Things to try if breastfeeding is a struggle
It’s recommended that babies are exclusively breastfed until six months old, but what happens if breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally?
“Breast is best” is a familiar saying for new mums and mums-to-be.
Experts recommend women try to breastfeed exclusively until their infants are six months old and then combine breastfeeding with foods until their infants are at least 12 months old.
“Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits for a baby’s immune system, growth and development,” says breastfeeding counsellor Vanessa Campbell, of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Research has found breastfed babies are at lower risk of SIDS, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, ear infections, and of becoming overweight or obese later in life.
Breastfeeding also brings benefits for mums. A recent study found women who breastfeed for more than a year may have a 30 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes and a 13 per cent less risk of high blood pressure. It also helps protect against breast and ovarian cancers.
Not as easy as it may look
But breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally – it’s a learned skill.
“A new mum may not have seen anyone breastfeeding before – you don’t know where to put your hands or where the baby’s head should be. And you may wait until your baby is crying as a sign that they’re hungry but then feeding can be harder,” says Vanessa.
“Babies may not latch on effectively causing sore nipples. Women might have flat or inverted nipples and some women have insufficient glandular tissue – a medical condition that impacts on how easy it is to breastfeed.”
- Expert tips: Pinky McKay’s guide to successful breastfeeding
Things to try if you’re having trouble
Find a comfortable chair and bring your baby to the breast – rather than the breast to the baby. A pillow can help bring baby to breast level.
Some prescription medications increase breastmilk supply but they can have side effects so talk to your GP about options.
More frequent feeding
The more frequently you feed, the more milk you produce.
Breastfeeding combined with formula feeding may help if you are returning to work.
You can bake or buy cookies containing ingredients like oats, flaxseed and brewer’s yeast, which aim to stimulate milk flow.
While there is no concrete proof they boost milk production, there is no harm in trying.
A 2018 study of this herb found fenugreek ‘significantly’ increased breastmilk production. You can drink it as a tea or take it in a capsule but speak to your GP or lactation consultant first.
Where to get help for breastfeeding
Any new mum struggling with breastfeeding should ask for help, says Werribee Mercy Hospital clinical midwife lactation consultant Helen Adams.
“Ask a trusted friend or family member,” she says but adds that it’s also important that advice is based on up-to-date evidence.
If breastfeeding doesn’t work out
“Love and nurturing aren’t dependent on how a baby is fed – it doesn’t just come from breastfeeding,” says Helen.
“And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are not a good mother because you don’t have a successful experience with breastfeeding.
“A mum is entitled to feel some regret that the breastfeeding journey might not have followed the desired path, but be reassured that any breastmilk you’ve given your baby is wonderful. And continue to give your baby skin-to-skin contact and to have special baby time.”
World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is August 1-7.
Written by Sarah Marinos.