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Breastfeeding

Lauren Macaluso, MD, FAAP, FABM

Lauren Macaluso, MD, FAAP, FABM

Challenges for Breastfeeding Mothers and How to Overcome Them

 

Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed our babies. A mother’s breast milk is considered the BEST nutritional option for babies according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Medical contraindications to breastfeeding are rare. Women’s bodies are MADE for breastfeeding, initiating breast development in utero with continued growth through puberty, pregnancy and after delivery. Minutes-old newborn infants have feeding reflexes, the ability to root, suck, and swallow at the breast to attain optimal nutrition, growth and protection.

Though it is a natural process, it is common for women to run into barriers breastfeeding our infants. Mothers and infants may have medical issues that can interfere with breastfeeding. Even if both mother and infant are healthy, exclusive breastfeeding may not be successful and require extra help. As a pediatrician, mother, member of both the local and national American Academy of Pediatrics and a specialist in breastfeeding medicine, here are common challenges encountered by exclusively breastfeeding women and how to overcome them.

EXPECTATIONS

Mothers often have unrealistic expectations of the breastfeeding experience. Unforeseen medical issues such as delivery by Caesarian section, premature labor or difficulty with infant weight gain sometimes occur. Keeping expectations simple and making short term goals can be helpful. Taking one day at a time and having patience and perseverance are paramount. A positive outlook and a strong support team may improve breastfeeding. In certain cases, a breastfeeding specialist, working with your infant’s pediatrician may be helpful in setting reasonable goals for breastfeeding your infant and prevent discouragement.

SUPPORT TEAM

A support team is extraordinarily important. Surrounding yourself with a team that shares your support for breastfeeding is a powerful tool in reaching your breastfeeding goal. Discuss your feeding plan with your partner, close family members, and friends during pregnancy. Consider an obstetrician, midwife and a pediatrician who are supportive of breastfeeding. Some families may benefit from a doula and/or lactation consultant at home or in coordination with the hospital staff. A breastfeeding medicine specialist who does office visits for breastfeeding moms and babies upon discharge may also suit your needs. A breastfeeding support group in your community can provide help and a social network.

EDUCATION

Empower and educate yourself so you understand what is biologically normal. Read about basics: how often to breastfeed, normal urine and stool patterns in breastfed babies, normal weight loss and gain. Observe family members or friends breastfeed if possible. Take a breastfeeding class; query friends who have breastfeed previously. Have a prenatal office visit with a pediatrician or breastfeeding medicine physician to address any issues that can impact breastfeeding.

COMMUNICATE

Address potential breastfeeding challenges as early as possible and with positive communication. Let your workplace know you plan to breastfeed and will require space and time to pump breast milk upon your return. In certain cases, companies may be required to provide you with time and a private space for breastfeeding and/or expressing breast milk. Talk about breastfeeding with your other children and let them know this is how mothers normally feed babies. Read a book together about breastfeeding and encourage them if they imitate you with their dolls so they are empowered for the future.

BE HEALTHY

Have a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, low fat, whole grain, nutrient dense foods and emphasize fruits and vegetables. Work exercise into (or back into) your life once medically cleared and make sure exercise is fun. Get rest as often as possible. As a mother, YOUR JOB IN THOSE FIRST FEW WEEKS AFTER DELIVERY IS BREASTFEEDING. Have support team members cook, clean and do laundry. Relax, breathe deeply, meditate or write about your feelings and experiences in a journal.

Breastfeeding is a life changing experience that has its barriers and obstacles. A strong support team, managing expectations, communicating positively, having a healthy lifestyle, and educating yourself will help you achieve your goals.

Dr. Lauren Macaluso, MD FAAP FABM is a pediatrician, breastfeeding specialist and co-chairman of the Breastfeeding Committee of the New York State (District II), Chapter 2 (Long Island) of the American Academy of Pediatrics.