Eight out of 10 moms begin breastfeeding their newborn at birth. But that number goes down to half by the time the baby is six months old. Even fewer make it to the baby's first birthday, which is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While there are a number of factors that impact a woman's decisions on breastfeeding, the statistics show that many women understand the positive health effects of nursing, but the journey can be quite rocky. Many women start out with a lot of concerns, and that can translate into how they deal with barriers. Many times the issues aren't as daunting as they might seem, but all women have some obstacle they have to overcome at some point. We want to give some tips than can make the journey smoother so moms can make it to their goal.
A lot of women worry about their breastmilk supply and the discomfort that can come. But knowing about things like lactation cookies and how to get a good latch can help them feel a lot more confident to get to the next stage. We've got some answers and some advice on things like pumping that can help things go better for mom and baby.
Here are 12 most common breastfeeding concerns and eight ways to make it smooth.
20 Concern: My Supply Isn't Coming In
After a woman gives birth, her body's postpartum recovery includes the making of breastmilk. That can seem to be a bit of a lofty goal, since the baby starts nursing in minutes even though the supply doesn't show up for days. Many women get anxious right away about their milk supply, and that can be their biggest concern in the first few days of nursing.
But moms don't need to feel pressure about their milk supply so soon. The baby gets the benefit of the thick, nutrient-filled colostrum in the first several days of life before the regular milk comes in three to seven days later. We know that moms want their baby to regain weight — and doctors do too. So they need to follow the doctor's advice to keep the baby healthy. and also be sure to nurse as much as they can, since that can boost their supply when it does come in.
19 Concern: It's Going To Hurt
One of the biggest fears of moms considering breastfeeding — and one of the major reasons some decide against it — is that it will hurt. Mom's girls get extra sensitive during pregnancy, and it's hard to imagine willingly putting your parts through even more pain willingly. But while tenderness is common at the beginning, breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if it is done correctly.
While pretty much no one gets through breastfeeding without any pain, it shouldn't be unbearable. The pain is a signal of an incorrect latch, so moms shouldn't just deal with it; they should unlatch the baby and try again. When mom and baby get more comfortable in a few weeks, the experience might be totally painless — until the baby gets teeth, and you have to teach them not to bite.
18 Concern: Cracking And more
Now that we've just said that nursing isn't supposed to hurt, it seems weird to mention another concern and that is cracking and bleeding at the tips. And yes, unfortunately that does happen, especially at the very beginning. But again, it's likely going to be a symptom of a latch issue or a blocked duct, so moms shouldn't have to experience this issue for long.
There are two things to note here. One is that it's OK to nurse through cracked and bleeding tips. The baby won't be harmed by the blood in the milk, and in fact nursing might be able to resolve any issue with clogged ducts. In addition, moms should look into using a cream or even their own breastmilk on the tips to try to help them heal and stay hydrated. Yes, breastmilk is a great ointment that can make a world of difference with cracking and bleeding.
17 Concern: My Girls Aren't Shaped Right
Most moms can find themselves a little down on their body during pregnancy, but some moms carry on that worry into concern about whether their girls are actually capable of breastfeeding. Usually the problem is the tip, and they think that any anomaly such as a flat or inverted shape is going to keep the baby from getting any milk. But the body is an amazing thing, and it's still possible to nurse for many moms worried about the shape.
Many moms can experience inversion or flat tips more in the first few days after the birth because of engorgement, but it's still possible for the baby to latch on. There are some tools that might help, and lactation consultants can help. The shape of the girls isn't as big of a deal as a mom might think, and nursing might actually help over time.
16 Concern: How Will I Know When The Baby Is Hungry?
Moms can be concerned about a lot when they are just getting to know their little one. Knowing when to change a diaper and when to feed the baby is just the beginning of communication that has to be figured out between the two. And most moms want to avoid waiting until the baby cries — for good reason, since it can hurt their ability to get a good latch if the baby is upset.
But babies give lots of signals when they are hungry that moms can pick up. They bring their hands to the mouth and sometimes kind of peck at the chest. Those actions are called rooting, and moms will be surprised how quickly they figure out their baby's clues. It's an unspoken language, but it won't take long to understand.
15 Concern: What Can I Eat?
One of the biggest lifestyle changes for most moms-to-be during pregnancy is their diet. After nine months of adjusting what they eat for their child, it's understandable that moms can be concerned about what they can eat while they are breastfeeding. The good news is that most women don't have to alter their food choices at all, save for abstaining from alcohol, but we'll get to that soon.
There are a couple of food choices that moms might want to think about. For example, some babies get a lot of gas when their moms eat gassy foods like broccoli and beans, so that might be minimized. And women worried about their supply can eat foods that can increase it such as oats. Some newborns can develop allergies, most commonly to milk, so moms might need to consult a doctor if the baby is having a lot of reflux or eczema.
14 Concern: Is The Baby Getting Enough Food?
The one big difference between giving a baby a bottle and having her nurse is that you can see how much the eats with one but moms just have to trust with the other. It can be a constant fear for some moms, since they don't know how much their body is producing and how effective their baby is at nursing. The only real way to tell is to see if the baby is growing properly.
Moms can weigh the baby before and after each feeding to get an idea of how many ounces he consumed, but most don't have access to a scale that measures in those amounts. And pumping into a bottle isn't as effective because it can decrease milk supply. Moms should watch out for signs of dehydration such as lethargy and a sunken soft spot, but eventually they will learn to trust that their body is providing.
13 Concern: The Baby Is Using Me As A Pacifier
As much as a mom loves to have sweet moments nursing her little one, sometimes it can be a bit too much. At times it feels like the baby is using mom as a pacifier, and that might be true. There are times when moms might have to nurse every hour, such as during a growth spurt, but there are definitely times when the baby is just sucking for comfort. That can happen when the little one is sick or teething or just wants some time with mama.
There is another thing that works great at soothing the baby — a pacifier. Some moms might worry about using the little thing, but pacifiers aren't bad things. Some lactation experts say there might be a concern for confusion in the first few days or even a week or two, but most babies do fine with a pacifier after that, so mom doesn't have to be one.
12 Concern: Is It Safe To Have A Glass Of something special?
After nine months without alcohol through pregnancy, some moms would love to enjoy an occasional glass of wine. But when they are breastfeeding, they wonder if the alcohol would pass on to the baby. But if moms are careful, they can indulge in a glass or two.
It is possible for the alcohol to clear out of a mom's body after two hours, so moms should try to time it so their last sip is at least a couple of hours before the baby needs to nurse. A safe option might be to "pump and dump." That is, have a bottle of breastmilk ready and after having alcohol pumping the milk and throwing it away, giving the baby the bottled milk. That can allow a woman to have a night out with friends to relax, have some fun and feel like more than just a mom for a while.
11 Concern: Can I Take Medications?
Moms have to be really careful about what they ingest during pregnancy, and the same can be true after the birth if they are breastfeeding. That's because just about everything passes from the mom to the baby. After foregoing prescription meds for nine months, many women feel a need to go back on the drugs they need. But they definitely need to talk to the doctor first.
There are definitely some risks to the baby to taking certain medications while nursing, and that means things like cold medicine probably have to be skipped. But sometimes doctors believe that the benefits of treating the mom outweigh the risks to the baby, so be sure to ask the doctor and see what is the best course of action while nursing.
10 Concern: I'm nursing, why don't I look like I did before?
There is a great benefit to breastfeeding that might tip some moms who aren't sure about nursing. They might be swayed by the fact that breastfeeding can help some moms lose their baby weight. But moms shouldn't count on that. Even though nursing can take a lot of calories, some moms hold on to their baby weight until they wean.
Doctors don't recommend trying to lose weight while nursing. Some is OK, but dieting can actually hurt a woman's milk supply. It might be best to keep the pounds so that the baby is well nourished. The baby weight can wait, since the most important thing is the health of the baby.
9 Concern: Getting Sleep
When you have a newborn, motherhood is a round-the-clock job. And many moms wonder if they will ever get a good night's sleep again. Moms who bottle-feed their babies can sleep through a feeding and let dad take a shift, but breastfeeding moms don't have that option.
The truth is that breastfed babies often take longer to sleep through the night, although some can sleep for six to eight hour stretches by three or four months old. It's definitely a legitimate concern to get some sleep, so moms should do what they can to nap with the baby during the day. It really could be a while until the baby is truly sleeping through the night.
8 Make It Smooth: Set Up A Comfy Spot For Nursing
Being comfortable while you nurse can really help in making the experience enjoyable. Every mom will know the moment when she is sitting on a toy but wouldn't dare move for fear of waking up her little one, but if that is the way that it always is, then most of us wouldn't make it through the first month.
In addition to making sure the spot is comfortable and maybe having a nursing pillow ready, moms should stock the spot with a few snacks and a water bottle because in the beginning they will feel extremely drained during a breastfeeding session. A book or a phone charger might help too. This is an important spot, so moms should make sure that she has everything she needs within reach.
7 Make It Smooth: Bake Lactation Cookies
We've mentioned how what a woman eats can play a role in breastfeeding, and while some women can keep their milk supply up without any supplements, we think that baking some lactation cookies can make things go even smoother.
There are a lot of recipes on the internet for the treats — and we definitely think that moms deserve a treat. Most of them include oats, wheat germ and flaxseed, which can do a lot for the mother's milk. On top of that, the cookies can help in fighting fatigue and possibly help prevent the baby blues. Those are definitely worth a little time in the kitchen.
6 Make It Smooth: Get A Nursing App
Technology is amazing, and there are plenty of apps around that can make motherhood a little easier. A nursing app can make a big difference in allowing breastfeeding to go smoothly, since it can put all the research and lots of tips at mom's fingertips.
A good app can help her keep track of feedings and remind her which side that she previously nursed on. Many moms want to know how long the baby nurses, and many of the apps have a special timer on them. Some even have chat groups that can connect moms with other women who are going through the same stages that they are. It can help a lot to have more information and support throughout the breastfeeding journey.
5 Make It Smooth: Get A Good Start During The Golden Hour
Breastfeeding can be hard for mom and baby, but the easiest moment to begin happens really early. That's because newborns have a natural instinct to nurse in the first hour of life — they can even crawl up their mother's body to get to their food in that time. Because the reflex is so strong, that time period is known as the golden hour.
It's not always possible to nurse in that first hour — there might be a health issues that makes it impossible for the mom or the baby to breastfeed in that time. But if it is possible, lactation consultants highly encourage moms to take advantage of that time. It can make it easier to learn what a good latch is and get used to the sensation. The first month or two of nursing can go a lot smoother just back taking advantage of the golden hour.
4 Make It Smooth: Pumping Tips Before Going Back To Work
Working moms might struggle with the idea of continuing breastfeeding when they go back to work. It's definitely difficult, and the stress can start early since the mom needs to build up a stock of milk before she returns to the office. We have a few tips that might make things go smoother.
The first is not to worry about pumping for the first three or four weeks if you are returning to work at six weeks or first six weeks if going back at 12 weeks. Of course, if there is a reason to pump earlier to provide food to the baby then go ahead, but don't let the worry about returning to work interfere with establishing nursing. Always pump after you nurse (unless you are exclusively pumping) and don't worry if the supply comes slowly — you only need to have one day's worth in the fridge, then you can pump the next day's when you are work.
Finally, introduce the bottle to the baby before returning to work, but don't feed it yourself — have the dad or someone else give the bottle, preferably when you are out of the room pumping. The baby is more likely to take the bottle instead of insisting on mom, and mom doesn't have to go through as much heartbreak.
3 Make It Smooth: Don't Consider Supplementing A Defeat
It doesn't take long for a mom to feel defeated in breastfeeding — in fact, many moms can think that they have failed before they even have a chance to really learn. That's because babies need to quickly start gaining weight and hopefully returning back to their birth weight within a week or 10 days. That can also stave off jaundice.
If the doctor says that the baby is failing to thrive and the mom needs to supplement, some women take that as a sign that they have failed in breastfeeding. But that isn't true. Sometimes their milk might be coming in later or they just need some extra help at the beginning. Instead of giving up, it would go smoother if the mom tries a supplemental system that still involves the baby latching on, which can help boost her supply and allow her baby to get improved nutrition at the time.
2 Make It Smooth: A Few Supplies That Might Help
One of the perks of breastfeeding is that mom can save a lot of money, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't help to invest a little money in some supplies that can mean a lot in finding success. For example, a shield for the tip can help with the latch, and nursing bras or tanks can allow for easy access when the baby is ready to nurse and support for the growing girls.
Breastfeeding moms should consider a pump as well. If a mom is returning to work, she'll likely need a double electric pump, while a stay-at-home might be well-served by a single manual pump. Another good thing to stock up on is pads for the inside of the bra, since many breastfeeding moms leak, especially in the beginning, and some moms might want a nursing cover to feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public. There are a number of other supplies on the market that moms might be interested in, but do your research to figure out what is worth the money.
1 Make It Smooth: Talk To A Lactation Consultant
The amazing thing about breastfeeding these days is that no mom has to go through it alone. It's easy to find an expert in most parts of North America. Most doulas and midwives have some training in lactation, and most hospitals with birth centers have a trained lactation consultant on hand, along with nurses who have some expertise.
Many hospitals and baby centers have support groups for nursing moms, and insurance companies often have free telephone consultations available. With so many resources available, there is no reason for a mother to go it alone in her first few weeks of nursing. It's OK to ask questions and get advice. It can make the breastfeeding journey go smoother and bring a lot of joy and peace to the mother.