The theme of this year’s World Health Organisation (WHO) breastfeeding week is ‘protect breastfeeding’. Despite the numerous advantages enumerated in various scientifically documented articles on the benefits of breastfeeding, there are still so much resistance on the part of some mothers to breastfeeding their babies. Others who conscientiously want to breast feed encounter some challenges to breastfeeding. Thus this article is aimed at providing answers to some of the common problems encountered by mothers during breastfeeding.
Challenges of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is an art that needs to be learnt by the new mother and the new baby. Patience and determination are important to achieve effective and sustained breastfeeding.
Effective breastfeeding requires good motivation and encouragement.
It is important to note the challenges that may be faced in breast feeding and possible solutions.
Absence of breast milk!
This is terrifying and very distressing to the new mother. In most mothers, mature milk comes in from the second day after birth, prior to this, nutrient dense pre- milk, loaded with antibodies; growth factors- specific to each individual is available to sustain the baby immediately after birth.
Mothers are advised to put the baby to breast 3 hourly to encourage ‘let- down.’
This is a very painful condition that occurs when baby is not latching effectively, baby’s mouth should cover the areola of the breast and not just the nipple.
It is also advised that in between feeds, mothers should apply unscented vaseline , lanolin or nipple balm to the nipple. This should be cleaned off before the next feed.
New mother anxiety
Is my baby getting enough milk?
I can’t see what she/he is getting?
In the first day of life, the baby’s tummy is about 5-7mls in volume, by the second day 10mls and by day 3, 15mls.
If the baby is sucking and swallowing, the baby is getting feeds.
Wet diapers and stools are also signs that baby is feeding sufficiently. By day 5, the baby should have 5-6 wet diapers per day.
Desire to use latest breast milk substitute
A trend of new mothers wanting to show off their ability to purchase imported or exotic breast milk substitutes has been observed.
These mothers feel that these products are closest to breast milk.
When babies are fed with breast milk substitute, the signal for breast milk production is diminished and supply gradually diminishes.
There is no substitute for breast milk, exclusive breast feeding is best for babies. Breast milk substitutes should be prescribed by the baby’s doctor in circumstances where breastfeeding is not feasible.
Lack of support/encouragement
In our society today, some new mothers find themselves alone with a new baby at home- the older women/grandmothers are no longer easily available- some are too busy to help out and communal life is not feasible in many urban areas as people tend to “mind- their –business”.
The new mother may be unable to position baby correctly, she may be too tired to breast feed repeatedly, she may be discouraged and anxious if the baby is crying a lot.
Breast feeding requires motivation to be effective and sustained.
Before delivery, adequate arrangement for support during breast feeding should be planned.
In the first week after delivery, when the mature milk comes in and the baby’s demand does not match supply, there may be excess breast milk, causing engorgement – painful overfilling of the breast. Latching may be difficult at this time as the breast becomes firm and swollen.
In this situation, the excess milk can be expressed manually or with a breast pump and stored properly for use later.
Usually, by the second week, a balance between demand and supply is achieved and engorgement will only occur when mother and baby are separated for long hours.
Breast size/Nipple issues
Some mothers feel that the size of the breast determines the quantity of milk produced, this is not true.
Challenges with inverted (nipples that point inwards) or flat nipples are of genuine concern, mother should recognize this early and begin simple procedures during pregnancy to evert the nipple(make it point outwards).
For mothers with large nipples, their babies are gradually able to latch and this improves as the baby’s mouth grows.
However, no matter the size/shape of nipples, breastfeeding is possible.
In summary please discuss whatever challenges to breastfeeding you are having with your doctor and a solution will be arrived at.
Don’t forget ‘Breast milk is best for your baby’