Talk to new mothers about breastfeeding, and there’s one message sure to come through: it’s painful and it’s difficult.
Dr Pam Douglas, a researcher at the University of Queensland, says women tell her that the pain they suffer while breastfeeding is worse than labour.
“It’s just heartbreaking because women want to breastfeed,” she tells Mamamia. “I get so cross when people talk about women not persevering because I see it every day in the clinic. It’s a heroism. Women just go on and on and on through the most extraordinary pain, trying to breastfeed their baby.”
But breastfeeding is not meant to be painful or difficult. So what’s going so wrong for so many women?
Dr Douglas has spent years researching just that. She believes the fault lies in the way women are being advised when it comes to latching and positioning – or, as she calls it, “fit and hold”.
“It’s actually a health system problem,” she says. “We are not adequately helping women. We don’t know how to pick up that there’s a fit-and-hold problem.”
She also believes that a lot of the time when babies won’t latch, or they pull off the breast, arch their back and cry, the problem is with the fit and hold.