Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is a personal decision each mother has to make for herself. There is no right answer, other than what works best for your family. Here at SageMED, we want to help mothers make an informed decision about breastfeeding. In this post, we explore the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as common issues and how to resolve them.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are numerous health benefits with breastfeeding, for both the mother and her baby. Breastfeeding helps protect infants against diseases such as urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections, diabetes, and more (“Benefits of Breastfeeding”). Infants who are breastfed also have a decreased risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding is very unique in that the breast milk changes as your baby ages, adapting to the baby’s specific nutritional needs (Ballard & Morrow, 2012). Scientists believe that the baby’s saliva sends signals through the breast, indicating to the mother’s body how the breast milk needs to change to make sure the baby’s nutritional needs are being met. For the mother, breastfeeding offers both physical and mental health benefits. Physically, breastfeeding has been linked to decreased postpartum bleeding, earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, and decreased risks of developing both breast and ovarian cancers (“Benefits of Breastfeeding”). Many mothers find breastfeeding to be a powerful bonding experience with their infant. That’s not to say that you have to breastfeed in order to effectively bond with your newborn, but it can enhance that bond or help it develop more quickly.
While there are numerous benefits to breastfeeding, there are still complications and down-sides to breastfeeding that shouldn’t be overlooked. For some mother’s, their milk production may be insufficient to meet their baby’s nutritional needs. In this case, mother’s often will supplement with baby formula to ensure their baby stays healthy and strong. There are also physical issues that can prevent mothers from breastfeeding, such as inverted nipples or diseases like HIV. For many mothers, breastfeeding is simply too inconvenient - it does, after all, mean feeding your baby frequently, or using a breast pump every few hours and having to store the milk appropriately between feedings.
Breastfeeding comes with common issues, such as painful or chapped nipples, plugged milk ducts, and difficulty with latching. Ongoing breastfeeding can cause painful, tender, and even chapped nipples. One of the easiest ways to resolve nipple chapping is using breast milk - by dabbing some breast milk directly onto the nipples and allowing it to dry, the milk acts as a natural skin softener, and can heal painful chapping. Mothers can also apply cool compresses to the breast and nippels after feedings to reduce inflammation. If the nipples are too tender to be comfortable in bras, mothers can use breast shields to prevent direct contact between the bra and nipples, which can help reduce chafing and allow time for the nipples to heal. If none of these treatments are sufficient, we recommend following up with your doctor to explore more in-depth treatments. Plugged milk ducts are another common issue that can be quite painful. Plugged ducts occur when milk dries in the duct, causing a lump and “back up” of milk. This can be combated by massaging the ducts before and during breastfeeding, massaging under a warm shower, and breastfeeding frequently (8-12 times per day) to help clear the blockage. If a blockage doesn’t resolve within 24 hours, please visit your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible. Some babies can have difficulty latching correctly to the nipple, which can be a frustrating experience for both mom and baby. Before breastfeeding, make sure your baby is calm (often breastfeeding right after a nap is a good way to do this). Baby’s that are crying or screaming can refuse to latch even if they’re feeling hungry. Sometimes, the nipple can be too large for a baby to latch onto, especially with newborns. Using a breast pump for a minute or two prior to breastfeeding your baby can help elongate the nipple, making it easier for your baby to latch. If latching issues persist, it’s recommended to visit your lactation consultant for more personalized treatment.
Breastfeeding your baby is a deeply personal choice, and one there is no right answer for. Factors such as lifestyle, personal preferences, budget, and more can all influence a mother’s choice to breastfeed or formula-feed their newborn. It’s our hope that the information provided in this blog helps mother’s learn more about the pros and cons of breastfeeding, empowering them to make the right decision for themselves and their family.
Ballard, O., JD, & Morrow, A., PhD. (2012). Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586783/.
Benefits of Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx