Photo Credit: Dave Clubb, Unsplash.com

For the five+ years I’ve worked with Moms and newborn babies, it’s baffled me how many complications get in the way of successful breastfeeding.

First, I should probably clarify the reasons why breastfeeding is much better than formula feeding:

  • It’s been shown that women produce breast milk to fit the sex of the child.
  • Breast milk has live immune cells fighting various infections and lends the baby immunity until it’s developed its own ability to fight germs.
  • Breastfeeding decreases the baby’s risk of getting diseases like diabetes, asthma, and childhood cancer.
  • Breastfeeding decreases the mother’s risk of getting breast cancer and osteoporosis down the road.
  • When breastfeeding, the mother produces a bonding hormone, helping her bond better with her baby. The same hormone which also decreases her initial bleeding and helps the milk come in.
  • Breastfed babies have reduced chances of getting colds, ear infections, and pneumonia.
  • Mothers who breastfeed lose weight much faster (about 500 calories a day).
  • Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” (SIDS).
  • Babies who are breastfed have fewer stomach issues as newborns and as they grow.

One would think “It can’t be that complicated, you just pull up your shirt and pop the baby on the breast.” Well, come to find out, that’s for the lucky ones.

There are quite a few stumbling blocks with breast feeding:

  • Newborns are more awake at night. The mother usually has lots of visitors in the daytime and does not get any naps. Come night time, she’s exhausted and has a hard time with the frequent breastfeedingwhich is normal when breastfeeding.
  • The mother’s nipples might be inverted and difficult to latch onto for baby.
  • The baby might have a weak suck and will not stimulate the breast enough to make the milk come in. (There can be many reasons for this.)
  • The mother might not be producing enough milk, due to breast surgeries, high blood pressure, and various other medical conditions.
  • The mother’s family might not be supportive of breastfeeding and will be pushing the mother to formula feed, for various reasons.
  • If the mother had a C-section, drowsiness, pain, and nausea can very easily get in the way of breastfeeding.
  • The baby might be drowsy from medications or drugs the mother had in her system before delivery.

The strongest fear in a new mother is that she’s starving her baby.

Now, you might think, “Well, what’s the big deal? Just feed the baby formula until the milk comes in or when the mother or baby feel better, etc.”

Once the baby’s fed formula, several things happen:

  • The baby’s healthy stomach flora is impaired.
  • The baby might not want to work as hard to get the milk out of the breast since it’s easier from the bottle.
  • The baby’s stomach starts to stretch, because it gets bigger volumes of milk and it’s no longer happy with the small, adequate amounts given through breastfeeding.
  • The baby might get confused with the different type of suckling it has to do on the breast versus the bottle nipple.
  • Most importantly, once the baby receives formula, the baby will not be hungry for another three to four hours, which means that the mother’s milk production isn’t being stimulated. Every time the baby latches onto the breast, a hormone is excreted, which makes the milk come in. This means that if the baby’s NOT latched on, the mother’s breasts temporarily stop making milk.

This brings me to the point:

Babies aren’t born hungry. They’re born with an instinct to want to suckle. If they didn’t, their mother would make no milk and they’d starve. 

So when you, as a mom, are afraid that your newborn isn’t getting enough milk, just remember that the baby’s just doing its job when wanting to eat ALL THE TIME. It isn’t starving.

If the baby’s having enough voids (one per day of life, up to eight-days-old) and isn’t losing too much weight or getting too jaundiced, most likely your baby’s doing fine with milk intake.

You, as a mom, will know when your baby’s acting abnormally fussy or actually starvingbut just remember that the goal of the breastfeeding isn’t only to have milk come out, but also to make the milk come in.

 Photo Credit: Dave Clubb, Unsplash.com