I had known for a long time that I would do exclusive breastfeeding. I knew the many benefits. But my baby cried a lot. He was born at term and had a good weight. I did my best to make him comfortable. During the first two days my breasts did not feel full, but I knew from theory that I just needed to keep putting him to the breast, since I had decided antenatally to exclusively breastfeed him. Putting him to the breast did not prevent him from crying, however, and this was a big surprise.  I had no idea that babies cried so much. I guess it just feels different, a bit more amplified, when it is your baby that is crying. 

What can Make Your Baby Cry Apart From Hunger?

By the third day, his grandmother was getting exasperated and that did not help my fraying nerves. She could see that my breasts were not full. Why did I insist that my baby should not be given dextrose water? Or formula? By then I had realised a few things. The wipes were too cold for him sometimes. Sometimes he cried when he was lying in his poo. He also seemed to cry when he had been carried for a long time.

On day 4, I woke up with my breasts full. They were so full that it was difficult getting the attachment right. But then I discovered it was easier for both of us to breastfeed lying down. So that was what I did. Guess what, it did not stop the crying, despite him struggling less to attach to the breast, and looking obviously full after feeding. He seemed to cry for all sorts of nebulous reasons while I did my best to console him. With time, I learned a few tricks. I picked him, I put him down, I swaddled him, I massaged him, I clothed him lightly, I sang and I kept quiet, depending on my best guess. As for the attachment, it got better with time, just as I knew it would, but it did not stop the crying.

I remember a day when my baby was about 4 weeks old. I was exhausted from waking up several times in the night to feed. It was mid-morning and he would just not stop crying. I put him to the breast but he wouldn’t suckle. The crying just got worse. Out of frustration, I called his father from work. Obviously tired himself, he took our baby, put him on his chest and lay down with him. Within a few minutes, they were both asleep. My baby had probably just had too much stimulation and had been finding it difficult to unwind. His crying had had zero to do with hunger.

There was another really frustrating period when my baby was about 7 weeks old. He cried from just around 6 pm everyday till about 9 pm. Non-stop. I knew he had colics. Nothing I did ever consoled him. One day when I was just about to start crying myself, I decided a needed a break. So, I put him in his very safe cot and took a walk alone. When I got back after 10 minutes, he was quiet. He was so calm. He probably just got tired of crying. Luckily, he outgrew this phase by the time he was about 12 weeks old.

Why do Women Stop Exclusive Breastfeeding?

Most women who stop exclusive breastfeeding do so because of fatigue and the inconvenience of breastfeeding, or concerns about milk supply, according to Brown et al (2014). Luckily, I always knew my baby wasn’t crying because of hunger. I knew this because he was growing very well and at least 4 times a day, his diapers were very well soaked with urine. If I had stopped exclusive breastfeeding before my baby was 6 months old, it would have been because my baby cried.

Babies, just like adults, have different temperaments. There are quiet ones and there are chatty ones. Unfortunately, a baby’s talk is his cry. There are also babies that have very bad colics. If you don’t bear this in mind, you can stop exclusive breastfeeding because you would think every cry means hunger.

What Can You do To Exclusively Breastfeed Successfully?

Unfortunately, nothing prepares you for motherhood as well as motherhood itself. Whether you have chosen to exclusively breastfeed or not, motherhood is so tough that you need a support system around you. And if you have chosen to exclusively breastfeed, your support system must also believe in your choice. You should also learn how to keep your breastfed baby fuller for longer.

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