How to Breastfeed: Overcoming Problems
Breastfeeding is a natural process that has been practised for as long as there have been women. Breast milk is widely accepted to be the best option for feeding newborn babies, as it provides all the nutrients they require for optimum health, growth and development.
Breastfeeding also offers numerous benefits for both mother and child, including reducing the risk of illness, promoting bonding and assisting in postpartum weight loss.
However, despite its many advantages, breastfeeding can also present challenges that require support from healthcare professionals.
Many women face problems while breastfeeding their baby, like pain and discomfort, low milk supply, latching difficulties, or even medical conditions that make breastfeeding impossible. These difficulties can cause frustration and stress for new mothers who want the best for their babies but may not know where to turn for help.
In this article, we'll provide an overview of breastfeeding to help you make informed decisions about your feeding options. We'll also explore some of the most common breastfeeding problems and provide tips on how to overcome them so that you can enjoy this special bonding experience with your little one.
Why You Should Breastfeed a Newborn
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that babies are breastfed within one hour of being born and then feed that way exclusively for the first six months of life. From six months, complementary foods should be introduced.
Breast milk provides numerous benefits that cannot be replicated by any other means of feeding.
The following are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding.
5 Benefits of Beastfeeding for Babies
1. Provides complete nutrition
Breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for a baby's growth and development.
2. Boosts immunity
Breast milk contains antibodies that protect babies from infections, illnesses, allergies, and diseases.
3. Improves cognitive development
Studies show that breastfed babies have higher intelligence compared to formula-fed babies due to the presence of fatty acids in breast milk.
4. Reduces SIDS risk
Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
5. Supports appropriate weight gain
Breastfed babies tend to gain weight at a healthy rate, reducing their chances of obesity later in life.
5 Benefits of Beastfeeding for Mothers
In addition to all the reasons breastfeeding is best for babies, it's also considered beneficial for mothers too.
1. Helps with postpartum recovery
The hormones released during breastfeeding help mothers' bodies recover faster from childbirth.
2. Reduces cancer risk
Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in mothers.
3. Promotes bonding
The skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding between mother and baby.
4. Saves money
Formula can be expensive, so breastfeeding can save families money on feeding costs.
5. Natural contraception method
The absence of menstruation due to breastfeeding (called lactational amenorrhea) can act as a natural form of birth control for up to six months after giving birth.
Common Breastfeeding Problems
Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial way to nourish your baby, but it's not unusual for women to find it challenging. Many new mums experience breastfeeding problems that can make the process difficult, uncomfortable or even impossible.
Here are some of the most common issues you may encounter while breastfeeding:
Engorgement occurs when your breasts become overly full and swollen with milk, making them hard and painful to touch. It's usually caused by an imbalance between milk supply and demand and usually happens during the first few days after giving birth.
A plugged duct happens when one of the milk ducts in your breast becomes blocked or clogged with milk, leading to pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection that develops when bacteria enter through a cracked nipple or other opening in your breast tissue. Signs of mastitis include fever, flu-like symptoms (such as body aches), breast pain or tenderness around one area of the breast.
One of the most common breastfeeding problems is sore nipples. This happens when your baby isn't latching correctly, causing friction and irritation on your skin. It can create pain, tenderness, or even cracking and bleeding in severe cases.
Low milk supply
Some women struggle with producing enough milk to meet their baby's needs, which can lead to frustration for both mum and baby.
This refers to babies who have been nursing well suddenly refusing to nurse for no apparent reason.
How to Overcome Breastfeeding Problems
If you're experiencing any of these common breastfeeding problems—or others that aren't listed here—don't hesitate to reach out for help! With the right support and resources, you can normally overcome these issues and enjoy a successful nursing experience with your baby.
Sore nipples: Try rubbing a small amount of breast milk on your nipples after each feed. Also, make sure your baby is latching properly and not just sucking.
Low milk supply: It's vital to stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein, iron and calcium to increase milk production. Feed your baby often and on demand, as this will also stimulate more milk.
Difficulty latching: If your baby has trouble latching onto your breast properly, try different positions until you find one that works for both you and your baby. You can also try using a nipple shield which helps with latching issues.
When to Seek Professional Help for Breastfeeding Problems
It's a good idea to seek professional help for problems with:
Blocked ducts and
You should also reach out for help and advice any time you feel unhappy about the way your baby is nursing.
Your healthcare provider can provide advice on alleviating discomfort, and they may also recommend medication, if necessary. Online you can find forums dedicated exclusively to nursing mothers where they can share their experiences and tips.
Your local women's health physio can offer a range of treatments for these and other breastfeeding problems and help you get to the bottom of your concerns. They will provide support and put together an effective, personal treatment programme based on proven therapies and the latest techniques to get you and your baby back on track.
Help with How to Breast Feed
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural experience that can bring many benefits to both mother and baby. However, it is not always an easy journey for everyone.
There are various problems that can arise during the process, but with some patience and persistence together with the right support and resources, they can be overcome.
Seeking help from a women's health physiotherapist or lactation consultant, joining support groups or getting advice from other experienced mothers can make all the difference in successfully overcoming breastfeeding challenges.
Remember that every mother's journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how to breastfeed. With a little help, you too can overcome any breastfeeding issues and enjoy the wonderful bond that breast milk provides between you and your little one.
PelviCare Women's Health Physiotherapy is located in Greenwich, London, serving women across South London, East London, Essex, Kent and beyond.