By Dr. Monique Hallee, BScHK ND. Breastfeeding can be a daunting task for women because of concerns around pain and from uncertainty of whether or not their child is receiving enough milk to promote growth. There are several aspects around effective breastfeeding to avoid such concerns, but let’s first review the importance of breastfeeding compared to formula feedings.
One of the main reasons I, as a doctor, promote breastfeeding is for the child’s health. A newborn will not have a properly developed immune system for a few years and relies on mom’s immune function through her breast milk. There are special antibodies that exist in a mother’s milk known as “immunoglobins” that help the baby fight disease.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial to the mother. Aside from containing immunoglobins, breast milk also contains vitamins and plenty of calories for the baby, meaning that the mom has to lose those calories. Simply by breastfeeding, moms are contributing to their calorie drop after pregnancy. That being said, it is crucial that new moms eat a full, healthy diet at this time. A mother needs to make sure that she an adequate nutrient intake to ensure that her own body can properly heal in the months after labour.
Feeding time for a newborn is also a great bonding moment. These little ones have not developed the visual acuity of adults yet, but the distance from breast to mom’s face is their optimal range for viewing. How comforting it must be to receive a warm meal while only being able to focus on the face that is providing it to you!
For some women, breastfeeding is not an option because of a severe health problem. In many cases, I find women are able to be much more successful with proper lactation than they first perceive. Proper latching of an infant is the first step. When newborns are placed on the mother’s chest after being birthed, they are often able to find their own way to the mother’s breast; innate reflexes often promote latching all on their own. If you need to help your child out, the best way to line up the breast with the mouth, is to pretend you are feeding the child a burger. When you eat a burger, you usually place the lower bun on your lower jaw, then stretch your mouth up to reach above the top bun. So, instead of thinking of the nipple as the center of a target to aim for, try to get more of the lower breast placed on the lower jaw of the enfant, then work up to the nipple.
Even though their babies have a proper latch, I notice that many mothers are concerned that they are not producing enough milk. Be aware that children who are breastfed usually do not grow as fast as their peers drinking formula. This is nothing to be concerned about, as they will catch up eventually. Likewise, don’t be surprised if you notice that your child actually loses a bit of weight at the beginning, just as long as it is not prolonged.
Poor milk production can have a few different causes, so it is important to seek a proper diagnosis. Treating any condition can be difficult in pregnancy because oral medicines can be passed on to the baby. Naturopathic medicine offers plenty of options for many concerns around breastfeeding that won’t affect the baby. Herbs used for milk production, such as fenugreek, fennel and dill, are known to be quite popular. Acupuncture or other non-ingested treatments are other viable options. There is often a hormonal imbalance at play, which means that you should seek guidance by a trained professional. One thing that you can do to beneficially effect hormones at home is to lower your stress. High stress levels are probably one of the top contributors to poor milk production that I have seen.
Another at-home tip for milk production are useful for those women who suffer from vasodilation to the breast tissue. Here, just like the fingers of someone with “Raynaud’s” (a circulatory issue), the nipple may change color and be painful due to cold. This can be remedied by warm applications through warming packs or warm olive oil massaged into the area.
General cleaning, drying and properly moisturizing the skin is an important factor to preventing undo pain from cracking skin. In cases of severe mastitis, I have the best results with an in-office treatment, but general prevention involves continual rotation between breasts for feeding and to not stop feeding suddenly – another important reason to persevere with breastfeeding.
It may not always be the easiest, but breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful and natural things we can share with our offspring. It offers nutrition, bonding and overall health. If you are concerned with any topic, it is important to seek professional care that is tailored to your needs. If you have any general questions about this or other topics, write in to us and you could have your question featured in an article.
If you have questions about your own health that you would like answered contact Dr Hallee. If your question is a good article topic, it could be featured in a column!
For further information, see a health care provider for more tips on how to keep you and your family healthy or, if you have a specific question, use the comments box below or email Today Media to have it answered.