So I recently found this fabulous website, Best For Babes, which addresses problems women face while breastfeeding, something they have nicknamed “booby traps”. As I was reading through all their wonderful information, I realized I hadn’t really addressed issues with breastfeeding here! There is a ton more great information on the Best for Babes website, but here’s a brief overview of some more common issues.
So I think the main roadblock many women face with breastfeeding is that they don’t really get a great education on the subject. In most childbirth classes, breastfeeding is barely covered. Most hospitals don’t have a great track record for being committed to helping moms breastfeed – sure, they have lactation consultants, but hospitals have been known to employ consultants who aren’t certified. Plus, the lactation department at hospitals is usually dramatically understaffed, so you might only get a couple of minutes with them. Even if they’re the best in their field, when baby isn’t latching it takes more than a couple of minutes to sort things out! My advice to moms? Take a class that focuses only on breastfeeding before baby comes. You’ll be better prepared, and much more confident in your ability to breastfeed. After baby comes, if you’re having trouble, I would recommend hiring a lactation consultant to come to your house for an hour. You can find one by visiting the International Lactation Consultant Association website.
In the meantime, let’s look at a couple common breastfeeding myths.
- Some women don’t produce enough milk. It is extremely rare for a woman not to have the milk her baby requires. More commonly, the baby can’t get the milk that mom does have because he doesn’t have a proper latch. This is why it is so important to be shown how to get that baby latched on correctly by someone who really knows what they’re doing on the very first day. But remember, it is never to late to find a proper latch, you just might need a bit more help. Check out those lactation consultants I mentioned earlier.
- Formula is just as good as breast milk. Let me put it this way: Breast milk is customized to your baby’s specific needs. It is designed just for her, and changes as she grows to continue to meet her needs. Formula is designed for every baby, which effectively makes it designed for no baby. Breast milk contains over 100 ingredients that formula companies can not duplicate. One of these is antibodies, which is what helps the baby’s immune system develop normally. Another problem? Some ingredients formula does have are in the wrong quantities and aren’t absorbed correctly. There is more protein in formula, but the proteins in breast milk are absorbed more completely and easily digested. There are more of minerals such as iron in formula, which are not absorbed completely and can change the balance of bacteria in the gut. Say hello to stinky, hard stools! And, most importantly, breast milk contains more lactose than formula, and lactose in higher quantities leads to larger brain development.
- There is no/not enough milk for the first few days after birth. There is certainly less milk than you would expect, but remember how tiny your newborn’s tummy is! The milk during the first few days after birth, called colostrum, is extremely high in nutrients and designed so your baby doesn’t need to consume much to get everything he needs. The problem here is that if you and your baby haven’t figured out a good latch yet, he won’t get anything. Again, I stress the importance of getting your baby latched on well on the very first day!! I promise you, with a good latch your baby is getting everything he needs.
So now that we’ve covered some myths, lets move on to how to overcome some very real problems women encounter while nursing. There are quite a lot, but we’ll just take a look at some common ones.
- My breasts are swollen, feel like they are throbbing, and are very warm. You’re experiencing engorgement! This can become painful, and is caused because you’re making more milk than you are expressing. This can also make things difficult for baby, because your breasts can become so swollen that your nipples lie flat and make latching on much harder. Try not to turn straight to a breast pump to remedy the situation, as you could cause your breasts to produce even more milk, which obviously is not what we want. Instead, try hand expression (here’s a tutorial – be warned, bare breast shown, for those of you in a non-breastfeeding friendly environment right now) when you find yourself experiencing discomfort from being engorged. If baby is having trouble latching, a simple breast massage can soften you up and make it easier.
- My nipples are in pain! Normal nipple pain lasts only for the first 30-60 seconds of nursing, and should only be mild. If you have intense pain that lasts longer, you may have an injured nipple. This is usually due to an incorrect latch or poor positioning. It’s time to see a lactation consultant! In the meantime, you can use breast shields to protect from friction between feedings, and apply a thin layer of a lanolin ointment right after feeding.
- I have an uncomfortable red lump on my breast. You probably have a plugged duct. This happens in areas of the breast where milk flow is blocked, usually by skin cells and milk. To treat, you need to make sure you are completely and frequently emptying all the milk from your breast. Make sure to nurse the affected breast first to help ensure that it will fully empty! Hot showers and massage will also help with this. If the plugged duct does not resolve within 72 hours, see a doctor!!
So has anyone heard any funny breastfeeding myths that I didn’t cover here? If so, where did you hear it? It’s surprising how many myths are told by doctors!