In an exclusive interview with experienced lactation consultant (LC) Jo Gilpin, we asked her why some mothers simply cannot manage to breastfeed. It can be a heartbreaking revelation that you'll never get to feed your baby in the way you imagined, and you may even feel like you failed. You didn't. Breastfeeding is hard.
Even for mothers who naturally take to breastfeeding, there is a learning curve and adjustment period when it comes to feeding their baby. Jo's new book, Brilliant Breastfeeding: A Sensible Guide, focuses on ease and proven techniques to facilitate the breastfeeding experience.
First-time mothers are of course at a disadvantage having never experienced it for themselves and can only go off what they've heard and seen others experience. Mothers who have subsequent children can use their previous birth to either change how breastfeeding went the first time around or have the luxury of know how to go abou it all.
Yet, they can still have issues. The first three months after given birth is such a tiring time already, adding an issue with feeding your baby is going to compound all of the stress. Breastfeeding certainly isn't easy. Jo shared some of the most common reasons why breastfeeding fails and ways to be successful. Keep reading to learn what Jo has in her twenty years of experience as an LC.
Here are a few reasons why breastfeeding may fail:
- Unnecessary Separation and Lack of Skin-to-Skin
Skin-to-skin, also adorably called kangaroo care, is when a newborn is immediately laid after birth on their mother's chest. It has been proven that premature and low birth weight infants thrive with skin-to-skin but the practice has only just spread to full-term infants. It's so comforting, nourishing, and healthy it will benefit all.
Surprisingly, routine skin-to-skin contact has only become common practice in the 90s and Jo swears by it. She recommends that unless medically impossible, a baby should be placed chest-to-chest with the mother for one hour. During this time, baby will often scoot down and try to latch on his own. Weighing and measurement can all wait. Bond with that baby.
- Latching Difficulties and Sore Nipples
Ouch! New moms are often shocked by how painful the first latching can be and it can be truly jaw-dropping. If that wasn't enough, all the sucking and sudden moisture can also lead to chapped and dry nipples that can crack and even bleed. Lanolin, time, and ensuring that baby is latching properly needs to be done. If you can prevent any pain, you definitely want to. After your nipples acclimate to breastfeeding, after about a week or two, latching should no longer be painful and your nipples should adjust. Until then, hold on mama! It gets easier!
- Giving the Baby Formula When Not Necessary
As an LC, Jo's dedicated her life to making breastfeeding the ultimate and easiest experience for every mom. She understands that isn't always the case but her advice stems from the fact that newborn babies need very, very little milk and colostrum. And sometimes it's mistaken that they need more. Oftentimes new moms, tired moms, or even hospital staff, will become concerned over the baby's eating, or lack thereof. That's when formula comes in as a backup and can interfere with breastfeeding and milk production.
The first few days of latching and sucking stimulates breast milk production and is crucial for a mother's milk to come in. Try to not worry if your newborn doesn't seem to be eating a lot. They're tired from their journey. Milk won't usually come in for 72 hours after giving birth.
- Believing Your Not Producing Enough Milk
Jo said this is the number one misconception about breastfeeding is that it is truly supply and demand. Too often new moms don't know that the more they breastfeed and the more their baby is attached to their nipple, the more milk (they should) produce. She says, " Commonly it is not understood that the more baby feeds, as long as baby is attaching and suckling correctly, the more milk will be made." Of course, there are other reasons why women can't produce enough breastmilk but in normal circumstances, Jo believes that lack of faith in your own body leads to many breastfeeding frustrations.
- Lack of Support and Information
As Jo points out, moms are sent in blind to breastfeed. She states, "Often when help is needed, parents are tired, stressed and overwhelmed." Help should come to parents before breastfeeding actually begins. Moms need to also be clear with what they need from their partners or families before they get burnt out and are really frustrated with the feeding process.
Most areas offer local support groups for both new moms and breastfeeding and most times an LC is there. Hospitals will often offer feeding clinics for new moms to do weighs before and after feeding to ensure that baby is eating enough. Ask around to see if any other women you know struggled Mom, sister, co- worker...anyone. Don't be afraid to seek help and look vulnerable.
Reach out to an LC too! They're around to help and may be able to help with a thing or two you may have overlooked. Breastfeeding doesn't come easy to everyone but hopefully, these tips will help you feed your baby successfully!
How was your breastfeeding experience? What's something you wish you'd know the first time around? Let us know in the comments!