Apprehensions about Breastfeeding

Archived Q&A and Reviews

July 1999

I am expecting my first child in October and have been monitoring the discussion regarding breastfeeding in the last few advice lines. I also am having some worries over the issue of breastfeeding. While I understand that it is supposedly healthier, and creates a bonding moment between mother and child I am not very interested in the actual act of doing it. I feel wrong for having apprehensions since there seem to be so many women who WANT to breastfeed and can't. Truth be told, I have incredibly sensitive nipples, and can't imagine the actual process of breastfeeding. I also think that I will feel uncomfortable feeding my child in public, although I realize that it's possible to get the knack down and do it discretly.

My husband and I have not discussed this, yet he seems to just naturally assume that I will be breastfeeding since he made some comment about it in the past. I know that I should get over my hang-ups and give it a try. I'm just not sure how to get over my worries, and pre-conceived notions about it. Thank you.

i was nervous about breast-feeding. i've always been self-conscious about my tiny breasts, and calling attention to them by breast-feeding made me very nervous (although for the first time in my life i had some cleavage). the idea of putting a baby to my breasts was a very uncomfortable idea for me, but i did it because i knew it was better for the baby.

for the first couple of weeks i hid away in another room whenever i fed my baby but i was able to do it very discreetly after that, except for the noisy smacking noises he would make, so feeding in public was no problem.

for the first weeks i had problems with VERY sore nipples, and when the baby would first attach, it was very painful. walking around the house topless to air them out help a lot.

what surprised me was that i went through the same embarrassment and uncomfortableness with my second child. i thought that since i had done it before, it would be no problem. but after a week, i was fine.

I would recommend two things to the mom-to-be who is apprehensive about breastfeeding. First, Alta Bates Hospital offers a free lecture series for expectant parents, and one of the lectures is Preparing for Breastfeeding. During the lecture the presenter asks the audience for their concerns about breastfeeding. The list got very long as all of us chimed in with our worries! Then she addressed each issue, which was very reassuring. For info on the prenatal lecture series, call Alta Bates and ask for the Parent Education office.

Second, you may benefit from speaking on-on-one with a lactation consultant. I went into the Bay Area Lactation Center (on Regent Street behind Alta Bates Hospital) for the first time the other day, and I was very impressed with how friendly and helpful they were. They offer classes on breastfeeding, but are also willing to work one-on-one with parents. Give it a go, and good luck!

While I didn't question whether or not I would breastfeed (I wanted to), I had some of the same anxieties, like the pain factor, or feeding in public. And granted, it was hecka painful those first few weeks (maybe four?). And I sweated bullets when I had to do it in public at first. But the pain was manageable (much like labor, I guess!) and after awhile, doing it in public was easy. I would urge you to at least give it a try...because I think the scientific evidence is pretty strong that it is healthier on average (although I never touched a drop of the stuff myself and am very healthy, but when young had a lot of painful ear infections that I still remember). Then if you don't like it, you can always stop. I have heard that even four weeks of breastmilk is better than none. Good luck!

For the mom-to-be who's apprehensive about breastfeeding because of sensitive nipples: I also had extremely sensitive nipples when I was childfree, and couldn't bear to have them touched, for example, during sex. The first time my baby latched on, I experienced a *zap* right down to my &%$^ and immediately fell in love with breast-feeding. After the baby was weaned, I found that my nipples retained their good-vibes sensitivity, and now they're a major source of sexual/sensual pleasure.

Your mileage may vary.

I had to smile when I read the message from the mom who said she fell in love with breastfeeding when she felt the zap the first time her baby latched on. With my first, this did not happen. He was fussy and colicky, and breastfeeding in general was a bit of a challenge, and not something I felt comfortable doing in public (my visiting mother's view that the whole idea and process was unseemly did not help, I realize). With my second, however, I too felt that zap from the very first time in the hospital, and the sheer sensual nature of cuddling him close to my skin continued, even through the fussy times. Another added advantage of the breastfeeding in the first few days after birth was that with every suck, I could feel my uterus contracting. A very interesting physiological response, not unlike nipple stimulation during lovemaking. Although this process was painful at times (akin to the birth contractions), my conscious mind welcomed the pain, knowing that it was nature's way of helping my body return to its pre-pregnancy state. And since my son had to stay in the hospital a few extra days due to jaundice, when I was able to (finally!) bring him home 4 days after birth, my tummy was completely flat. Not the most important reason to breastfeed, by far, but one additional benefit. He weaned himself after 4 months, while I was returning to work, and while I was sad about not being able to continue with the nursing, I was so happy that we had had those 4 months of special time.

Before my first child, I was very apprehensive about breastfeeding. The mere notion of a baby at my breast gave me the willies and seemed more UNnatural than bottle feeding. Add that to all the warnings and pressure about breast feeding and the whole idea was a complete turn-off. But realizing that it was the way Nature designed things, I was willing to at least give it shot. Thankfully, my first baby and I had absolutely no trouble with it. And I soon found that the real joy of it is how much the baby enjoys it! (The memory still makes me smile!) It is also far more convenient than having to take a bottle and formula everywhere you go.

Take everything you hear with a grain of salt and give breastfeeding a try. You'll probably get used to it very quickly and even if you find it difficult at first (my second child required a consultation with a lactation nurse), it is worth some effort. I breastfed both my kids for nine months, and even pumped at work for five months (talk about feeling unnatural!) Good luck!

I too, have very sensitive nipples, and I was very apprehensive about breastfeeding. I was also very committed to doing it, however, and so I was able to overcome some initial difficulty. My committment mostly came from the knowledge that breastfed babies experience fewer allergies. Since both my husband and I have allergies, this seemed important to me. The initial two months were quite difficult for me, and there were several episodes later that also posed problems. But eventually, the difficulty *did* pass, and we are still nursing (once a day or so) at age 2 1/2 (though she seems to be thinking about weaning). I'd be glad to share my experiences with it if you would like to e-mail me directly. dawn

I also had incredibly sensitive nipples and was worried about nursing. I was one of those people who never wanted my nipples touched, who had to wear soft cloth against my nipples or they would hurt. The thought of someone putting their mouth on this very sensitive place terrified me.

As a matter of fact it was very difficult getting started nursing. I didn't know how to hold the baby; every time she latched on it was agony, despite having all the advice from lactation consultants etc. My nipples were REALLY sore for over 3 months. I also used all the techniques people suggested for keeping my nipples from drying out: rubbing milk or Lansinoh in, not soaping. Nothing worked for those first 3 months.

However, after that I have to say it was all worth it. One day in the 4th month I noticed my nipples didn't hurt as much anymore. Then, my nipples got tougher, I learned how to breastfeed better, and I ended up enjoying every nursing session. My daughter loves it and is thriving. Plus, one of the benefits you don't see mentioned too often: breastfeeding is great for taking off Mom's extra pounds! I was able to eat huge amounts of all my favorite foods, and still lose weight. I know many women who said they just couldn't lose those extra 5 or 10 pounds after a pregnancy, and they all bottle-fed their children or stopped breastfeeding after 6 months or less. Within a year I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, no stretch marks, and my body looked and felt like it used to. An added bonus was not having my period for 18 months! Good luck. Do what you can, and don't feel guilty about whatever you decide.

Since you haven't had the baby yet, I recommend the one-night breastfeeding class at Omni OB-Gyn near Alta Bates. It is taught by Pam Streitfeld, the wife of one of the OB-Gyn's there. Anyone can take the class, even if you have an outside OB-Gyn. There is a small charge. The classes are only offered once a month. Call their office, 204-0965 for class dates and/or to register.

Pam seemed to me to be both very warm and very levelheaded. She is very enthusiastic about breastfeeding but at the same time warned me of problems I might have nursing, based on my skin type. The number of participants is small so there is ample time for you to bring up your personal concerns and have them addressed. Husbands are also welcome at the class.