One of the most stressful moments for new parents is leaving the security of a hospital to take their new-born home for the first time. After arriving at home, they are faced with a range of decisions and challenges while navigating through the first stages of parenthood. One of the main concerns new mothers face in particular, is deciding how to feed their new-born baby. It is a very personal choice that should be an informed decision. Despite how natural it seems, many mothers experience challenges over their breastfeeding journeys.

Here is some information to help you make the best decision that is right for you.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can be really important for both newborns and their mothers. Your baby’s digestive system is immature after birth and the first six months will see enormous changes.

Breastmilk contains around 200 different types of prebiotics which feed the good bacteria within the gut. Within the first six months, babies are developing their ability to produce enzymes that help digest food and create antibodies to protect themselves against pathogens. Breastmilk can play an integral role in this development process as it’s a natural food that contains all your baby’s nutritional needs. Breastmilk satisfies both hunger and thirst, and increases a baby’s resistance to infection and disease.

Breastfeeding is important for mothers too. It’s convenient, cheap and can quickly soothe an unhappy or fussy baby. It is always fresh, clean, safe, and the right temperature, and breastfeeding can assist new mothers with creating a close bond with their baby.

What are some of the challenges that mothers can face when breastfeeding?

Mothers are often faced with many challenges when breastfeeding, which can be disheartening. The first thing to remember is experiencing trouble breastfeeding is more common than many people may think.

The 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey results indicated that 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding however, less than half are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies at three months of age.

Here are some of the most common challenges that mothers face:

  • Sore nipples – nipple tenderness is completely normal for the first few weeks of breastfeeding however, if the soreness continues and nipples become cracked or bleed, there may be another issue.
  • Breast engorgement – after you give birth, your breasts can become swollen, painful and tight. This usually lasts a few days or weeks as your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs.
  • Plugged milk ducts – these are small, hard lumps in the breast that form when breastmilk clogs up and blocks the narrow milk ducts.
  • Mastitis – Mastitis is also known as a breast infection where the breast tissue becomes swollen or inflamed.
  • Low breastmilk supply – low breastmilk supply can be extremely frustrating and disheartening for mothers, but good news, the common causes of low breastmilk supply are often easily corrected. 
  • Over supply of breastmilk – this can also be a frustrating challenge for mothers and can be caused by other issues such as plugged milk ducts, breast engorgement and mastitis.

How to prepare for breastfeeding?

Every mother will experience breastfeeding differently, so it’s important to trust your body and your parenting instincts with learning the art of breastfeeding. Consulting with your doctor and postnatal specialists for personalised advice is important as there is a lot of misinformation out there. A good way to educate yourself and reduce anxiety around breastfeeding is to create a breastfeeding plan.

Many mothers question which foods affect their breastmilk. It is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet while pregnant. Apart from this, no specific food groups should be focused on. It is recommended women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding take a multivitamin. Fresh fruit is a source of carbohydrates and these are important for maintaining energy levels.

What are some other feeding options?

Breastfeeding is not the best option for everyone. There are a number of factors that come into play when deciding how to feed your baby. At the end of the day, fed is best. If you’re struggling to breastfeed, or you’ve chosen not to, formula may need to be considered. Speak with your doctor or a postnatal dietician to advise you on the best formula for you and your baby.

Where can you find support?

It is important parents understand they are never alone. There is always support available – whether this means speaking openly with your partner, a trusted family member, counsellor or healthcare professional.

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Dr Ryan Harvey joined the House Call Doctor team in 2015 and is now the service’s Clinical Director. He also currently works in General Practice and has recently opened On Point Skin Cancer Clinic in Kangaroo Point with the focus on providing professional, timely, affordable skin cancer treatment. Dr Harvey is experienced in paediatrics and has travelled extensively, administering medical care to children in remote overseas communities. 

You may also like to read:

Breastfeeding Tips and Quotes To Inspire

A Mother’s Breastfeeding Journey