This post was written by Sarah Wolfe, RN, Family Birthing Center, Parkview Whitley Hospital, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week.
No matter how you choose to feed your baby, it’s a big decision that every parent must make for themselves. The best way to make that decision is to be fully informed. Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, provides benefits for mother and baby that can last for life. Choosing to breastfeed your infant will provide them with optimal nutrition. And, while breastfeeding is a natural process, it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. In many cases, mother and baby must learn together after birth.
Common challenges and solutions
Many mothers will experience various challenges with their infant throughout the breastfeeding process, especially in the early days. Some of the most common breastfeeding hurdles can include:
- Growth spurts: These frequently occur within the first few months, then start to spread out. Growth spurts usually last for 2-3 days, with many babies nursing more often and becoming fussier than usual. Knowing this, it’s best to stay calm and continue to listen to your baby and feed on cue. As you nurse your baby, your milk supply will increase, providing all the additional nutrition your baby will need as they grow.
- Cluster feeding: These types of feedings happen when your baby nurses frequently during a short time frame. Cluster feedings occur early in the breastfeeding process and typically take place in the evening. While these feedings are entirely normal, they can be exhausting. Therefore, mothers need to lean on their support network, stay well-nourished and get plenty of rest. Remember, this phase is temporary.
- Sleepiness: In addition to growth spurts and cluster feedings, babies can also be very sleepy during the first week or two of life. For this reason, it’s important to be attentive to feeding cues. Even when your baby is tired, it’s still vital that they get breastmilk. To rouse your infant, try undressing them, rubbing their sides, back and soles of feet. If you cannot keep your baby awake for feeds, you might need to express your milk and give it to them through an alternative method like a cup or spoon. Remember, babies need to feed at least eight times in 24 hours.
Mental and emotional health benefits
Studies have shown that breastfeeding may decrease the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. However, sometimes counseling or medication may be necessary to aid a mother’s mental and emotional health. Furthermore, if a mother is walking through some significant challenges and unable to take care of her baby, breastfeeding may be paused or even stopped. Please speak with your primary care provider, obstetrician or gynecologist if you experience any of the following:
- A feeling or sense of hopelessness
- Crying all the time
- Do not feel in touch with your baby
- Have thoughts of harming yourself or someone else
Additional breastfeeding advice
In most family birthing facilities, a lactation consultant will usually stop in to check on you and the baby throughout your stay. If you experience any issues, have any questions or concerns after discharge, be sure to contact the lactation consultant nearest you or even another mother who has experience with nursing. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. There are many professionals available that can help you achieve your breastfeeding goals. Instead of giving up, please reach out and get help.
At Parkview, we have in-person drop-in clinics where you can speak to a lactation consultant and get your baby weighed while interacting with other mothers. Don’t forget! You can always make a free appointment with a lactation consultant at any of our Parkview Family Birth Centers.
Breastfeeding Medicine: Does infant feeding method impact on maternal mental health?