Breastfeeding can be a great experience for both mom and baby, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard work that comes with a set of big difficulties. Every mom is bombarded with articles that explain the benefits of breastfeeding and, while they are largely correct, it can put more pressure on a very personal situation. We want all mothers and families to feel they are supported and that they can come to us with any questions or concerns.
If you are a new mom or a mom with several children, you probably already know how chaotic, complicated and wonderful parenthood can be. Breastfeeding also has its own joys and struggles. Here are some of both the great and not-so-great parts of breastfeeding and how to find support if you need it.
The Great: Magic Diet for Your Baby
Your body creates the perfect food for your baby to be able to develop during those early months of life. The milk you have is full of nutrients that give your baby the perfect food and even changes as your baby’s needs change. After the first several days of breastfeeding, your milk will change in color, thickness and nutrient concentration. Your mature milk will have the perfect balance of fat, sugar, protein and water.
Breast milk not only supplies your little one with proper nutrients, it’s also loaded with antibodies that protect your baby from infections. In addition to protection from illnesses such as a cold, your breast milk can help lower the risk of leukemia, asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and necrotizing enterocolitis.
If you have any questions about your baby’s early development or are worried about your baby getting enough milk, contact your baby’s pediatritian.
The Not So Great: Worries Over Milk Supply and Latching
Some of the most common worries moms have about breastfeeding concern milk supply and proper latching. As your baby develops, so will how they feed and how much milk you produce. At six weeks to two months your breasts may no longer feel as full as they once did and feedings may last for a shorter period of time. Most likely this means your baby is getting better at feeding!
Growth spurts, usually around three weeks, six weeks and three months, may also make you worried that your supply is too low. This is a time when you can follow your baby’s lead.
Here are some ways to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat:
- Nurse often
- Check for a good latch
- Offer each breast during feedings
- Avoid giving your baby cereal or formula, as this may make your baby less interested in breast milk.
Ensuring your baby gets a good latch will help him or her get enough milk, but it will also make it more comfortable for you. Getting your baby to feed correctly may take some trial and error. If you have sore nipples, your baby is having trouble getting enough of your breast in his or her mouth or even if you’re just concerned it’s not correct, talk to a lactation consultant. They are there to make sure this experience becomes one that’s enjoyable for both of you.
The Great: Health Protection for Mom
Your baby gets a number of benefits from breastmilk, but you can also get some great benefits yourself. Breastfeeding helps moms heal after giving birth. Moms can also have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Some women also see a jumpstart in their efforts to lose postpartum weight. You secrete 450-500 calories into breastmilk per day. It’s good to keep this in mind while you adjust your diet to make sure you’re still getting eating enough for the both of you!
The Not So Great: Pumping Problems
Breastfeeding is a large time commitment. No matter how happy you are to give this gift to your baby, it can still feel like a chore some days. It can be especially challenging when it’s almost time for you to return to work. The best way to handle that stress is to have a plan. You’ll need to prepare both your body and your baby for your absence by introducing pumping and bottle feeding into the routine before you have to go back to work.
Your baby should be ready to drink from a bottle after a month. Practice your pumping and give your baby a bottle instead of your breast at some feedings. You may also want to build up a supply of breast milk. Do this by pumping during naps or when your baby is being looked after by someone else. Having a supply ready can let you relax when something unexpected happens.
See our lactation specialist about pumping and storing breastmilk tips. You can also find information here: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/pumping-and-storing-breastmilk
The Great: Special Bonds
Skin-to-skin contact between a mom and baby is highly encouraged and could be initiated right after birth. This type of bonding will continue as you hold your baby close while breastfeeding. Your baby will find comfort in your presence, have lower stress and you’ll both find joy in this closeness.
Your partner can also use this time for bonding and should also try skin-to-skin contact. Your partner could be with you during feedings or be there right after to burp your baby. Find ways to include each other in this special time.
The Not So Great: Outside Opinions and Accommodation
Breastfeeding is in the news, it’s Tweeted about and there is no shortage of opinions on the topic. It can be difficult to know who to turn to, how to ask for what you need and how to react to negative mindsets. One major place where you might need to make your needs known is at work. A good place to start is to know the law. You are covered under the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law if you are also covered by Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires FLSA employers to provide break time for women to express milk and a functional space that is not a bathroom each time they need to express. Even though it’s the law, employers may be unaware. Have a discussion with your employer before going on leave or coming back to make sure you’re both prepared.
Breastfeeding in public also comes with protection from the law. You are legally allowed to breastfeed your child in any public space. However, you may still have to endure the opinions of those who do not approve. You never have to respond to anyone who comments negatively about breastfeeding.
Find support from other moms in the area and know that you do have support.
On the flip side, many moms get criticized for not breastfeeding their children. We understand that there are a number of reasons a mom may choose to not breastfeed. Know we are not here to judge you, but to help ensure you and your baby are as healthy as possible!
For more information on your rights in the workplace, click here: https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work/what-law-says-about-breastfeeding-and-work/what-breastfeeding-employees/#1
We at UT Health East Texas fully support moms and their babies. If you ever have any questions about breastfeeding, from how to work a pump to what nipple cream you should use, please contact us and we will help you find the perfect physician.