We’ve all heard that breastfeeding is best and any mother who has tried tirelessly to breastfeed through a variety of complications must surely believe it. The research supports this claim. Breastfed babies develop stronger immune systems, tighter bonds with their mothers and tend to develop higher levels of intelligence than formula-fed babies.
Breastfeeding also comes easier to most mothers. Bottle-feeding is more expensive and takes more preparation — which is important when it’s 3 AM and momma needs some sleep. Often, babies will suckle simply for comfort reasons rather than nutritional purposes, especially at night.
That’s why the body knows to make more milk that is less nutritionally dense throughout the wee hours of the morning so that the baby can drink more.
The benefits of breastfeeding are virtually endless. As such, it can be very difficult for women to endure roadblocks that attempt to stand in their way of having a solid breastfeeding relationship with their child. For women who plan to breastfeed, they usually don’t see these kinds of issues coming.
I can attest to that personally. After having breastfed two babies with no issues at all, I never expected tongue and lip ties to impede my nursing experience with my third baby so badly that I’m still here pumping instead of nursing most all the time 13 months later.
It happens. Sadly, many women are told they can't breastfeed when they truly still can. Only around 2 percent of women actually can't nurse. Other complications may arise, but they can be overcome with patience, diligence, and sometimes a necessary intervention or two. Knowing what might lurk behind the breastfeeding door ahead of time may help.
15 Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex — also known as D-MER — is something else most women have never heard of until they are faced with it. Ladies, no one wants to endure this. D-MER is a disorder that causes women to experience intense feelings of disgust, depression, anxiety, restlessness, and more upon letdown.
Sometimes, the symptoms persist throughout the nursing session.
This can be extremely disheartening to the mother who was looking forward to nursing her baby only to find the experience to be unbearable. For these women, the bond that breastfeeding brings is lost in the mix of mental health woes that bring them to tears every time they nurse or pump.
While the phenomenon of D-MER is not fully understood, it is thought that these women have a sensitivity to oxytocin and that the release of such upon letdown causes their emotional instability.
14 Pumping Too Soon
It might sound like a great idea to double up on the action and pump in addition to nursing in the beginning. Who doesn’t want to save a little colostrum for baby down the road should they get sick or start building their freezer stash right from the start? In theory, it sounds like a good idea. In reality, it can cause a serious issue of oversupply.
Yeah, oversupply doesn’t sound terrible, until you’re the one dealing with it. Just as not having enough milk can drive mothers crazy, having too much is a problem all its own.
Pumping gets old. I can attest to that having done it now for more than year. It’s a big commitment to stop several times every single day and pump. It seems easier when your little one is tiny and sleeping all the time. Wait until they’re mobile and trying to rip the pump bottles off your chest while they’re suctioned to you.
Producing too much milk can also lead to an overactive letdown, which makes latching on and nursing difficult for a lot of babies. Waiting until at least six weeks to start pumping is advice best heeded.
13 Tongue And Lip Ties
Many parents are unaware of what tongue ties and lip ties are until their child is found to be suffering from one or both. Most of the time it’s both. It is estimated that 90 percent of children with lip ties also have tongue ties. The latter can often be posterior, which means it is under the tongue in the flesh of the mouth.
This kind of tie is difficult to assess and must be done so manually with palpitation. For that reason, only a trained professional can do it. A tongue tie occurs when the frenulum extends too far toward the tip of the tongue. A lip tie occurs when the top lip is too tightly tethered to the gum line.
It’s important to note that tongue and lip ties do not always impair breastfeeding. However, when they do, revision is necessary. Telltale signs of a tie include: a poor latch that leaves the nipple somewhat crushed and in a lipstick shape, pain while nursing, poor milk transfer that might leave moms with a low supply, clicking noises while nursing, and breaking from suction during feeds.
Tongue ties affect up to 11 percent of newborn babies and are a strong marker for the MTHFR gene mutation.
12 A Baby Boy's Circumcision
Circumcision certainly brings with it many debates among mothers. Those who are for it often don’t want to hear that it may interfere with breastfeeding, but the science is clear on this. It does indeed cause complications in this department. Many baby boys come back from the procedure and go on a nursing strike.
Some refuse the breast for days, which seriously impairs a mother’s milk supply in those beginning stages when the baby is supposed to be cluster feeding.
It's thought that the shock of circumcision is what may lead to this behavior. So, mothers who are concerned about going through with circumcision because of the risk that the surgery could hinder their breastfeeding ability and bond with baby have every right to be worried. Those mothers may find some reassurance in knowing that science now supports breastfeeding as a solid replacement of sorts to circumcision where UTIs are concerned.
The beneficial immunity that breastfeeding provides far outweighs the risk of minor issues involved with staying intact. Likewise, the statistics show remaining intact provides more protective measures for the baby throughout life than being circumcised does — something we used to believe was untrue.
The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer supports routine infant circumcision. The procedure is now classified as being cosmetic.
11 Bottle Feeding And Feeding Confusion
Switching back and forth from the breast to a bottle can be particularly confusing for babies. This is where the term nipple confusion comes in. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are not created equal. This extends far beyond breastmilk and formula. Even for moms who pump and want to be able to bottle feed sometimes, it’s a slippery slope.
The issue isn’t the nipple itself or it’s texture. It’s that artificial bottle nipples allow the milk to flow outward at a much faster pace than the breast does. In addition, the flow from a bottle nipple is continuous. With the breast, it comes in spurts and the baby must keep sucking in between to get that milk.
Furthermore, if a baby isn’t breastfeeding at all and only consuming milk via a bottle, they won’t benefit from changes in the milk that adapt to the backwash of saliva a baby presents to the breast when nursing.
While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it is another reason to reconsider exclusively pumping. Pace feeding is strongly recommended for parents who want to breastfeed and bottle feed. In addition, those babies should never be staged up from a preemie nipple.
10 Taking Birth Control
Many women have heard stories of a friend or family member who got pregnant soon after having a baby. There is a widespread myth that women are somehow super fertile during the postpartum period. This isn’t actually true. There is no such thing as super fertility. You are just fertile, period.
Actually, many women have very thin uterine linings while breastfeeding, because high levels of prolactin keep estrogen suppressed. So, implantation is actually more difficult at this time.
However, a lot of women are still fearful of having another baby too soon. So, they hop on birth control hoping to decrease their risk of two under two. That being said, many forms of birth control can diminish the milk supply and completely dry you up. Any form of birth control that contains estrogen is known to do this.
The copper IUD has also been reported to interfere with natural estrogen cycles — something copper, a heavy metal, is known to do.
Most of the time, doctors prescribe the mini pill, which only contains progesterone. For most women, this form of birth control won’t significantly impact their supply. But all mothers should be wary, because some women are sensitive enough that it will. Just one or two cycles on the wrong birth control can completely eradicate your milk supply.
9 The Top Up Trap
In the beginning, breastfeeding is exhausting. It requires diligence and superpower levels of energy. Cluster feeding means the baby will want to nurse on demand every 30 to 90 minutes. This can last for several months for some mothers. Many end up reaching their limit and reaching for a bottle to give themselves a break.
What they may not realize is that by doing so, this means they are nursing less. In turn, they will produce less milk. Thus, they end up having a low supply.
Then mom isn’t producing enough milk so she is forced to continuing topping up after each nursing session with another bottle. This too can lead to nipple confusion. It’s a big risk and unfortunately many doctors will still recommend it to worn out mothers who need reassurance that it’ll be okay.
When dealing with matters of breastfeeding, it's best to rely on trusted research and advice from the real pros in that department: lactation consultants.
8 Having A Nutritional Deficient Diet
It’s no secret that breastfeeding requires the mother to take in adequate calories every day. The average breastfeeding mother should be consuming about 500 extra calories per day for a total of 1800 to 2200. Any less may lead to a drop in her milk supply. That’s not the biggest issue with calories, though.
Contrary to popular belief, all calories are not created equal. Calories from a bowl of ice cream are not going to produce breastmilk that is as nutritionally dense as calories from lean meats and fresh produce.
It’s not just calories that matter, after all, it’s nutrients, too. Women who are breastfeeding need to be taking in adequate amounts of zinc, omega-3s, methylfolate, vitamin b12 and a host of other minerals that are essential to our well-being. These minerals are passed on to the baby via breastmilk.
When too few calories are consumed, the milk supply may dwindle. If the calories are not quality — even if they are plentiful — the supply could still be harmed. Make your meals count for something, mommas.
7 When Mom Is Dehydrated
Just as nutrition is important in establishing and maintaining a milk supply, so is water. Yes, water! Hydration is key when you’re talking about breastfeeding. Even skipping out on drinking much for just one day can set your supply back big time for the next few.
If you’re drinking diuretics, like coffee, tea or alcohol, you’ll need to step up the hydration game even more to compensate for the water loss those products cause.
Dehydration doesn’t have to be severe for it to hinder your milk supply. You don’t need to be dying of thirst with cracked lips and pale nail beds to see a dip in your supply. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding and not pumping at all, it may be more difficult to tell that your supply has dipped.
A fussy baby that continually wants to feed or keeps getting angry and popping off the breast is often a telltale sign.
6 Lack Of Sleep
Sleep is essential to building and maintain a sufficient supply of breastmilk. Sure, it sounds a lot easier than it is to pull off when you’ve got a cluster-feeding newborn at home. That old adage about sleeping when the baby sleeps rings true here, mommas. Get some quality shut eye or you might have some serious struggles with producing enough milk.
It all comes down to hormones. When we don’t get enough sleep, the hormones that rise in our body interfere with prolactin — which we need to stay high to produce milk. This is especially important at night when our prolactin levels are naturally at their highest.
If you're struggling to get rest during the wee hours of the night, make sure you’re compensating for it during the day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can take a nap or make Dad get up and do his fair share of rocking and singing at 3 AM. Co-sleeping can be a real savior!
5 When Mom Is Seriously Stressed
The problem with stress boils down to hormones, too. If you're experiencing stress — be it consistent or intermittent — you're producing cortisol. Never was there a bigger enemy for prolactin to handle than cortisol. Okay, estrogen might be worse, but stay with me.
When your body makes cortisol in excessive amounts, it wears out the adrenal glands. This leaves the body vulnerable to the effects of other hormones that are looming, like estrogen. Even in small amounts, estrogen can suppress prolactin and cause the milk supply to dry up.
Cortisol can also lead to an imbalance of the gender hormones known as estrogen dominance. In this scenario, moms produce more estrogen than they do progesterone to balance them out, and they are more prone to developing cysts, which can also produce excess estrogen themselves. This only adds to the build-up of estrogen that can hinder your milk supply.
4 Eating Certain Herbs And Spices
There are certain foods, herbs and spices that breastfeeding mothers should be wary of while nursing. As delicious as it may seem, peppermint is a big one. Mint is so well-known for drying up a milk supply that it is actually recommended to mothers who are wanting to wean.
Other supplements and herbs may not be so obvious, but their effects sure can be. For instance, fenugreek is an herbal supplement belonging to the pea family that is touted for its use as a booster for milk supplies. However, for some women, fenugreek actually diminishes supply.
So, if you’re going to use this herbal supplement, it’s important to keep an eye on your milk and pay attention to signs that you might not be producing as much.
Sage, spearmint, thyme, parsley, oregano, chickweed, lemon balm, and many others need to be avoided if you’re breastfeeding because they can lower milk supply. In addition, there are also herbs that are potentially harmful to you or your baby, such as dong quai, ginseng, ephedra, star anise, rhubarb, kava kava, and Phen-fen.
3 Having A C-Section
The discussion surrounding Cesarean sections can be so grim. Women who have undergone them are often immediately on the defence about anything that speaks negative about them. Here’s the raw truth. We understand that C-sections are sometimes necessary, and we are thrilled that they are an option for the moms who need them.
That being said, just because something is medically necessary doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with side effects. In addition, a lot of C-section veterans seem to feel like they’re obligated to attest to the fact that they had no issues while breastfeeding.
No, having a C-section does not automatically mean you will have trouble breastfeeding your baby. It simply means the risk of issues that hinder the breastfeeding process is higher.
Facts are facts and C-sections do indeed make the recovery period harder on both mom and baby. Certain benefits may be lost in the process, such as skin to skin and seeding the beneficial bacteria from mom’s vaginal fluids, but more and more hospitals are getting up to date with these current evidence-based trends. Still, knowing ahead of time that a C-section can make breastfeeding more challenging is half the battle.
Babies born via C-section are also more likely to be sleepy and lethargic. This is usually due to prolonged use of anesthesia while in surgery. Also, most moms who need to have a C-section will be placed on antibiotics post-op which can cause candida overgrowth. This means thrush for mom and baby.
2 Having A Previous Augmentation
Speaking of going under the knife, there are lots of women out there who have undergone breast surgeries. In 2015 alone, 279,143 women had breast augmentation surgeries. This involves the placement of implants in the breast — either under or over the chest muscle. Those placed over it are far more likely to interfere with breastfeeding than implants placed underneath the muscle.
Many women also opt for breast lifts. This procedure involves cutting away excess skin and removing the nipple and areola and then placing it higher on the chest to give the illusion of a breast that sits up higher. If performed correctly by a well-trained surgeon, this surgery should not interfere with breastfeeding, because milk ducts should never be severed. Still, complications cannot be ruled out.
Elaborating on complications, there is room for any breast surgery to cause post-operative problems. This is possible even with breast reductions, which are the most likely to cause problems for moms who want to breastfeed.
Problems like capsular contracture and infections of the breast could lead to the need for intensive surgical revisions that might end up cutting milk ducts or removing tissue that is needed for the production of milk.
1 A Bad Latch
This is probably one of the most common problems that breastfeeding mothers face. A bad latch is painful. It can cause mom to suffer from cracked, sore nipples that are dry and bleeding. Other characteristic signs of a bad latch include poor milk transfer and a resulting low milk supply. This vicious cycle just repeats itself since breastmilk production is all about supply and demand.
Fortunately, bad latches can be rectified. If tongue and lip ties are not an issue, moms should experiment with more positions. It’s important to try to get the baby’s mouth open wide. Stimulating them by brushing the nipple against the tip of their nose is the best way to get that wide latch. You should be aiming your nipple toward the roof of their mouth.
A strong latch will empty the breast and the baby will be left feeling full and satiated. While it’s normal for a baby to make a humming or swallowing sound while nursing, clicking or popping noises are indicative of air making its way into the baby’s mouth. This is another sign of a poor latch.
A certified lactation consultant can help you find positions that work for you and your baby to help your breastfeeding relationship progress. Don’t give up! Most breastfeeding hurdles can be overcome. Only 2 percent of women truly cannot breastfeed. It is very unlikely you are one of them.
Sources: NHS, Parenting