Breastfeeding Problems – the biggest stressor for many new mums today
As a new mother, you make certain assumptions. One of these assumptions is that you will be able to breastfeed naturally and not experience breastfeeding problems. You assume breastfeeding comes easily to most mothers and subsequently, it should come easily to you too. Unfortunately, breastfeeding is one of the biggest causes of stress for many new mothers. The main reasons for this are:
a) it does not always come easily to all mums
b) babies can reject the breast
c) there is a method behind getting it right so babies latch correctly
d) there can be issues with milk supply
All these issues can result in problems breastfeeding when your new baby arrives.
‘But.. Isn’t Breast the best?’
There is little talk about the issues many mums face when attempting to breastfeeding. The facts are that approximately 5% of women are physically unable to produce enough milk to feed their babies and further. The Centre For Diseasde Control and Prevention in the United States notes, by the time a baby is 1 year of age only 33% of mothers are still breastfeeding. This is despite the fact that currently, the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby until 6 months of age and then combining breastmilk with solids until the age of 2 or beyond. So you can understand why new mothers feel such intense pressure to breastfeed and why they berate themselves and feel so stressed and depressed when breastfeeding does not go according to plan.
Why is breastfeeding claimed to be so great?
There are many benefits to breastfeeding. According to The World Health Organisation :
Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
The Word Health Organisation also notes the following:
- Breastmilk contains antibodies that protect a baby against diarrhoea and pneumonia – the two most common causes of infant death world-wide
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of your child becoming obese or overweight later in life
- Mothers often require assistance in how to breastfeed correctly
- Formula milk does not contain the antibodies of breastmilk
In addition, research has shown that breastmilk also influences your baby’s gut microbiota which protects your baby from skin conditions such as eczema and can having a healthy gut helps protect against chronic illness’s later in life. You may like to read the book ‘Clean Gut‘ for a details explanation of the importance of good gut health.
So, the message is clear – if you can breastfeed – it’s the best source of nutrients for your baby.
But what if you experience breastfeeding problems and must top up with/or exclusively feed with Formula?
There is an underlying assumption in the wider community that women stop breastfeeding because they want to make their lives easier. This is rarely the case. Most mothers (in the Western world at least) are very intent on breastfeeding and go through a very traumatic emotional turmoil when they experience breastfeeding problems. They experience high levels of stress when they come to the realisation that they HAVE to formula feed their baby – for the baby’s health’s sake.
Whilst breastfeeding should come naturally to most mothers – it doesn’t always come easily and often takes a bit of practice and guidance to get it right. In fact, it is not uncommon for pregnant women to enter motherhood quite unsure about how to breastfeed their baby.
Anecdotally, mothers often report having issues during the breastfeeding days, such as:
- cracked nipples
- sore nipples
- enlarged breasts
- decrease in milk supply
- babies gaining insufficient weight
- babies with wind pain after breastfeeding
just to mention a few….
Therefore, in order to feel calm and relaxed during the breastfeeding process, new mums should consider the following:
- Be aware that it’s not uncommon for breastfeeding to take time to get the hang of
- When/if things do go wrong there are things you can do to ease the issues
- All you can do is try your best and if all else fails, you can still look after your baby’s health well using the right formula
There are a number of things you can do if you are experiencing trouble breastfeeding
- Speak to a lactation consultant (start with a call to your midwife, or the Australian Breastfeeding Association Helpline on 1800 686 268)
- If you have engorged/swollen breast, try to gently hand express some milk, or place your baby solely on this side of the breast to initiate the flow of milk – this will hurt a bit, but it should only last until the milk has flowed through the breast
- Place a cold pack on the breast when swollen, or a heat pack to ease the pain
- Speak to a health expert about natural herbs to increase milk supply (we can recommend Herbario in Melbourne)
If all else fails and you need to switch to formula milk, it’s very important to not feel like a failure and to trust the most important thing is that you and your baby are healthy and happy. If you are increasingly getting stressed and your baby is also stressed – this is NOT good for your baby’s health. If your baby is losing weight due to poor milk supply, this is also no good for your baby’s health. So, in this case, it is a good idea to do some research into the best brands of formula. There are many formulas that are very close to the make-up of breastmilk. These brands are the best to use to ensure your baby is getting the best nutrients possible.
There are a huge range of formulas to choose from. However, one formula brand which is recommended by Naturopath Kate Dalgleish, containing a good source of nutrients for your baby is the Bellamy’s organic brand. Kate also recommends adding DHA and probiotics to the formula, which you can read about in her downloadable guide.
The take-home message
In the ideal world every mother would breastfeed easily and without any breastfeeding problems down the track. However, this simply is not the case for many mothers. Personally, I was able to fully breastfeed my first child with the help of some lactation teas from Herbario. I struggled with the pain of engorged breasts from time to time, but was able to treat myself and continue breastfeeding. However, despite being confident everything would be the same for my second child, I did not have sufficient milk for her. I persisted, expressed milk and tried natural therapies, but nothing changed my milk supply.
I didn’t want to lose the intimate connection I had soothing my baby with breastmilk, so I finally gave in to ‘formula top up feeding’. I continued to breastfeed my second child until 2 years of age and just topped up her feeds with formula milk and solids (after 6 months of age). I was warned that my daughter would reject the breast, but she never did. Perhaps this was because she had started the first 3 months with exclusive breastfeeding. Perhaps it was because she would soothe to sleep on the breast and found this very comforting. I’m not 100% sure. However, the main thing for me was knowing I was doing my best for the health and wellbeing of my child. She soon began to regain weight on formula milk and we still had our comfort feeding with breastmilk, so it was a win-win in the end.
As a new mother all you can do is try your best and ensure you have your own and your child’s best interests at heart. With this mindset you can handle anything that comes your way.