In 1978, Penny and Andrew Stanley wrote the book of “Breast is Best” as a guide for new mothers, and the “Breast is Best” campaign began soon after. In the late 70’s, breastfeeding numbers were at an all time low and people were losing generational breastfeeding knowledge passed from mothers to daughters. “Breast is Best” reversed that trend and now, breastfeeding rates continue to improve year after year.
Today, approximately 83% of mothers are trying to breastfeed, with 56% of those mothers continuing to breastfeed through six months of age, and 35% of mothers providing breast milk through 12 months of age. 46% of mothers exclusively breastfeed at six months of age and 25% at 12 months of age.
The return of breastfeeding babies as the preferred method of nourishment is something to celebrate. However, breastfeeding does not come without challenges. Some mothers will nurse their babies easily throughout the experience, but most will experience some kind of pain or discomfort that can be overwhelming and frustrating. When this happens, there is a strong chance they will stop or cut back breastfeeding and start supplementing with formula.
Bay Street Pediatrics is here to help by explaining several of the most common breastfeeding challenges moms experience and how to relieve them.
Nipple Irritation, Calluses, Infections
There is a significant risk that breastfeeding moms will experience nipple pain in the early days of breastfeeding. Nipple irritation is typically due to the baby not having a deep enough latch, when the greater part of the areola is not in your baby’s mouth. Some babies need time to develop a proper latch with your assistance. If a poor latch continues, you may experience bleeding, calluses, and possibly infections.
If you feel like your baby is biting you when they latch, break the suction and attempt a deeper latch. If pain or discomfort continues, call our office for an evaluation. We can also suggest a lactation consultant for you to schedule an appointment for assistance. Using a nipple shield may be necessary to let your skin heal. We can also prescribe an ointment to help with the pain and irritation.
When your breast is red, warm to the touch, you have a fever over 101˚F, and your mammary gland is inflamed, you have mastitis. If left untreated, this infection can cause mammary glands to fill with pus. This often is treated with antibiotics but if worsened could require a procedure to drain the gland. Mastitis should be treated as quickly as possible. If at any point you begin experiencing mastitis symptoms, contact your primary care physician or ob/gyn immediately to discuss treatment so you can heal quickly and return to feeding your baby.
Although postpartum depression (PPD) doesn’t just occur in breastfeeding mothers, PPD can make breastfeeding much more difficult. When you are stressed, depressed, and anxious, your milk supply decreases. Developing PPD does not mean you are a bad parent or don’t love your baby. One in 7 women experience PPD after delivery. It is an illness, and your actions, diet or attitude did not cause it. Parents with PPD need medical and supportive help for a full recovery.
When you develop PPD, it’s not just breastfeeding that is a challenge. Basic tasks can be agonizing. Talk to your partner about extra assistance, especially at night. Talk to your OB or primary physician about treatment.
Fed is Best
Breastfeeding may be the most “natural” way of feeding babies, but it doesn’t mean that it is the easiest. Mothers who breastfeed will commonly experience physical and mental pain at different times throughout the breastfeeding journey. Early intervention and a strong support system, will help you overcome these obstacles and continue breastfeeding until you and your baby decide that it is time to wean.
Although breastmilk is unmatched nutritionally, it’s most important that your baby gets fed enough to grow, thrive and properly develop. Breastfeeding should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Feed your baby however you are able. If breastfeeding is not working and you find you cannot continue for any variety of reasons, there is no shame in moving to formula to promote a happy and healthy family and household.
Questions about breastfeeding? Click here to contact your Bay Street Pediatrics provider. We’ll listen carefully, ask questions, watch you feed you baby, and offer suggestions and assistance to help you decide how to best feed your baby for the future.