When an expecting mother looks ahead to life with a child, there are a number of things which they might expect: newborn snuggles, a lack of sleep and the inevitable ‘poonami’. Knowing some of the hardships in advance makes them easier to deal with. But one thing that is seldom discussed is the difficulty that comes with breastfeeding. Here are a few of the more common causes, with a few solutions for how you might overcome. Take heart; you will overcome.
Pain Associated with Breastfeeding
Nipples are a sensitive area at the best of times, and when there is a small child attached to them for many hours of the day (and night), they can become extremely tender. You might find that your nipples begin to crack, blister or bleed. This is usually because your bub hasn’t sorted out their latch. Your midwife or lactation specialist should be able to sort out these problems, but you want to make sure that a large section of your lower areola is in their mouth so that the nipple itself is hitting the roof of their mouth. If you are struggling, you might want to consider the following:
- Try a different position. You can try lying down, or the ‘football’ technique where your baby doesn’t lie across your torso, but is instead under your arm.
- Sooth your nipples in between feeds with cold pads or lanolin cream. Wiping them down with warm water and cotton wool can help clear the debris that might lead to an infection (hot tip: avoid mastitis at all costs).
- Consider giving your nipples some rest by supplementing with a baby formula like Aptamil Gold. The science says that breastfeeding is the better option if that is physically possible for you, but Aptamil Gold will provide your bub with all the nutrients they need while you get some well earned rest.
Not Having a Sufficient Milk Supply
Immediately after you have given birth, you will only be producing a small amount from your breasts. It is a high protein liquid called colostrum that is filled with white blood cells to help kickstart your bub’s immune system. It isn’t until day two or four where your milk supply will come in properly. However, it is still possible that you might struggle to produce as much as you would have hoped. If your baby is losing more weight than is expected (they will always lose some in those first few weeks), or if there are fewer dirty nappies, you will want to see your lactation specialist. Fewer wet nappies means that they are dehydrated, and when all they are ingesting is liquid, this becomes a bit of a concern. If you are struggling with this, here are a few options for you.
- As always, seek help from a midwife or lactation specialist.
- Don’t worry about a schedule. Everyone under the sun will give you their advice on when and how to feed. Instead, listen to your baby. Feed on demand instead.
- Begin expressing to help train your body in how to produce more milk
- Eat food which support your milk supply: Dark leafy greens, Brewer’s yeast, nursing teas
- Again, supplementing with Aptamil Gold might be a helpful way to make sure that your baby has enough in the tank in the immediate.
Having had a C Section
When a baby comes out the proverbial sunroof, it can sometimes make breastfeeding a little more complex. You see, the process of giving birth vaginally kickstarts the hormones that bring your milk in. The good news is, it will come in. It might just be a few days later. And given the fact that you will most likely still be in hospital at this point, it is unlikely that you will need to worry too much about this.
The other factor to consider is the pain. You’ve just had fairly significant abdominal surgery, and you need to hold your baby across your abdomen? No thanks. You will be on some fairly strong pain medication so it isn’t as bad as it sounds. But don’t panic. The medication provided doesn’t get communicated through your breast milk.
Premature Birth, or Time Spent in an Incubator
Obviously this will make breastfeeding difficult. But much like the issues associated with C sections, you will be in the loving care of nurses and doctors who will make sure your bub has everything they need as they adjust to life on the outside.
Babies born with a cleft palate won’t be able to breastfeed. They are unable to create the required pressure to suck the milk from the nipple, and if you keep trying, you will find that eventually your baby will start losing weight. The milk might leak out of their nose, or they might swallow too much air while feeding which leads to discomfort later. Fortunately, there are a number of products that have been designed for babies with cleft palates, and you can express breast milk or use formula as you see fit. As always, you should consult your lactation specialist to ensure that the product you have chosen is best fit for your little bub.
One thing is of crucial importance. No mother should ever feel shame or pressure to breastfeed at the expense of formula. In a time when hormones are fairly erratic, and postpartum depression may rear its ugly head, those first few months can be a whirlwind. If you have kept your baby alive today, then you have done a good job. How you achieve that goal is no one’s business but yours. If you have an issue with a mother who chooses to use formula instead of breastmilk, there is a very straightforward process. Think about your points of argument for a couple of days. Write a strongly worded letter. Then, set fire to that letter and never mention it to anyone ever again. You have no idea what is taking place behind closed doors, and nor should you.
All the best.