Breastfeeding can be a great experience for both mom and baby, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard work that comes with a set of big difficulties. Every mom is bombarded with articles that explain the benefits of breastfeeding and, while they are largely correct, it can put more pressure on a very personal situation. We want all mothers and families to feel they are supported and that they can come to us with any questions or concerns.
If you are a new mom or a mom with several children, you probably already know how chaotic, complicated and wonderful parenthood can be. Breastfeeding also has its own joys and struggles. Mountainside Medical Center lactation consultant, Laurie Barbalinardo, RN, IBCLC, sees everyday how wonderful and unique each mother and child can be when it comes to breastfeeding. Here are some of both the great and not-so-great parts of breastfeeding and advice from expert Laurie Barbalinardo on how to find support if you need it.
The Great: Magic Diet for Your Baby
Your body creates the perfect food for your baby to be able to develop during those early months of life. The milk you have is full of nutrients that give your baby the perfect food and even changes as your baby’s needs change. “Breast milk changes over the course of a day as well as over the entire course of lactation,” says Laurie. “Interestingly, the milk of preterm babies is different than that of mothers delivering full term. Breast milk actually contains live cells which also have a variety of functions.”
Breast milk not only supplies your little one with proper nutrients, it’s also loaded with antibodies that protect your baby from infections. “Breast milk contains many immune properties which protects the baby from illnesses mom may have had as well as boosting their own immune system to protect against illness,” says Laurie. “There is a unique composition of various fats, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, DHA, cholesterol, amino acids, proteins such as casein (curds), and whey or lactalbumin. There are also non- immunoglobulins such as lysozyme and poly amines which also have a role in preventing illness.” In addition to protection from illnesses such as a cold, your breast milk can help lower the risk of leukemia, asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and necrotizing enterocolitis.
If you have any questions about your baby’s early development or are worried about your baby getting enough milk, contact your physician or your baby’s pediatrician.
The Not So Great: Worries Over Milk Supply and Latching
Some of the most common worries moms have about breastfeeding concern milk supply and proper latching. As your baby develops, so will how they feed and how much milk you produce. At six weeks to two months your breasts may no longer feel as full as they once did and feedings may last for a shorter period of time. Most likely this means your baby is getting better at feeding!
Growth spurts, usually around three weeks, six weeks and three months, may also make you worried that your supply is too low. This is a time when you can follow your baby’s lead.
Here are some ways to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat:
Ensuring your baby gets a good latch will help him or her get enough milk, but it will also make it more comfortable for you. Getting your baby to feed correctly may take some trial and error. If you have sore nipples, your baby is having trouble getting enough of your breast in his or her mouth or even if you’re just concerned it’s not correct, talk to a lactation consultant. “We see moms each day that they are here to help them adequately establish breastfeeding as comfortably as possible and provide as much education and anticipatory guidance that we can,” shares Laurie. “The care plan will vary patient to patient depending on their own individual needs, medical history, anatomy, need for return to work, family support and whatever their own particular concerns may be.”
The Great: Health and Wallet Protection for Mom
Your baby gets a number of benefits from breastmilk, but you can also get some great benefits yourself. Breastfeeding helps moms heal after giving birth. Moms can also have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Some women also see a jumpstart in their efforts to lose postpartum weight. You secrete 450-500 calories into breastmilk per day. Laurie shares that many of her moms have said they lose weight faster. Additionally, breastfeeding can save parents a lot of money.
The Not So Great: Pumping Problems
Breastfeeding is a large time commitment. No matter how happy you are to give this gift to your baby, it can still feel like a chore some days. It can be especially challenging when it’s almost time for you to return to work. The best way to handle that stress is to have a plan. You’ll need to prepare both your body and your baby for your absence by introducing pumping and bottle feeding into the routine before you have to go back to work.
Your baby should be ready to drink from a bottle after a month. Practice your pumping and give your baby a bottle instead of your breast at some feedings. You may also want to build up a supply of breast milk. Do this by pumping during naps or when your baby is being looked after by someone else. Having a supply ready can let you relax when something unexpected happens.
See our lactation specialist about pumping and storing breastmilk tips. You can also find information here: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/pumping-and-storing-breastmilk
The Great: Special Bonds
“Breastfeeding creates a unique bond,” shares Laurie. “Instead of nourishing and growing her baby via the placenta and umbilical cord as she did for 9 months, she is still now using her body and its ability to create the perfect food for her child in a basic, species -specific mammalian way.” Skin-to-skin contact between a mom and baby is highly encouraged and could be initiated right after birth. This type of bonding will continue as you hold your baby close while breastfeeding. Your baby will find comfort in your presence, have lower stress and you’ll both find joy in this closeness.
Your partner can also use this time for bonding and should also try skin-to-skin contact. Your partner could be with you during feedings or be there right after to burp your baby. Talk to your partner about ways they can support you and the baby during these times.
The Not So Great: Outside Opinions and Accommodation
Breastfeeding is in the news, it’s Tweeted about and there is no shortage of opinions on the topic. It can be difficult to know who to turn to, how to ask for what you need and how to react to negative mindsets. One major place where you might need to make your needs known is at work. A good place to start is to know the law. You are covered under the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law if you are also covered by Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires FLSA employers to provide break time for women to express milk and a functional space that is not a bathroom each time they need to express. Even though it’s the law, employers may be unaware. Have a discussion with your employer before going on leave or coming back to make sure you’re both prepared.
Breastfeeding in public also comes with protection from the law. You are legally allowed to breastfeed your child in any public space. “I can surely understand moms' reluctance to feed or pump in public,” says Laurie. “There are many clothing options available now which allow moms to feed or pump in a discreet way. Also, many malls, airports and office buildings offer private places or enclosures where moms may provide milk for their babies. Many places of employment offer lactation rooms for their breastfeeding employees.”
Find support from other moms in the area and know that you do have support. Weekly Breastfeeding support group facilitated by lactation consultants can help offer encouragement, education and information for breastfeeding mothers. Call 973-429-6886 for more information
For more information on your rights in the workplace, click here: https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work/what-law-says-about-breastfeeding-and-work/what-breastfeeding-employees/#1
All lactation consultants, including Laurie, want women to know they can find help. “Breastfeeding is an art as well as a science. The first 2 weeks can be particularly challenging. If more moms knew there was help to get them over this initial hurdle, I think there would be many more moms happily breastfeeding at 6 months. I wish all moms knew that there is help available to them in various locations from hospital lactation services, hospital or community support groups, their doctor's offices, lactation centers and lactation consultants who do private office or in-home consultations and WIC.”
Although breast feeding is a natural process, it is not instinctive. This class will provide the information and support needed for a positive nursing experience. The program is taught by the lactation consultants who work in our Birthing Center. Partners are encouraged to attend free of charge.
To register visit mountainsidehosp.com/events; or call 888-973-4674.