A newborn baby has only three demands. They are - warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three. – Grantly Dick-Read
The World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrates World Breastfeeding Week during the first week of August every year. This initiative is aimed towards raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding. This year’s theme is “support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.
Medical experts, including the Department of Health of the Australian Government and Australia's infant feeding guidelines, highly recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months. Experts believe that breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect blend of vitamins, protein, and fat; everything your baby needs to grow. However, the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter because you and your baby are unique, and the decision is totally up to you.
Since we work with mums, we often get to have personal conversations with them. During our chit-chats, one of our most prominent topics is their first breastfeeding experience. And well we aren’t exaggerating when we say every story is more overwhelming and emotional than the last one. It can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride. It can get as painful as the blissful side of it.
Breastfeeding is such a beautiful and natural process but it comes with its own set of challenges. These obstacles can cause mums to feel anxious, nervous, and sometimes even guilty.
Below are the three most common challenges that breastfeeding mothers face:
- Irritation, soreness, and nipple pain.
Pain is the top reason that leads to quitting of breastfeeding by mothers. Although a little bit of nipple tenderness is completely normal, pain can cause extreme discomfort. If you’re experiencing pain during or after nursing, or both, it could stem from several causes, one of which is sore nipples.
Sore nipples can lead to low breast milk supply, or early weaning. And unfortunately, nipple soreness is quite common during breastfeeding. In order to avoid it, make sure your baby is latching on properly and sit in a position that’s comfortable for both you and your baby.
Another easy hack is to use a nipple shield. A nipple shield helps your baby to latch on easily if you have flat or inverted nipples and protects you if you have sensitive or cracked nipples. It also helps mothers who face overactive let-downs.
- Milk problems such as milk-ejection reflex, letdown, etc.
Mothers often face a problem known as a milk-ejection reflex, also called a forceful letdown. This occurs when your baby sputters a lot or chokes when you begin feeding because your breast may be releasing too much milk at once.
You can use your fingers to slow down the flow of milk, or unlatch your baby and let the excess flow onto a cloth. While using a cloth, make sure it is clean and recently washed. In situations like these, medical experts advise mothers to make use of nursing breast pads.
We highly suggest using reusable nursing breast pads that are absorbent and washable.
Tip: Don’t use anything that contains plastic as it can cause irritation, trap moisture and prevent your nipples from breathing.
- Sore breasts
If your breast tissue is sore, swollen, and feels uncomfortable when touched or moved, your breasts may be too full; this is called engorgement and can happen anytime during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. It may cause throbbing and swelling, sometimes extending as far as your armpit, and could make your breasts feel hot, lumpy, and uncomfortable. If you feel there is too much milk and is discomforting, we suggest using a breast pump.
Breastfeeding is a mother’s gift to herself, her baby, and the earth. The experience can be distressing for sure but in the end, their smile makes it all worth it.
Happy breastfeeding, mums!