The “Breast is Best” campaign began around 1978 when Penny and Andrew Stanley wrote the book of “Breast is Best” as a guide for new mothers. At that time, breastfeeding numbers were at an all time low and people were losing the knowledge passed down through the generations. “Breast is Best” reversed that trend and now, breastfeeding rates continue to climb year after year.
According to the National Immunization Survey Breastfeeding Rates, approximately 83% of mothers are attempting breastfeeding, with 56% of those mothers providing breastmilk through six months of age, and 35% of mothers providing breastmilk through 12 months of age. 46% of mothers exclusively breastfeed at six months of age and 25% at 12 months of age.
We celebrate these numbers and the return of breastfeeding babies as the go-to method in feeding. However, it does not come without its trials and tribulations. Some mothers will nurse their babies without a single issue, but most will experience some kind of pain or discomfort that is not often discussed in advance. When mothers have this experience, there is a strong chance they will move away from breastmilk and start supplementing with formula.
New Canaan Pediatrics is here to help by explaining several of the most common breastfeeding challenges moms experience and how to relieve them.
Nipple Irritation, Calluses, Infections
As a mother, there is a high probability that you will experience nipple pain in the early days of breastfeeding. Nipple irritation is typically due to baby not having a deep enough latch, when the majority of the areola is not in baby’s mouth. It takes some babies time to get the hang of latching properly with your assistance. If a poor latch continues, you may experience bleeding, calluses, and possibly infections.
If the baby latches and you feel like the baby is biting you, break the suction and attempt a deeper latch. If you are experiencing pain when your baby latches to you, contact our lactation consultant and schedule an appointment to correct the latch. Using a nipple shield may be necessary to let your skin heal.
Mastitis happens when the mammary gland in the breast becomes inflamed. Symptoms of mastitis consist of a fever over 101° F, the breast is red and warm to the touch, and a burning sensation while expressing milk. If left untreated, this infection can progress to the glands filling up with pus, often requiring surgery to drain the gland. If at any point you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your primary care physician or ob/gyn immediately to discuss treatment so you can heal quickly and return to feeding your baby.
According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression (PPD). Although PPD isn’t exclusive to breastfeeding mothers, it certainly doesn’t help the breastfeeding journey. When you are stressed, depressed, and anxious, your milk supply decreases. When you are stressed and not properly rested from round the clock feedings, your thinking is cloudy. If left untreated, PPD sufferers begin to resent Baby.
This does not mean you don’t love your baby or you are a bad parent. PPD is an illness, caused by no fault of your own. Parents with PPD need medical and supportive help for a full recovery.
When you are experiencing PPD, it’s not just breastfeeding that is difficult. Everything can be agonizing. Talk to your partner about extra assistance, especially at night. Talk to your OB or primary physician about treatment and plans for moving forward with your family and take one day at a time.
Fed is Best
Breastfeeding may be the “natural” way of feeding babies, but it doesn’t mean that it is the easy way to feed them. Mothers who breastfeed commonly experience both physical and mental pain at times. With early intervention and a structured support system, it is possible to overcome these obstacles and continue breastfeeding until you and Baby decide that it is time to wean.
Although breastmilk is unmatched nutritionally, what is important is that Baby gets fed. Breastfeeding is meant to be a mutually beneficial arrangement and if it is not working for Mom, then it isn’t working for Baby either.
Feed your baby however you are able. If breastfeeding is not working and you find you cannot continue for physical, mental or emotional reasons, there is no shame in moving to formula to promote a happy and healthy family and household.
Questions about breastfeeding? Click here to contact your New Canaan pediatric provider. We’ll listen carefully, ask questions, watch you feed Baby, and offer suggestions and assistance to help you decide how to best feed your Baby for the future.