Breastfeeding is HARD – By Lauren Larson, MS, RDN, CLC
There are many well-known benefits of breastfeeding, including protecting the baby from a variety of diseases and conditions (like diarrhea, ear infections, diabetes, and obesity), and decreasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in the mother. While these benefits are great, not enough people are talking about how H-A-R-D breastfeeding is and where to get support/help.
Whether it is a mother’s first or sixth child, the early days of breastfeeding can leave a mother wishing she had at least ten arms to help get her newborn baby to latch as she is in toe curling pain with sore nipples. If she’s among the 81.5% that are still breastfeeding after the first week, new challenges such as fear of low milk supply, nursing strikes, and returning to work are certain to arise.
Fear of low milk supply is very common among breastfeeding mothers. Unfortunately, this fear leads many mothers to discontinue breastfeeding earlier than what is recommended or desired. Things that can lead to this fear include the feeling of “empty” breasts and not getting much out during a pumping session. Turns out, neither of these things are a sole indicator of low milk supply, and a mother can benefit from an evaluation by a lactation professional before giving up!
Nursing strikes can happen suddenly anytime, even after breastfeeding is well established. Typically, nursing strikes are led by an illness or something “wrong” in the baby’s life. This could be something like a runny nose, teething, or stress in the family. Ending the strike requires lots of patience while doing more skin to skin contact, resolving family stress, offering to breastfeed the baby while they are sleepy, and avoiding the bottle.
There is a strong link between mother’s going back to work and the end of breastfeeding. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) helps protect a mother’s desire to continue breastfeeding by requiring an employer to provide reasonable break time to pump milk in a private space (not a bathroom) for one year after their baby’s birth. If a mother’s employer does not grant her of this, she can report them to the U.S. Department of Labor by calling 1-866-4-USWAGE.
Challenges aside, many mothers just need to know they’re not alone in their struggle to breastfeed. This is part of the reason why Grand River Health offers a group for mothers to share their experiences with others and get advice from a certified lactation counselor (CLC). If you or someone you know is a mother who could use some support, join or encourage them to join us on Wednesdays from 10 am to noon in the Changing Lifestyles conference room at Grand River Health. There is no cost to attend and there is no need to sign up. Contact Lauren Larson, MS, RDN, CLC at 970-625-6201 with questions.
Benefits of Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx
Results: Breastfeeding Rates | Breastfeeding | CDC. (2017, December 1). Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/results.html