Breastfeeding can seem like a daunting task to new moms, especially if she’s lacking a good support system and has had only negative experiences.
Jude Polack, founder and director of the active birth hospital, Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg gives practical solutions to help you overcome these five common breastfeeding hurdles.
I don’t produce enough milk. My baby is always hungry.
“This is probably the number one reason I hear why moms say they can’t breastfeed, especially in the first weeks after delivery,” says Polack.
Moms often think they don’t have enough milk if their babies suddenly start fussing more than usual, feeding more frequently or popping off the breast sooner.
A breast pump can also be very discouraging. “After a mom has only managed to pump a few millilitres, who can blame her for concluding that she has no milk supply, when in reality she likely has an abundant supply?,” says Polack.
Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand equation. “Feed your baby on demand and your body will produce more milk. Skip a feed or two every day, and your body will respond by reducing supply,” explains Polack.
Polack says if your baby is gaining weight, seems reasonably content, is alert, and produces five or more wet nappies, and two to five poo nappies a day from day four, there’s no need to be concerned about your milk supply.
It’s just too painful.
When you first start breastfeeding, it can be very painful. According to La Leche League, 80-90% of breastfeeding moms will experience nipple pain, and 26% will get cracked, extremely sore nipples. Even moms who have breastfed before can be shocked to discover that breastfeeding the second time around is painful at the beginning.
With a little time, good nipple care and the guidance of a lactation consultant, breastfeeding will stop being painful. Don’t wait to ask for help; sore nipples can very quickly escalate to unbearable levels.
I have mastitis.
“Mastitis is the inflammation of a mammary gland, which presents itself with flu-like symptoms and a sore, area on your breast,” explains Polack. While painful, mastitis doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding. “Feeding more to empty the milk ducts is part of the cure (mastitis doesn’t make the milk unsafe for your baby). Lactation-safe drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen will ease the pain, as will ice packs. Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist, as you may need a lactation-safe antibiotic,” adds Polack.
I can’t get it right, so I’m obviously not cut out for breastfeeding.
Few moms get the hang of breastfeeding instantly. Breastfeeding might be natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Most new moms need help, support and practice.
While newborns have a powerful instinct to breastfeed, they too have to get the hang of latching and sucking.
“Breastfeeding can be difficult the first few weeks and you might feel like you’re a failure; you’re not. Both you and your baby are still learning and trying to master a new skill,” says Polack.
“Start breastfeeding within an hour after birth, keep separation from your baby to a minimum, feed your baby on demand, and avoid dummies and bottles to help you get the hang of breastfeeding quicker,” she adds.
I have to go back to work soon, so what’s the point?
Returning to work is a very real barrier to breastfeeding. If you have to go back to work a few months after your baby’s birth, find out if you’ll be able to express at work. If expressing isn’t an option, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider breastfeeding at all. “Any amount of breastfeeding, even if only for a short period, is a gift for your baby,” says Polack.
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