There’s one subject “what if I can’t breastfeed” that’s guaranteed to provoke a reaction amongst new mums.

Whether you want to or don’t , whether you can or you can’t, whether you’ve tried it and loved it  or struggled and decided to stop – it can have a profound effect on how worthy you feel as a mother.

For many women, breastfeeding just isn’t an option and not having a choice can make recent headlines suggesting a strong link between breastfeeding for an extended period with a higher IQ level incredibly hard to hear.

So what if you simply can’t breastfeed, if your little one won’t latch on?

Breastfeeding Specialist Geraldine Miskin gives her advice and shares her expertise…

What if I can’t breastfeed?

We know that breastfeeding provides far more than just baby’s milk. The close contact with you provides reassurance, whilst the physical act of breastfeeding develops your baby’s key oral muscles needed for speech, whilst providing a myriad of health benefits that will last for years.

Apart from all the health benefits that breastfeeding provides for your baby, extended breastfeeding also invests in your long term health by reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancers when you feed for 6 months.

The average UK breastfeeding initiation rate is around 85% but roughly 30% of those mums are still exclusively breastfeeding by 6 weeks. By all accounts, you’d expect breastfeeding rates to be higher but clearly there is something very wrong.

Many mums I speak to complain about the constant conflicting advice that they receive, which makes navigating early day and week breastfeeding challenges unnecessarily difficult. Often mums are surprised to hear that a bumpy breastfeeding start is as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ as the smooth easy start projected in so many antenatal classes.

Babies are born knowing what they need

Whilst it is true that many babies are born knowing what they need to do and putting it into action, many babies have their innate instincts dulled by elements, which are out of your hands.

Baby’s position in the womb is something you have no control over and yet it often has a direct bearing on how your baby is birthed and delivered. More interestingly I have found that baby’s position in utero can influence how well your baby is able to latch and transfer breast milk. Again, you have very little influence on this.

If you tried to breastfeed but found that it didn’t work, you may still find the thought of it all quite raw. It is tough and upsetting to think that you couldn’t do what so many mums seem so ‘easily’ able to achieve and your disappointment is valid but please don’t beat yourself up and think that it is down to something that you did or didn’t do.

Your baby breastfeeds, not you.

The pivotal point to breastfeeding is repeatedly missed and this is something I need all mums to know. Your baby breastfeeds, not you. When breastfeeding is tricky or not going well regardless of how beautifully you position or help him at the breast, it’s not your fault.

Some babies just need more time and guidance to learn to breastfeed and if the person helping you is not aware of that, you won’t get the help that you need.

If you are currently an expectant or breastfeeding mum, it is important to know that the more time you spend in skin to skin contact with your baby, the more time he’ll have to figure out what he needs to do. There is no rush to get him onto a routine or into his crib; the best place for him is with you.

Get help if you feel that something is not right. If you need help, speak to one person, so that you don’t get confused with tons of conflicting advice.

Trust your instinct.

If the advice you are given does not feel right, regardless of how many letters the giver has behind her name, it is not right.

You are your baby’s expert and anyone worth their salt will recognize that.

Remember that a bumpy breastfeeding start is as normal as a smooth start. Your baby may just choose to take the scenic route to established breastfeeding but you will both get there in the end.

Where to next

Read more on breastfeeding your baby