Is Breastfeeding Easy? 5 Safety Tips for Mum and Baby

Is Breastfeeding Easy 5 Safety Tips for Mum and Baby

It is 2 am in the morning, and your baby wakes up hungry. You scramble in the dark for a bottle and some formula. Then you stopped to remember; your breasts got this.

It is alluring to see how convenient breastfeeding is, you would think it is so easy. However, when you hold a fussy baby and try your tenth attempt at a proper latch, the situation gets overwhelming fast. Breastfeeding is not easy to copy by merely looking at other nursing women and reading breastfeeding books. Breastfeeding problems are so common among nursing women that a surprising number of new moms can do nothing but stop breastfeeding.

Some moms are lucky to have their milk flowing even during pregnancy. Once the baby arrives, the hungry little one latches on quickly as if she practiced how to suck for nine months. Some breastfeeding journeys consist of latching problems, painful breastfeeding, and (gasp) losing your milk. Read on for tips on how to make breastfeeding a joyful experience for you and your baby.

Common Breastfeeding Problems

Breastfeeding is a journey that requires patience. Your determination can only win half the battle. As natural as it may seem, breastfeeding can be an actual learning curve for many.

Studies show that one or more breastfeeding concerns are common among nursing moms, half of whom eventually succumb to formula feeding and stop breastfeeding altogether. Here are some of the reasons why a new mom will cease from exclusive breastfeeding in the first few weeks:

LATCHING DIFFICULTIES

A good latch is like singing the right chord from the beginning. You need to get the correct latch on both breasts every few hours, and that is where the learning curve happens. The nurses at the hospital can guide your baby to the right latch, but things can get out of hand at home on your own. Latching problems can lead to the following:

  • Sore nipples
  • Cracked nipples
  • Bleeding nipples
  • Breast engorgement

BREASTFEEDING PAIN

Your breasts need to toughen up, and those milk ducts need to open and start flowing with milk. As feeding signals milk production, you can feel discomfort from the fullness of your breasts. If you feel pain around the nipples, it could hurt under your clothes, in the shower, and more so when you are feeding. Feeding through the pain is not only tricky, but it can also be unsafe as in the case of a breast infection.

MILK QUANTITY

Some moms complain about having too much milk while others stress about not having enough. Oversupply can be temporary, but it can also lead to other concerns such as leaking breasts, plugged ducts, and mastitis. A lack of supply, however, can stop milk production and lead to discouragement and a dehydrated baby

Too Much Milk- A fast flow can cause your baby to choke, spit up, and become gassy. Engorged breasts can also cause flat nipples making it challenging to secure a good latch. Expressing milk with your hands before feeding can help regulate the flow your baby receives. In severe cases, you can revert milk production by feeding on only one breast every four hours to signal the other breast to make less milk.

Delayed or Not Enough Milk- Delays can happen after the birth of a premature or high-risk baby. It can take a week or two for milk to come in for these women. Factors that contribute to delayed milk production include:

  • Uterus pain
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Bedrest during pregnancy
  • Fatigue
  • Not enough time actively nursing the baby
  • Negative emotions (fear, embarrassment, irritation, anger)
  • Infection or illness
  • Social pressure, negative comments, not enough support

BREAST INFECTION

Cracks in the nipples due to poor sucking can cause a breeding ground for germs. Although the breasts secrete a natural oil that kills bacteria, wounds open the doors for bacteria to enter the bloodstream fast. Common breastfeeding infections include mastitis (inflammation or swollen breasts) and thrush (a yeast infection that can also appear on the baby’s mouth or bottoms).

BABY HABITS

Babies often feed 15 to 20 minutes on every breast, but drowsy babies can get distracted during feeding and sleep on the breast. Frequency in between feeds can last in between an hour to three hours, so if you breastfeed on-demand, it can get tiring. Also, once your infant starts teething, he can get into the habit of biting when feeding.

Why Breastfeed?

Despite troubles in breastfeeding, many women are still determined to make it work. UNICEF and the World Health Organization recommends nursing for two years and up to three years while the AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding until your infant is six months old. Regardless of how short or long you want to breastfeed your baby, here are several reasons why you would want to breastfeed:

  • Nutrition- Our body creates the most nutritious food for our babies from proteins, fat, and sugar present in our body. Breast milk is full of vitamins, minerals, hormones, DNA, and digestive enzymes that are easily digested in the baby’s stomach.
  • Immunity- Colostrum, the first milk produced by our body contains antibodies that resist illness, allergy, and infections.
  • Long-term Health- Breastfeeding promotes long-term health benefits. Breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS, autism, asthma, eczema, diabetes, leukemia, and obesity.
  • Brain Development- A Brown University study shows that breastfeeding can boost brain development by 20 to 30% faster than formula feeding. Breastfeeding has long been linked to higher IQ as well as improved learning and behavior.
  • Weight- The consistency of breast milk is easier to digest than any other milk. Further, breast milk has the highest percentage of leptin that regulates appetite. A baby that nurses well is less likely to become overweight. The nursing mom can also lose weight as the body converts fat and carbohydrates into milk for the baby.
  • Uterus Health- The feel-good hormone oxytocin is the same hormone you need to reduce bleeding during delivery and post-birth. Oxytocin helps in delivering the baby and shrink the uterus back to pre-pregnancy size. This hormone is released every time you breastfeed. If you are pregnant, you can still breastfeed the older sibling as the release of oxytocin is slow and limited so as not to induce labor.
  • Birth control- Exclusive breastfeeding can delay menstruation for weeks, months, and some, years. After you wean your baby, your periods will resume after six to eight weeks.
    These guidelines are not strict as some women can experience PMS-like cramps without bleeding while others get their periods back a few months post-birth even when breastfeeding. Further, while breastfeeding can delay ovulation, you can still become fertile and get pregnant even when breastfeeding.
  • Efficient- Many families choose to breastfeed as a cost-saving choice over formula-feeding. Average formula expenses can reach thousands of dollars in the first year alone. It also takes less time to prepare your breasts for feeding than when you have to buy formula, clean, sterilize, and warm bottles.
  • Lower Risk of Cancer- First off, breastfeeding cannot provide immunity against cancer. Women can still get diagnosed with cancer even when breastfeeding. The World Cancer Research Fund notes there is strong evidence that long-term breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Suggestive evidence also cites breastfeeding to protect mothers against ovarian cancer.

5 Safety Tips for Mum and Baby

Is Breastfeeding Easy 5 Safety Tips for Mum and Baby

The mom and her baby should mutually enjoy breastfeeding. Several people and tools are useful to help both mom and baby in their breastfeeding journey. You may also have concerns over breastfeeding when sick, pregnant, or taking medication. Read on for some tips to keep breastfeeding safe and enjoyable for mom and baby.

TIP #1: GET HELP

When breastfeeding becomes a challenge, new moms can get support from family, friends, health professionals, and the government. A supportive community ensures the well-being of both the mother and the baby when breastfeeding. Here are ways to get help:

  • Doctors and Nurses- The healthcare team that helped you deliver your baby can also help you start your breastfeeding journey. UNICEF and WHO recommend breastfeeding within the first hour of life, a guideline many birthing facilitators follow. You can get advice on breastfeeding positions, latching, and concerns with medications you need to take while breastfeeding.
  • Lactation Consultants- The International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are professionals who undergo extensive training, education, examination, and experience to support breastfeeding. They can diagnose nursing problems and help create a better plan for you and your baby.
  • Breastfeeding Counselor- The Certified Breastfeeding Educators (CBEs) and the Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) are adept at breastfeeding training courses. You can enroll in a one-week course with these trained professionals so you can have hands-on help breastfeeding your little one.
  • Doula- You may have hired a doula during pregnancy and delivery, now you can get the same support when breastfeeding. Doulas offer extensive knowledge, experience, and emotional support to first-time moms and new moms. You can get help from a trained doula to help you and your baby learn to breastfeed.
  • Breastfeeding Peer Counselor- This person can be a mom-friend or a relative who breastfed her baby and helped other mothers overcome breastfeeding challenges. Support groups can also help you find a breastfeeding peer counselor.
  • La Leche League International- The LLLI is a nonprofit organization that aims to educate, train, and support women for breastfeeding. Search online for a local LLLI support group near you.
  • Government Organizations- The USDA has a nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for low-income breastfeeding mothers up to the first year of life. This program supports breastfeeding mothers with essential supplies like breast pumps and support from a breast peer counselor.

    If you are shy about showing your breasts to other people, you can also call the Office on Women’s Health Helpline at 800-994-9662. They will answer your breastfeeding concerns in English or Spanish.
  • Internet- Many moms document their breastfeeding journeys on the internet for the whole world to know. Some local moms also get together on social media, spearheading their breastfeeding advocacy through Facebook groups and message boards.
    You can chat with these moms online or read through their blogs for general advice. However, when it comes to medical concerns such as breast infections and infant weight loss, consult your doctor.

TIP #2: BE PREPARED

As a general guideline, newborns should feed 8 to 12 times a day in the first month. By three to six months, your baby can store more breast milk and stay full for 3 to 4 hours until the next feeding session. A breastfeeding session can take 40 to 90 minutes as your baby can fall asleep while feeding. During periods of growth spurts, your baby will want to breastfeed more frequently so your breasts will make more milk to meet the demand.

The simplest breastfeeding session will require nothing more than your baby and your breast. However, you may find some supplies are necessary to make breastfeeding more comfortable. Breastfeeding while you’re away from home and pumping during feeding time also requires a few supplies.

What You Need:

  • Nursing Wear- Nursing bras and breastfeeding clothes are designed to offer quick access to the breast and provide breast support. Button-down shirts and loose tops also help make breastfeeding easier. Nursing tank tops also come in handy, so you can hide your belly and still have access to your breasts.

    You will have to change a few breast cup sizes throughout your breastfeeding journey. It can be painful to wear a regular bra as you can expect your breasts to fill up with milk and increase in size.

    Some bras are already padded, but if you experience leaking breasts, you can add a nursing pad, milk collecting shell, or DIY with folded handkerchiefs or clean washcloths.

    A nursing cover is also an excellent addition to your nursing wardrobe. A breathable nursing cover allows moms to breastfeed or pump in public, and still have some privacy.                                                                                                                          
  • Nursing Pillow- Keep all the pillows you used to get comfortable sleep during pregnancy, you will need them now that you are ready to breastfeed. Cradling your baby in different nursing positions can get tiring even with a newborn.

    Pillows can help put your baby in the right position and make breastfeeding more comfortable for both of you. Some moms even confess that nursing pillows helped correct latching difficulties and improved the success of breastfeeding. A nursing pillow can also help with back and neck problems due to breastfeeding.                           
  • Cloth to Wipe Spit-Ups- Burping is a must every breastfeeding session. You can burp before you switch breasts and after the breastfeeding session. Expect spit-ups to happen so have burp cloths and bibs on-hand during feeding.

    If you notice your baby spits up copious amounts of milk, it could be that your milk is flowing too fast (happens with a full breast, you can express milk before feeding) or your food, medication, or an infection is to blame.                                                        
  • Food and Liquids- You can snack on carbohydrates, fruits, veggies, and lactation milk while breastfeeding. Do know that what you eat can affect your breast milk. Some experts advice consuming food your baby could be sensitive to such as nuts, dairy, eggs, shellfish, and chocolate. You should also avoid consumption of alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits, spices, and fish with high levels of mercury (white tuna, swordfish, etc.)

    Most vegetables are excellent to add to a breastfeeding mom’s diet. However, some vegetables are known to cause gas problems which affect colicky babies the most: garlic, onions, broccoli, artichoke, pinto, chickpeas, and kidney beans are some of them.

    Hydration is essential when breastfeeding, so sip on a tall glass of water while nursing your baby. Nursing teas, vegetable juice, and lactation milk can also increase your milk supply. You can also try several lactation treats.                             
  • Pumping Supplies- There are various reasons why a breastfeeding mom will want to pump her milk. A working mom needs to store breast milk for her baby. Other family members want to experience bonding during feeding so you can express milk to be fed through a bottle. Pumping can also increase or balance milk production, and extend breastfeeding well into the toddler years.

    Make sure to clean and sterilize your supplies including all parts of the hand/electric pump, bottles, nipples, and storage bag. Wash your hand with soap and water, and breastfeed in a sanitary place (restrooms are unsanitary).

    Your expressed milk will remain good for 4 hours in room temperature and up to 4 days in the fridge. Breast milk can be frozen for up to six months while still retaining nutritional value, although fat and caloric content may decrease.

    Not all pumped milk is safe for babies to drink. It is best to store your expressed milk in storage bags in a cooler with an ice pack (up to 24 hours) and transfer to the fridge as soon as you get home. Aside from spoiled milk, babies cannot drink expressed milk from mothers who consume alcohol, recreational drugs, certain medications, or undergo procedures like a thyroid scan.                                              
  • Nipple Soother- Cracked nipples, sore breasts, plugged ducts, and inverted nipples make it a pain to breastfeed. Some products can help solve these breastfeeding woes. A nipple inverter or a nipple shield assists in proper latching and resolves pain due to bleeding, cracked, or sore nipples.

    Make sure to use only BPA-free breastfeeding supplies. Ice packs, gel pads, and nipple cream also help heal breast and nipple issues. If you use nipple creams and lotions, make sure to wash your breast with soap and water before breastfeeding and pumping.

Read More: Cracked Nipples Breastfeeding? Here Is What You Need to Know                               The 5 Best Nipple Creams for Breastfeeding You Need Now!                      

TIP #3: CONSULT BEFORE YOU MEDICATE

Over-the-counter drugs, antibiotics, some sleeping aids, and diabetes medication are generally okay for breastfeeding moms. Whatever medication you need to take, it is best to consult your doctor. She can prescribe the right drug and dosage for your health needs as well as monitor your intake and your baby’s health during your medication. Below are some general guidelines:

  • Pain Reliever- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says low doses of pain relievers like ibuprofen and analgesics like acetaminophen are safe for breastfeeding moms.

    The use of stronger painkillers used to manage pain post-delivery need to be monitored when breastfeeding. These medications enter the breast milk in small amounts but are less likely to be absorbed into your baby’s blood unless you take high amounts of medication.                                                                                          
  • Opioids/Opiates- Avoid the use of oxycodone as it can result in infant drowsiness and codeine which can be fatal to your baby.                                                                      
  • Respiratory drugs- Antihistamines are preferred over decongestants as the latter can affect milk supply.                                                                                                            
  • Aspirin- Apart from decreasing milk production, aspirin can lead to Reye’s Syndrome that causes swelling in the brain and liver.                                                        
  • Nausea and Migraine Drugs- Nursing moms should avoid taking antacid medication like Pepto-Bismol and loperamide as these are also linked to Reye’s Syndrome. Wintergreen is also a culprit. Other migraine drugs can also decrease milk production.                                                                                                                 
  • Mental health drugs- Certain antidepressants can be prescribed to nursing mothers who suffer postpartum and chronic depression. However, some can lead to drowsiness and lesser milk supply.                                                                               
  • Birth control pills- Those that are estrogen-based can inhibit milk production, so most doctors recommend progesterone-based pills.

TIP #4: BREASTFEED WHEN SICK

  • When Baby is Sick- Breastfeeding helps prevent dehydration in a sick baby. You can also comfort your baby by breastfeeding. Your breast milk also contains protective enzymes, stem cells, and antibodies that help your baby’s body fight infections.                                                                                                                      
  • When You are Sick- If you are sick with colds, flu, and fever, you can still breastfeed as usual. Your breast milk will contain protective antibodies so your baby won’t get sick too. If you need to be confined to the hospital or undergo an operation, your baby will have to rely on expressed milk or formula until you are discharged.                                                                                                                        
  • Contagious Diseases:                                                                                                   
    • Chickenpox and Herpes Simplex-
    Expressed milk only, avoid skin-to-skin breastfeeding                                                                                                                
    • Measles or Septicaemia-
    No breast milk; the infection can enter your milk            
    • Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, or Lyme Disease-
    Breastfeeding can continue as normal
    • Infectious tuberculosis patients-
    No breast milk until two weeks after treatment  
    • HTLV-1 or HIV
    patients should entirely refrain from breastfeeding.                          
    • Cancer
    patients who need to undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy should also avoid breastfeeding.

TIP #5 BE CAUTIOUS WHEN PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING

If you get pregnant before your baby starts weaning, breastfeeding is safe to continue in most cases. However, you may be advised to start weaning your baby if you had a high-risk pregnancy, multiple child pregnancy, experience bleeding or uterine pain and advised to avoid sex during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding while pregnant can also cause sore nipples, nausea, and fatigue. Your infant may also commence weaning in the second trimester of pregnancy when your milk changes its taste.

Related Questions

How to breastfeed successfully?  

Some moms and babies don’t need much guidance to start their breastfeeding journey, but others can get all the help they can. Some nursing moms rely on the advice of lactation experts to teach correct latching, breastfeeding positions and sucking.

Other moms find relief in nursing shields, nipple inverters, breast therapy packs, and other tools to correct poor sucking methods. New moms and those who want to prolong breastfeeding will also find lactation treats and drinks beneficial for milk production.

How long does the average mom breastfeed?

Health experts recommend breastfeeding in the first year, two, or up to three years of life. At a minimum the recommended duration is the first six months of life. On average, moms stop breastfeeding when the child is 2.5 years old.

Many moms stop breastfeeding before six months. Others give up on their best efforts after three months of breastfeeding torment, and still, some moms start weaning when their baby starts eating solids food.

There are also moms and babies who enjoy toddler and preschool breastfeeding before the child uses other ways to self-soothe. The nutritional value of breast milk remains even in prolonged breastfeeding.

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