The offer of the maternal breast to the baby is an unquestionable right of mothers and their children, and all efforts should be made to promote, follow and maintain exclusive breastfeeding for up to 6 months and supplement it until the child completes 2 years of age. *
Have you ever dreamt of breastfeeding, but weren’t able to? Breastfeeding is not an easy task, keep in mind. But with the right technique and support, you can do it! Remember, it’s the natural way of feeding, so it is not impossible!
Below are some of the reasons mothers quote when giving up breastfeeding their child. Click on each to find the solution:
“… I am having latch issues…The baby simply cannot latch!
For latch issues, it is very important to follow the right technique for breastfeeding. A big chunk of the breast surrounding the nipple should be put in the baby’s mouth to suckle, not just the tip of the nipple. Otherwise, it will lead to soreness and bleeding. And believe me you don’t want to go into that. Once you get there, it is more difficult to come out of it without pain. So, it is always better to prevent yourself from being in that position.
A tip to test if the nipple position and latch is right or not, is:
If it is painful, it is not right!
Immediately, insert your pinky finger in between the breast and the baby’s mouth and no matter how hard the baby is trying to not let go 😀 just relieve yourself.
And then put the nipple back in with the correct technique mentioned above!
When I say it’s painful, breastfeeding by itself causes some soreness and mild discomfort. I don’t mean that. What I mean is pain. Breastfeeding is not painful naturally! So, if you do feel pain, that means the baby is not latched properly, and you do not want that!
There are some very helpful images here, especially related to putting a large part of the breast inside the baby’s mouth for a good latch. (If the baby is not opening the mouth wide enough, use your index finger to gently open up the baby’s mouth wide enough. With some practice at first, the baby will learn that it will get the milk only when he opens the mouth wide enough):
Remember that all techniques are good for breastfeeding the baby, but the positions in which the baby is upright are the best. The sleeping position in which both the mom and the baby are lying down, while seemingly easy for the mom to feed, and advertised everywhere on online blogs and also by nursing specialists, carry a risk of ear infection in the baby.
(Once I my child had ear infection=otitis media, and I visited the ENT specialist, he advised me to never feed the baby in the lying position, and also to maintain an upright position. Moreover, the fluid in my baby’s ears did not decrease with time, and the baby eventually had conductive deafness, a temporary condition because of excess fluid in the ear, that caused a lot of trouble for me later on. It eventually had to be treated for months with nasal saline washes and medicines)
“I do not have enough milk supply”
Milk demand and supply (production) go hand in hand. The more the baby demands and consumes, the more the milk is produced. The less the baby suckles and latches on the nipple, the less the milk will be produced. This is because the baby latching onto the nipple, stimulates the milk overflow. The suckling of the baby stimulates the body (through the Hypothalamic pituitary axis) to release prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is the milk hormone that causes the breast alveoli to produce milk, and oxytocin causes the contraction of the alveoli or milk glands, in order to release the milk.
A common problem encountered when mothers feel that they do not have enough supply, is that they shift their babies on supplementary feed (formula milk). This is brought on by the baby crying because the mother thinks that their baby is hungry. It ends up being in a vicious cycle. (Baby hungry and crying, mother supplements the baby, supply goes drastically down, End result= no supply!)
A new-born may be simply fussy, may be crying for some other reason, or it could be that the baby is hungry. But the trick is to persevere, and keep the baby on breastfeed (I will tell you that in the next paragraph) The first few days are the most crucial. Once you pass the 3-day mark, that is the biggest achievement you and your baby have gone through! Then when you pass the 7-day mark, give yourself a pat at the back! Or tell someone else to give it to you if you are so tired 😀 Breastfeeding is a journey. It is the most tiresome thing in the world! At least it was for me… but the benefits you and your baby will achieve also go a long way!
How to solve the issue of milk supply
- Enough hydration!
- There are some natural products that increase the milk flow (you could try those. There is no harm in trying out these natural products!).
- Hot chocolate (For me that was my magic drug. Somehow, I craved it too. I never had pregnancy cravings, but I always had breastfeeding cravings!) It soothed me, relaxed me, and kept me hydrated. You don’t always feel like drinking enough water, but a cup of hot chocolate, a cup of tea may just be right for you while keeping you hydrated. Keep in mind though that tea and green tea are dehydrating, not hydrating, so don’t consume too much. Maybe just flavoured water, sherbet, or
- De-stress yourself!
If none of the above works, NO MATTER WHAT keep the baby on one nipple, drain out all the milk from the breast, shift the baby to the other milk, drain it all out. Normally, this much milk is enough for the babies. But if you think the baby is still not satisfied, transfer the baby to the first breast again. As the milk would have started coming again in the first breast.
Hopefully, this will be enough for the baby. If not, then…
Take a break. Eat, drink. Then pump… For those having supply issues, an electric pump is a must-have! Pumping will stimulate your body to produce more milk. Actually, pumping gives so much stimulus (more than the natural stimulus the baby gives) that it could lead to problems of oversupply.
Yes! And I am saying this out of experience. Mothers who were initially fraught with issues of undersupply, could well be complaining of issues of over-supply now. Just follow the above guide, and you will see for yourself. (And if you still are struggling, I advise you to read the section on ‘latch’ issues. And if you are still struggling, seek medical help. There may be some underlying infection preventing you from feeding properly, or the baby may not be actively responding to the feed.
For new-borns who are sleepy and less active, if they had not had their proper feed, and enough time has passed, wake them up, gently pinch the ears, or stroke the baby’s feet. Babies who are jaundiced (because of blood-group mismatch commonly or because of any disorder) are usually drowsy because of the build-up of bilirubin in their blood and they may tend to sleep during the feed. Keep the baby awake till the end of the feed. Sometimes as a mother you have got to do stuff for your baby, for the baby’s own sake, even if it feels as if it’s not right. A drowsy baby who is not feeding properly is not healthy. You have got to take the right action. And here the right action is to keep the baby awake during the entire feed. (My nurse would recommend me not to cuddle up the baby in warm blankets while feeding. Ensuring the room temperature is fine, extra warm blankets would make the baby tend to be sleepy, so she opened up all the blankets, immediately the baby started being active, moving his arms and legs, a sign that the baby was active)
Remember that both conditions of undersupply and oversupply can be detrimental in feeding your child. Oversupply doesn’t necessarily mean life is going to be easy for you. It is in fact the opposite. (See issues of oversupply) A delicate balance therefore has to be kept. It is important to consider these issues before you succumb to any problem. Once a problem arises, it is more time consuming to get out of it.
“I have problems of oversupply. This led me first to issues of latching, and then mastitis and I couldn’t continue breastfeeding”
Oversupply: First explore the causes of oversupply. A breast would naturally be able to produce up to a certain volume of milk that it has been designed to produce. Maybe that is being disrupted by pumping… (but wait, you told us to pump, and now you are saying we shouldn’t pump?! I don’t get that!!) Well, the answer is: Pump only if you have to pump! People who have a tendency to underproduce milk are highly recommended to pump, if you are working or traveling, and want to keep a balance of giving the baby breast-feeding milk (direct from the breast) and breast-expressed milk, you will of course have to pump to express, either manually or by using an electric pump. If you have no indication to pump, you do not have to pump just for the sake of it! You do not need to waste your time and energy. Remember that whatever path you take, try to keep a balance! Otherwise, your body will get confused and so will your baby…As both adapt to your routine, and you don’t want to mess it! Otherwise, you will be the one struggling.
So, first thing if you are oversupply, is to stop pumping if you are pumping.
Second, look for other causes: Maybe your baby used to drink all this milk, which is why your body is now producing all this milk. Is your baby fine? Is he or she drinking enough? Remember that oversupply somewhere between day 3-5 of the baby being born is a normal, expected phenomena. (When the shift from the colostrum to milk occurs, breasts get engorged! It is expected, and solutions to handle this particular issue will come up later.
“…it is day 3 of my baby, and my breasts are getting engorged.”
The transition from colostrum (the whitish fluid produced during the first few days of life, also known as ‘white gold’) to milk causes terribly engorged breasts. This is a natural phenomenon and mothers are encouraged to bear with it. Take rest, relax, take plenty of fluids, and take a warm shower. Warm showers help ease the pain, and while in the shower you will even see the excess milk trickling out.
Some other tips are also told by healthcare professionals and nursing specialists, like the use of cabbage leaves for curing engorgement, but I would caution you to be very careful, as using these may cause the breast milk production to decrease drastically, so those mothers who have a tendency to have issues related to lack of milk supply, are advised to go with simpler measures like a hot shower. If engorgement is very painful, you may use cabbage leaves once or twice during the extreme episode, but do not overuse them.
For relief of engorgement, DO NOT PUMP! (A lot of people advise pumping for engorgement, and I really do not understand why! Out of my own experience, pumping did not decrease the engorgement, rather it worsened it! And as I explained earlier, it makes sense too… Once I stopped pumping, and just letting the extra milk out gently to relieve my pain by hand expressing only, my life got way much easier! Pumps are very powerful machines (the electric ones) and they mimic a very powerful suckle. As explained earlier, the more the milk the baby feeds, the more is produced. Or the more the suckling (or pumping) is done, the more the production. And you do not want that! For relief of heavily engorged breasts, just manually with your hands, express the milk (in a cup or bottle).
For engorgement, there are two other seemingly contradictory therapies often advised: cold compression (ice bag/ bag of frozen vegetables), and hot compression (hot massage, hot therapy, warm shower). Now these seem very contradictory, so I’ll explain them both:
Heat causes the milk to flow, cold decreases the milk.
For engorgement, you may first take a shower to let the milk come out easily on its own, and once done, you may apply cold compress for reducing the swelling (if moderate to severe engorgement)
“…my breasts are growing asymmetrical. The right is bigger than the left.”
I have heard mothers giving up breastfeeding because of this issue. It actually has quite an easy fix!
If the right breast is the bigger one, then latch the baby to the right breast once, the left breast twice!
And vice versa.
So basically, let me explain this in detail.
It is 8 am let’s say, the baby wakes up in the morning. and it is time for the baby to take the first feed for the day. You feed the baby with any one of your breasts. Let’s say it’s the right one (and this is also the breast that tends to get bigger), the baby has had its full, now,
Next feed time is let’s say after 45 minutes to 1 hour (9am). Baby is hungry. Now you feed the baby with the left breast (second feed) Now after another one and a half hour around 10.30 am, the baby starts to feel hungry again (The timings mentioned here are for demonstrative purpose only as the exact timings will vary with the age of the baby, and the baby’s demand). Now this is the third feed. Instead of shifting from R, L, R, L. And feeding the baby with the right breast again as would normally be doing, you once again give the baby the left breast. Just do it! And only till the baby finishes the milk (we expect the milk to be less, as previously the baby had already drunk from this breast. After that you present the right breast to the baby. So, the pattern that we create in asymmetry (when R>L), is R, L, L, we give twice the chance to the breast that is smaller (Remember the demand and supply rule: The more the demand (stimulus to the nipple), the more the supply and production of milk.
Now after this, for the fourth feed, it is up to you. If you feel that your right breast is engorging and that will create more issues for you if you don’t empty it, then for the 4th feed, you can start with the right breast, and then left (5th feed), left (6th feed).
Keep up this pattern, for days or weeks, until your issue resolves and both breasts are equal again.
In any case, don’t worry about this being a deformity for life because this is not a structural deformity of the breast. Once your children stop breastfeeding, the size of both breasts will get back to normal. It is just due to different volumes of milk contained within the breast, and a year down the road, believe me none of this will matter.
I came across a mother, who had cited this as the reason for not being able to breastfeed. I told her I had the same experience but despite this I continued to breastfeed my baby. And this is what I did. I had asked my cousin who had breastfed her children. And she had told me this simple solution. None of the breastfeeding blogs had mentioned this, and maybe moms are shy to ask about such a bizarre phenomenon. What we moms need is a highly supportive group, especially when our hormones are all bizarre already. What we need around us are helpful people. Not people who are toxic. But people who actually bring good to you, and support you in every way.
“I have heard from people that breast fed and not breast-fed babies are the same. So why the struggle!”
Please do not deprive your baby of your feed. Unless there is a valid reason in yours or your babies’ interest. (Please note here that I am not advocating mothers to continue feeding at whatever costs. I am simply iterating the fact that it is a baby’s right to be fed by their mother. And it is also a mother’s right on her own body.) It is naturally a mother’s instinct to feed her or his baby for the sake of connection and a lifelong bond. And not just that, because of the immense benefits both mother and child receive out of this mutual relationship). So, unless there is a valid reason, please do not merely relinquish this opportunity.
“My friend had two babies. She breast-fed one and did not breastfeed the other. The one that was breastfed gets sicker than the one that was not breast fed. Why?”
I don’t’ know!
Yes, I truly don’t know the answer to this question. In fact, I was considering doing some research on this subject. The issue with such research is the fact that the subjects in this case have to be new-borns, and research on new-borns is always tricky! Nevertheless, research on cases and controls have already been conducted in the past. What I do know is that all babies are different even if they are from one mother. Some have more tendency to get sick, some don’t. It could be due to their body differences, or it could be due to seasonal variations in their timings of birth.
For a fact, what we do know is:
- The recent World Health Organization reviews of the short- and long-term benefits of breastfeeding concluded that there was strong evidence for many public health benefits of breastfeeding. Cognitive development is improved by breastfeeding, and infants who are breastfed and mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of obesity. Other chronic diseases that are reduced by breastfeeding include diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia, and some types of cancer.
- …most of the available information highlights the benefits of breast milk for children, while mention of the effects of breastfeeding on the health of the mother is usually neglected.
In summary, there is a huge literature on this topic, all that has unanimously supported the immense benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and child. This truth cannot be denied. To fulfil this role, a whole systems approach should be taken. For working mothers, the introduction of a ‘breastfeeding hour’ as in some countries, and similarly, flexible working hours, part-time work, etc. can all be enabling factors. For women who are not working, for them as well it is crucial that a support system is maintained. As they are at home 24/7 with the baby, they need to take out time for themselves.
*Breastfeeding and the Benefits of Lactation for Women’s Health
Luiz Antonio Del Ciampo 1 , Ieda Regina Lopes Del Ciampo 2
PMID: 29980160 DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1657766
**The Long-Term Public Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
Colin Binns 1 , MiKyung Lee 2 , Wah Yun Low 3
PMID: 26792873 DOI: 10.1177/1010539515624964