Breastfeeding, whether you are for it or not, comes with its share of problems. Issues with lactation or the baby latching, concerns about the baby’s weight, and lack of support from family and workplace or healthcare are some common reasons for mothers discontinuing breastfeeding early. Dr Aruna Muralidhar MD MRCOG (UK), FRCOG (UK), senior consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, says, “Nourishing a baby with breast milk is the best gift that the mother can give in all her life. However, about half of the mothers give up breastfeeding after 6 months and only about 1/3rd of mothers continue to feed their babies till a year.” She sheds some light on some common breastfeeding problems and their possible solutions.
Not Enough Milk
“Many women feel that their milk secretion is not enough. However, this is not true most of the time. Not breastfeeding frequently enough can impact milk output. Frequent feeding or pumping stimulates breasts to make more milk by switching on the hormones, prolactin and oxytocin,” explains Dr Aruna.
Sometimes, the baby has difficulty extracting milk out even if there is enough milk. This could be due to poor latching. This is more likely in premature babies or babies with a structural problem with the mouth, such as tongue-tie, etc.
This is the most common complaint of mothers who have just initiated breastfeeding. “Nipple sensitivity usually goes away after about 30 seconds of suckling whereas nipple pain due to some injury persists or even gets worse over time with feeding. The latter is due to incorrect technique and poor latch-on. If the baby latches on properly, the nipple is usually free-floating in the baby’s mouth and doesn’t get in contact with any structure of the mouth. Whereas if the baby only takes in the nipple without taking in the areola, there is more injury. Also, the milk doesn’t get expressed,” says Dr Aruna. Other ways of maintaining good nipple health and hygiene are to keep them dry and not use harsh soaps or overuse breast pads.
Inverted Or Flat Nipples
Identifying flat or inverted nipples during pregnancy can help prepare them earlier for breastfeeding. “Rolling the nipple between the thumb and forefinger to make it stick out can help. Also, compressing the breast just behind the areola with fingers in a ‘V’ or ‘C’ shape to push the nipple outwards can be helpful,” suggests Dr Aruna.
Baby’s Mouth Is Too Small
Premature babies are likely to have smaller mouths. The use of nipple shields may help in such circumstances.
Breastfeeding, per se, may not be a major contributor to sagging breasts. Genetics, underlying muscle tone, weight gain, etc. also play a role. “Some ways to help maintain the shape and firmness are wearing a supportive bra, exercising regularly, maintaining a good posture, moisturising regularly and of course, stopping smoking,” says Dr Aruna.
Too Much Breast Milk
Too much is too bad. For mothers with an oversupply of milk, the sudden gush of milk can make the baby choke or cough. Also, babies do not get the hindmilk, which is the last part of the milk supply and has the highest calories. “This problem mostly goes away with time. The milk supply balances out according to demand. In the meantime, holding the baby in an upright position to nurse and using fingers to regulate the flow of milk, making babies burp often, and avoiding pumping between feeds can help overcome this problem,” says Dr Aruna.
While breastfeeding mothers might face other challenges apart from the ones mentioned here, good support from the obstetrician, lactation consultant and the family will help them achieve a full two-year long health passport for themselves and their baby.
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