeeding my eldest did hurt in the beginning. The experience felt uncomfortable, over-sensitive, and painful. Cracked nipples, blisters, and bleeding were common in the early weeks. It hurt so much I had to remind myself every day why I should give it one more shot.
Your body will adjust to breastfeeding, especially after the initial weeks. Your breasts will “toughen up” and not feel so sensitive to nursing. Most important, you’ll learn how to get a good latch, and feel more confident holding him to nurse.
But in the meantime, how do you manage the pain (should you feel any) or avoid it altogether?
First, learn how to latch and unlatch a baby, as many of the discomfort stems from a bad one. Apply lanolin cream before and after each nursing session to prevent damage and heal cuts and wounds. Take medicine for mild pain, and relax while you breastfeed—stress doesn’t help the pain go away.
The good news? Everyone is different, and 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.
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 of the inconvenience
If you’re like me, you don’t like the idea of being the only one who can meet the needs of your breast fed baby. That everything about his health and growth relies on you. I’d get annoyed when anyone suggested I feed him if he so much as whimpered. (Even if they were probably right.)
You’ve also heard how often babies nurse, especially in the early days when you’re feeding on demand. You’ll likely feed your baby every time she cries, 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.
As a new 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 nursing all the time.
But this won’t last forever. I learned the second time around that fighting or resisting the inevitable only fans the flames and makes you 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)
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t shrink to their pre-pregnancy sizes right after delivery. In fact, you’ll still look six months pregnant even with the baby born. And whether you breastfeed or not, your breasts will change as well.
For some, larger breasts will be a welcome change. But others dread the thought of them getting any larger (especially if you already have back problems with your regular size).
You’re also scared about what happens to your body after you stop breastfeeding. Will your breasts look deflated like old balloons?
By now, you’re used to your body changing. Your belly is large, your body is swelling, and everything changes as the baby grows in your womb. Think of the breastfeeding stage as a small extension of your pregnancy.
You’ll also find supportive breastfeeding gear for your changing body, from nursing bras to camisoles. And your body does go back to normal. They’ll seem small after weaning from breastfeeding because you’re used to its larger size. But they won’t shrink to a size less than those you had pre-pregnancy.
6. You’re scared breastfeeding will be sexually stimulating
Some women are concerned about what breastfeeding will do to their mental state. Even though breasts are meant for nursing, we’ve grown used to them becoming sexualized.
As a first-time mom, it can be hard to peel this thought away, anxious how strange this will feel nursing a baby. Perhaps you’re also worried about what breastfeeding will do to your sex life, or how your partner will see you.
Rest assured, there is nothing sexual about a baby breastfeeding. 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.
And if you’re concerned about your partner, talk to them about how you feel. Set expectations, and hear what they have to say as well. Even though you’re the only one breastfeeding, both of you are parents to your baby and working as a team.
7. You feel scared of failing with breastfeeding
You’ve heard the debates. The mom guilt. The importance breastfeeding for you and your child.
Long before you’ve even started, you’re already afraid of not being able to breastfeed and worry that you don’t have what it takes to meet your goals. Maybe you weren’t able to breastfeed the first time around, or that you’ll have a low-milk supply.
It’s funny how I view breastfeeding. On one hand, I’m a big proponent of breastfeeding and tout its many benefits. But I’m also a big advocate of doing what works for you, even if that means bottle feeding or not even starting.
Probably not what you thought you’d hear in an article about breastfeeding.
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 started to take its toll, I could always stop. That breastfeeding (or not) didn’t make me any more or less of a mom, or that I failed my kids.
The less you tie breastfeeding as a measure of your self-worth, the more likely you can make clear decisions about it. You’ll see yourself as a mom—a great one—regardless of how long you breastfeed, or whether you do or not.
Feeling scared to breastfeed is normal for many new mothers. You feel anxious about nursing in public or leaking through your clothes for all to see. You don’t want to feel tied down to round-the-clock breastfeeding and wonder if it will hurt.
And you worry if your body won’t go back to normal or whether it will feel sexually stimulating (or kill your drive). Worse, you can’t stand the possibility of failing and not meeting your breastfeeding goals.
However normal it is to feel scared to breastfeed, you also now know how to overcome these fears. You’ll find ways to make it work and take practical steps like using a cover or nursing pads. 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 and worries.
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