Every woman’s journey through motherhood is different, but one of the first things she’ll decide is how to feed her child: through breastfeeding, formula or a combination of both. Since August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Erin Rowan, D.O. for UnityPoint Health, gives new moms a few suggestions to help them understand the benefits and challenges of what can be a difficult learning process.
“My best advice is don’t give up, if it’s important to you to breastfeed your child,” Dr. Rowan says. “Although there can be unexpected and expected drawbacks, breastfeeding offers tremendous benefits to both you and your child.”
6 Challenges Associated with Breastfeeding
- Worries about quantity.
One of the biggest challenges Dr. Rowan sees is women are afraid that their baby is not getting enough to eat immediately after birth because mom’s milk has not come in and they only have colostrum. Dr. Rowan says this is a normal feeling and she wants all new moms to be reassured that their babies are getting the nutrition they need from the colostrum. It is also expected for the baby to lose some weight prior to gaining.
- Latching challenges.
If the baby does not latch properly, it can lead to less efficient feedings that require the baby to work harder to receive the milk, as well as result in painful nipples for mom. Dr. Rowan advises all new moms to take advantage of nurses and lactation specialists after delivery. Most hospitals also organize latching support groups that offer help to breastfeeding moms after leaving the hospital.
- Cracked or painful nipples.
If new moms experience this, the first thing to do is make sure your baby has a good latch. It is ok to use your own milk to help your nipples heal after feedings. Moms can also try lanolin, a baby-safe cream that heals cracked, dry or irritated skin. Dr. Rowan says that this type of nipple pain usually improves over time.
- Breast engorgement.
Breastfeeding moms may experience full or engorged breasts that may ache at times, and even leak milk, which can be both painful and embarrassing. Dr. Rowan suggests feeding your baby prior to any outings and trying to keep your baby on a consistent feeding schedule. She says nursing pads can also help protect your clothes from small leaks.
- Flat or inverted nipples.
Flat nipples don’t stand out much from the surrounding area, known as the areola, and inverted nipples retract or pull inward when stimulated. Both can be frustrating, but moms can still breastfeed. Dr. Rowan recommends meeting with a lactation specialist or nurse to help moms learn specific techniques or utilize nipple shields.
- Infections like thrush or mastitis.
Thrush is a fungal or yeast infection. Dr. Rowan says it can be painful, but there are treatments available for both mom and baby through their provider. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can cause fevers and pain for the mother. Dr. Rowan adds that it can be treated with antibiotics, which allows mothers to continue nursing their child.
6 Benefits Associated with Breastfeeding
- Breastmilk changes with the baby.
Its nutrients will vary as the child grows and provides antibodies that the mother’s body develops to protect the baby from illness.
- Breastfeeding can make life easier.
While it might seems like it takes more effort to breastfeed than to use formula, once mom and baby settle into a routine, it can be a bit easier. There are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night, nothing to sterilize and no formula to buy, measure and mix.
- Breastfeeding saves money.
Formula and feeding supplies can get expensive. Since breastfed babies may be sick less often, it can help keep baby’s health costs low.
- Breastfeeding helps create a special bond between mother and baby.
It helps babies feel more secure, warm and comforted.
- Breastfeeding can also help the mother’s health and healing following childbirth.
Studies show it can even lessen the likelihood of certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding is better for the environment.
Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste.
“Due to a variety of challenges, it is certainly common for women to be frustrated with breastfeeding and even give up breastfeeding as a whole due to the challenges. Although we teach breast is best, my advice to women is that you do not want breastfeeding to come between you and your child. If breastfeeding is preventing that special bond because of frustration or depression, I try to reassure moms that formula does provide all the nutrients required for your child’s growth. Breastfeeding with formula supplementation is also an option if there are concerns about supply, being in public, timing and medication,” Dr. Rowan says.
If you have any breastfeeding questions or concerns, consult your UnityPoint Health lactation specialist, OB/GYN or primary care provider.
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