August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to highlight the benefits that come with breastfeeding. It’s also important to note that breastfeeding poses a host of challenges for new moms. Here at Greenville OB/GYN, we’re committed to helping you understand these vital issues and make the best decisions for you and your baby.
The widely-accepted health benefits of breastfeeding are significant. Along with improved brain development and dental health, research indicates that breastfed babies are at lower risk for asthma, childhood obesity, ear infections, lower respiratory infections, Type 2 diabetes, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding mothers also have lower risks of ovarian and breast cancer, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious health issues.
Considering these positive impacts, it’s no surprise that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. In its 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card, the CDC reported that about 84 percent of infants born in the U.S. begin breastfeeding right away. However, only about 58 percent of these babies continue breastfeeding through the first six months.
Particularly in the first few days after bringing a baby into the world, breastfeeding can be difficult for new mothers. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to make the process easier and more comfortable for you and your baby. Here are a few common breastfeeding challenges and strategies for overcoming them:
- Low Supply: Some mothers worry about making enough milk for their babies. Checking your baby’s weight and growth is the best way to tell if he or she is being adequately fed. It’s also essential to ensure your baby is latched on and positioned well. Ask your provider if you have concerns about any health issues that may affect milk production.
- Sore Nipples: This might be the most common complication for new breastfeeding mothers. Once you find the right position and your baby has a good latch, feeding should be comfortable for both of you. Keep in mind that your baby should be nursing from most of the areola and the nipple, not just the nipple itself. Your provider can help you find the right products and methods to ease any nipple irritation you might experience.
- Plugged Milk Ducts: When a milk duct doesn’t drain properly, built-up pressure can cause the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. This usually happens in only one breast at a time. Massaging the affected area and feeding more often can loosen the plug. If the problem keeps coming back, it’s best to get help from a lactation consultant.
- Mastitis (Breast Infection): It can be difficult to differentiate between a plugged duct and a breast infection. The symptoms are similar and both issues can be resolved within 24 to 48 hours through similar methods. One key difference is that breast infections can be caused by other family members who are sick. If your symptoms linger for longer than two days, you need to see your doctor.
Keep in mind that breastfeeding isn’t your only option. What’s most important is that your baby gets enough to eat and that you are both healthy. If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, contact the experts at Greenville OB/GYN.