Dr. Lauren Crosby
This August, we’re highlighting the importance of breastfeeding for both the mother and child. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy statement about breastfeeding that acknowledges that families need support during the breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding provides many benefits to both the child and the breastfeeding mother.
For the child, there is a lower risk of some acute and chronic pediatric conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), lower respiratory infections, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, childhood leukemia, obesity, asthma, and eczema. The mother who breastfeeds has a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
As easy as the idea of breastfeeding may sound, it is not always so. Having support from a partner, your pediatrician, and a lactation consultant are vital to the success of breastfeeding. Per the CDC, 84% of women start out breastfeeding but only 58% of infants are breastfed at age 6 months. Some parents are not aware of the health benefits to the baby or the nursing mother. Many mothers have trouble with milk supply or issues with latching that are significant enough to cause the mother to cease nursing. Some must go back to work yet do not have the time to pump their milk so their supply goes down, and it takes time to pump and store the milk. There may be other children around who need care from that same mother and breastfeeding takes time away from them. A supportive family and network of friends is critical because the benefits of breastfeeding are usually worth the challenges.
I talk with breastfeeding mothers every day and help them navigate their journey. I try to encourage, educate, and reassure nursing mothers that what they are going through, though, tiring and often difficult, is not unusual.
- The first few weeks can be quite tough. As tired as a new mom is, don’t give up yet. It is normal to be worried that your baby is not getting enough milk, but if your baby is urinating and pooping multiple times a day, it is likely that the baby is OK. Checking in with your pediatrician at designated visits will help provide that peace of mind. Nipple soreness can be normal the first week or two, but if it’s extremely painful and not getting better, there might be an issue with how the baby is latching. A visit with a lactation consultant can help with this issue.
- Wake the baby to eat. Until you get the go-ahead from your pediatrician to stretch the feeds farther apart or let the baby sleep longer at night, a newborn baby should eat 8-10 times per 24 hours.
- Get comfortable. A nursing parent should make sure wherever they’re sitting they have sturdy back and arm support. Use extra pillows as needed and a low footstool if needed for leg support. As far as holding the baby goes, there are several positions that can work. Different positions may help drain different areas of the breast, which can help prevent clogged milk ducts and help with nipple discomfort.
- Take care of yourself! This will help your milk supply and help you physically and emotionally.
- Prioritize your own sleep whenever you can. Put other responsibilities aside to get rest. This is especially true from birth until the infant is sleeping longer stretches at night, which could take several months.
- Hydration is also very important. Have a glass of noncaffeinated fluid with every breastfeeding.
- Nutrients are very important too: calcium, iron, vitamin D, choline, iodine, folic acid, and protein, just to name a few. Eat a balanced diet and continue to take a prenatal vitamin to meet these needs. There might be other supplements your doctor recommends to care for your own health during this time. Some of these supplements could include DHA omega-3 for brain, eye and heart health, and probiotics—especially if you’re taking antibiotics, suffering from constipation, have been sick frequently or want to try to prevent contracting a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness. For probiotics, I recommend looking for a product with a combination of two well-researched probiotic strains—Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5® and Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12®, which is found in the TruBiotics brand.
- Make your baby as comfortable as they can be too. If your child is experiencing colic or other tummy troubles, you should speak with their pediatrician about a probiotic to support their digestive health too. The same maker as the adult probiotic (TruBiotics) released a new product this year for infants with its BB-12 probiotic strain – TruBiotics Probiotic Baby Drops. It’s clinically proven to aid in reducing infant colic. In a recent study, breastfed infants with colic aged 12 weeks of age and younger were given BB-12. Compared to placebo, the infants given BB-12 cried for an hour and 20 minutes less per day, had on average five fewer crying episodes per day, and slept on average 60 more minutes per day. Parental quality of life scores also went up. So, if your infant is uncomfortable while nursing and you’ve tried other tips, check with your pediatrician to see if adding a probiotic to their daily routine will help them feel more comfortable.
When I was nursing my first born, I’d put him in a stroller and get outside. Taking a walk, being in nature, and getting fresh air is what helped me stay strong—mentally and physically—during breastfeeding. Plus, I had my baby boy with me, so he was cared for at the same time I was caring for myself. Exercise can relieve stress. It raises endorphins, which are natural chemicals that your body releases, helping to reduce stress, relieve pain and improve mood. My hope is that you find these tips helpful and are inspired to try or continue breastfeeding your little one.