Mastitis and Other Breastfeeding Challenges(pt.2)

Are you facing Breastfeeding challenges? Need help? Read this blog which is the Part two of a three part series.

Mastitis and Other Breastfeeding Challenges
Mastitis and Other Breastfeeding Challenges

Last week, we kicked off a three-part series to help moms understand breastfeeding challenges in the hopes of helping them prepare and make the best out of the breast.

“This is the single greatest gift you can give your child – but it’s also the most challenging and demanding physical act many women will ever undergo,” said Shawna Pape, MSN, CNM, WHNP, a midwife with Women’s Healthcare of Illinois.

With these tips to overcome a handful of breastfeeding challenges, you can help your child reap many rewards: Maintain a healthy weight, receive ideal and age-appropriate nutrition, obtain better health through the transference of maternal antibodies (meaning less illness and lower disease risk) and, some even say the ability to gain greater intelligence.

Trusting your baby ( and body’s) needs

Worrying if you’re starving your baby because you might not be making enough milk is a physical, and emotional, concern.

Deep down in your subconscious (and most breastfeeding mom’s minds) lives the thought you might not be able to feed your baby or that he or she isn’t getting enough milk. Enter watchful hospital staff informing you daily that your newborn is losing weight, and this can be a perfect storm of insecurity for an already anxious new mom.

To a certain extent, weight loss in your newborn is normal. Your baby is used to floating in a dark, weightless room, all while growing effortlessly. Now, your newborn has to learn to suck, swallow, digest, excrete, and breathe. Imagine standing in a shower that rains down sweet cream straight into your mouth. Now imagine being forced to suck unsweetened almond milk out of a coffee stirrer straw. Which would you prefer?

After noticing newborn weight loss, hospital staff sometimes unintentionally drop fear tactics on new moms by encouraging to supplement breast milk with formula. Of course, you don’t want to fathom the thought you are potentially starving your baby, so you begin to supplement – but this may not be necessary. Since every mom’s situation can be specific, it’s always a good idea to talk to your trusted midwife or lactation consultant about your individual concerns.

Supplying your baby with enough milk

If you’re wondering if you have milk yet after giving birth, you’re not alone. Most new moms are unaware that even though their milk hasn’t come in, they do have colostrum. Or that this densely nutritious “liquid gold” is specifically proportioned to meet your newborn’s needs.

Just a few drops of colostrum inoculates your baby’s gastrointestinal system with good bacteria and jumpstarts his or her bowels. Your colostrum is more than enough to satisfy your newborn over the next two to five days, when your milk actually comes in. However, the first few days are usually when many women stop feeding – try to power through this temporary phase.

In fact, the makeup and amount of your milk supply changes with your baby’s needs. Its fat, vitamin and mineral content adapts as your baby needs different nutrition. And, your supply is tied to how much you’re using – the more your breast is emptied, the more it fills … basically your breasts work on supply and demand.

If you feed or pump, your supply will usually adjust up or down within 24 to 36 hours. When you’re pumping exclusively, your breasts don’t get the signal to ramp up supply since the pump doesn’t cluster feed as a newborn may during the day in order to go without milk for longer stretches at night. While pumps are helpful tools, your infant’s mouth is designed to create a perfect environment for full let down and to enable more milk production. Pumps continue to evolve and improve, but aren’t as efficient and effective as your newborn.

Surrounding yourself with support

The old adage exists because it’s true: It take a village to raise a child. But what if your village isn’t in the same zip code as you’d envisioned when it comes to support? Caring for a brand new human being is hard enough with supportive people in your life. It can be hard to comprehend how to attempt such a daunting feat when your family or partner isn’t. We all need support, and new moms can especially use education, guidance and advice, encouragement, and even assistance in caring for herself.

It’s hard for some breastfeeding moms to overcome feelings of disconnection from family or partners during this trying time. If your mom (or women close to you) never breastfed, they may have the opinion that you are spoiling your baby by feeding frequently. And your partner may feel left out, without thoughtful and proactive ways to include him or her.

At some point in our history, women realized they couldn’t do it all, and breastfeed, while staying sane. Formula companies saved the day by enabling women to gain back a small sense of independence and normalcy in their daily routine. Today, we’re attempting to break this cycle because we know formula doesn’t truly replace breastmilk.

A woman whose closest female relatives and friends never breastfed presents a real challenge. Under these circumstances, you might not have anyone else to understand how truly difficult breastfeeding is, which makes you more likely to fail when the soundtrack you hear all day is how easy it is to use formula.

Newborn babies are physically unable to be spoiled. They aren’t playing to your emotions to get what they want. Newborns cry to let you know they need something to survive: food, a clean diaper, sleep, security, or warmth. The bottom line is that babies who breastfeed are more tightly bonded to their mothers – they need them to survive. As a breastfeeding mom, your smell, voice and heartbeat soothe your baby and provide instant relief to any worries.

Those closest to you can help by making sure that all you need to do for the first couple of days after giving birth is feed your baby, pee, and sleep. Diaper changes and putting baby to bed can easily be done by another member of the family. With most of the attention on the mother and child dynamic, it’s important to find ways to include dad in the process to help ensure breastfeeding success.

Managing mastitis

Just when you and your baby are getting the hang of breastfeeding, this mother of breastfeeding issues can rear its ugly head and make you feel like your progress has come to a halt.

You can likely avoid mastitis by staying on a feeding schedule, keeping your nipples clean, dry (and not cracked), and staying hydrated. If you start noticing tender, warm or engorged areas, try to resolve them as soon as you can – being aware of the symptoms can help you keep mastitis as bay, or from quickly getting worse. A constant feeling of fullness in your breasts, nipple pain, breasts that feel hot to the touch, and flu-like symptoms are all signs of mastitis. 

If you do start to become concerned that you have mastitis, gently massage your breasts to feel for clogged ducts to help everything flow again. Warm, moist compresses and a warm shower can also provide some relief and assistance – bend over and massage your clogged ducts. Nursing or pumping can also relieve the pressure, but might be too painful.

Listen to your provider to learn the signs and symptoms, and always follow up as soon as you think you may have an infection or problem. Mastitis can go from bad to worse very quickly (and can sometimes get you back in the hospital feeling very ill) but can be resolved with a prescription for antibiotics well before it comes to that.