Breastfeeding is natural and one of the most amazing things mothers can experience and do for their baby. We all read and hear about the benefits of breastfeeding. I don’t think the benefits are in question. But what happens when you just can’t breastfeed? Physiologically we are made to do it. If you have the ‘equipment’, then of course you should be able to breastfeed. But sometimes it’s just not that easy!
Women in general terms, have mastered the feeling of guilt. This seems to be amplified when we become mothers. ‘Mummy guilt’ can come in the most ridiculous forms and will most definitely never go away! Two years into my own journey of motherhood and the moments of ‘mummy guilt’ have brought me to tears on so many occasions. Feeling guilty about NOT breastfeeding has to be one of the bigger ones. I have so many friends who placed high expectations for themselves to breastfeed and when things just haven’t gone the way they are supposed to, they feel so bad and GUILTY when they have struggled.
There are umpteen things that can affect your ability to breastfeed. Most can be out of your control. What can go wrong and what can be done about it?
For unknown reasons, some women just do not produce the adequate amounts of milk demanded by their baby. This scenario is often exacerbated by the baby struggling to latch on. If there is no stimulation of the breast to keep producing milk, supply will dwindle. What can be done? If baby isn’t nursing well, then expressing to maintain optimum levels is one option. Health practitioners recommend mothers aim to pump approximately 750 to 800ml of milk per day in the first 7 to 10 days. Research suggests that pumping quantities for the first 15 weeks after the baby’s birth is a good indicator of breastfeeding output.
Breast engorgement is the painful overfilling of the breasts with milk. Engorgement can happen in the initial days when milk first comes in to your breasts. It can also happen once breastfeeding is established but for some reason baby suddenly stops feeding or mum is unable to pump. This can be a very painful experiencing. I experienced it mainly in the mornings if I waited too long to feed my girls. It can also arise if you don’t feed frequently enough. Without treatment, severe engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts and breast infection, which is called mastitis.
To treat breast engorgement, try to feed frequently. You can also warm your breasts just before breastfeeding to help milk flow by applying the gel packs with the mama y bebe breastfeeding support bra. If breasts become firm and overfilled, freeze the pack to help relieve the soreness.
Mastitis means inflammation of the breast. There are two types of mastitis: non-infective mastitis caused by blocked milk ducts or infective mastitis caused by a bacterial infection.
Non-effective mastitis can result in flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches and pains. When milk ducts become blocked, the milk begins to gather in the breast causing pain and swelling. Bacterial infections can develop in the breast through a cracked nipple.
Watch out for symptoms such as tender and painful breasts, they may begin to feel hot, harden or become swollen.
To prevent symptoms, wear a loose fitting support bra, heat breasts before feeding and after, feed regularly but if symptoms appear, you should consult a doctor immediately for treatment. Antibiotics or anti inflammatory medication is often prescribed to relieve the pain.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to breastfeed both my girls. I remember during my pregnancy with ‘Spike’ I wasn’t too concerned about my delivery options. I hoped for a vaginal birth but also believed if having a healthy baby meant having a caesarean, then that was what I would do. My thoughts about breastfeeding were a little different. I was so hung up about breastfeeding, I was willing to try anything. I promised myself that I would persist if things weren’t going to mother nature’s plan. The best advice I ever received to prepare for breastfeeding was to use a body brush and scrub my nipples morning and night in the shower every day a month out before the birth and then moisturise with a vitamin E cream. Apparently this process helps toughen the nipple to prepare it for the baby latching on. The risk of nipples cracking is meant to be diminished. I’m not sure if this has been scientifically proven but what I do know is that both my babies latched on immediately and I felt no discomfort. I do wonder if the scrubbing process had prepared them for the pulling and tugging that all babies do when they first begin to breastfeed. Fortunately my nipples never cracked.
At the end of the day, love yourself and your baby! If breastfeeding works then great but if it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up. What’s important is that babys’ tummy is full and you remain a happy and calm mother.