Breastfeeding is a public health issue. The research supporting the short term and long term health benefits of infants who are breastfed is impossible to ignore and most countries have allocated funds to support programs that advocate breastfeeding. The short term and long term benefits include a dramatic decrease in the risks of infants and children suffering from ear infections, lung infections, asthma, eczema, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and leukemia. Moreover it’s free, it’s always the right temperature, and may help mothers lose some of the weight gained during pregnancy.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
Indeed breastfeeding is recommended and yes, millions of women have breastfed their baby’s over the years, but this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy! For every picture of a happy baby contentedly breastfeeding while his or her mother smiles fondly (like the one above) there is an exhausted mother close to tears wondering why breastfeeding shouldn’t be easier. No one is to blame and labels aren’t necessary. It doesn’t mean that the baby is ‘fussy’ or that the mother is ‘doing something wrong’. What it does mean is that a mother may need a little professional support and an assessment to get through some of the challenges associated with breastfeeding.
Latching is the most important step in breastfeeding. Without proper latching a mother’s nipples will become sore and the skin may crack and bleed. Some baby’s have difficulty taking the full areola into their mouth as they should. If a baby is having difficulty latching an assessment of the baby’s tongue should be completed to ensure he or she is not ‘tongue tied’, meaning a piece of skin underneath the tongue holds it down preventing proper attachment. This condition can be easily fixed. However, if the baby doesn’t have this condition, then assistance of a lactation consultant can assess how the baby is latching and help mothers find ways to improve the process. This may include alternate ways of positioning the baby during feeding and timing the insertion of the nipple. Moreover, a lactation consultant can provide advice on how to take care of the nipples to ensure rapid healing and prevention of recurrence. For example, placing a drop of milk on the nipple, allowing it to air dry, and then placing lanolin on the area.
Is the baby getting enough milk?
Many mothers feel that they aren’t producing a sufficient amount of milk. A lactation consultant can help establish realistic expectations, create a schedule for how many times a baby will need to feed depending on age, suggest how long a baby should feed on each breast, and monitor weight gain to confirm if the baby is or is not meeting their nutritional requirements.
Introducing a pacifier and bottles during the first weeks of breastfeeding may be well tolerated by a baby (with the baby happily taking both) or may not be well tolerated (with the baby refusing to take a pacifier and bottles or showing preferential treatment to the pacifier and bottles). A lactation consultant can discuss the possible outcomes and the warning signs that would prompt a mother to stop introducing a pacifier and bottle. This will help mothers make informed choices and better understand how a baby is responding.
Mastitis and thrush
Mastitis is an inflammation or infection of the breast where a duct has become blocked. This causes pain, swelling, and redness. In addition, a mother may experience fever and flu like symptoms. Should this occur, a visit to a health care provider is warranted as antibiotics may be necessary. Moreover, advice on how to care for the breast and the importance of continuing to breast feed from the effected breast will be provided.
Thrush is a fungal infection that can affect the baby’s mouth and the mother’s nipples. The baby’s mouth may have white patches that are not easily wiped off and a mother’s nipples may become sore, red, itchy, and cracked. Should this occur a visit to a health care provider is warranted and an anti-fungal cream such as Nystatin that is safe for mother and baby can be prescribed.
Sometimes there is nothing wrong with how a mother is breastfeeding. Instead the baby is crying because he or she is suffering from colic, which affects 20 percent of baby’s. No one knows the exact causes colic, but it is believed to be caused by a buildup of gas in the stomach causing pain. The symptoms begin around two to three weeks of age, peak at six weeks of age, taper off at three to four months of age, and have generally run its course by five to six months of age. This is a trying time for most parents, but a health care provider can reassure parents and suggest interventions that may help such as baby message, certain holds, and the avoidance of certain foods.