Although it is the best feeding choice for babies and mothers, breastfeeding does come with some concerns that new mothers may share. Whereas it's easy from the get-go for some, it can be challenging. Sometimes, both mother and baby need plenty of patience and persistence to get used to the routine of breastfeeding. But all the effort is worth it in the long run — for both the mother and her baby.
Common concerns of new moms, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include:
Personal comfort. Initially, as with any new skill, many moms feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with adequate education, support, and practice, most moms overcome this. The bottom line is that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if the mother receives help and guidance.
Latch-on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if the nipples and/or breasts are sore, it's a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to seek the help of a lactation consultant or their doctor. Many times, it's just a matter of using the proper technique, but sometimes pain can mean that something else is going on, like an infection.
Time and frequency of feedings. There's no question that breastfeeding does require a substantial time commitment from mothers. Then again, many worthwhile things in parenting do. Some women may be concerned that nursing will make it hard for them to work, run errands, or travel because of a breastfeeding schedule or a need to pump breast milk during the day. Many of these concerns can be addressed at a prenatal lactation consultant visit.
And breastfed babies do need to eat more often than babies who are fed formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This means mom may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more, maybe less) in the first few weeks.
This can be tiring, but once breastfeeding has been established (usually in about a month), other family members may be able to help out by giving the baby pumped breast milk if mom needs a break or is going back to work outside the home. And it's not long before babies feed less frequently and sleep through the night (usually around 3 months). Also, with a little organization and time management, it becomes easier to work out a schedule to breastfeed and/or pump.
Diet. Women who are breastfeeding need to be aware of what they eat and drink, since things can be passed to the baby through the breast milk. Just like during pregnancy, breastfeeding women should avoid fish that are high in mercury, and limit lower mercury fish intake. If a woman has alcohol, a small amount can be passed to the baby through breast milk. She should wait to breastfeed at least 2 hours after a single alcoholic drink in order to avoid passing any alcohol to the baby. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than 300 milligrams (about one to three cups of regular coffee) per day for breastfeeding women because it may cause problems such as restlessness and irritability in some babies. Some infants are sensitive enough to caffeine to have problems even with smaller amounts of caffeine. Discuss these situations with your health care provider or lactation consultant.
Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery. Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medications may make breastfeeding unsafe. A woman should check with her doctor or a lactation consultant if she's unsure if she should breastfeed with a specific condition. Women should always check with the doctor about the safety of taking medications while breastfeeding, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines.
Mothers who've had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, a woman should to talk to her doctor about her concerns and work with a lactation specialist.
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