With benefits for baby (lower risks of obesity, ear infections and asthma) and mom (reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancer), breast-feeding seems like an easy choice. Yet, what appears so natural can also be quite overwhelming for many women. Dr. Sarah Ayers, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital, addresses three common breast-feeding barriers and how to get back on track.
Trouble Latching: Difficulty getting the baby’s mouth to the nipple ranks as a main reason why women quit breast-feeding early on, Ayers says. About 20 percent of the newborns she sees have tongue-tie, a limitation that makes it difficult to suck. “That makes it hard to latch and painful for women too,” she says. Be Prepared: Take a breast-feeding class during pregnancy and enlist a lactation consultant in the hospital to help with latching issues. “She can work with you through a feeding to get the latch,” Ayers says.
Weight Loss: When baby drinks from a bottle, you know exactly how many ounces were consumed. But on the breast, there’s no measuring line. “Some moms feel nervous that their babies aren’t getting enough milk,” Ayers says. “Most of the time, a pediatrician can be reassuring and follow weight closely.” Be Prepared: A newborn can lose 3 to 4 percent of its body weight in the first three to four days. “After about five days, we like to see newborns gain 20 grams per day,” she says. “By two weeks, newborns should be back to their birth weight.”
Sleep Deprivation: Mom is on duty around the clock when breast-feeding, especially in the early days. So it’s OK if you need a break. “I want you to enjoy this time,” Ayers says. “It’s fine if mom needs to skip one feeding in the middle of the night so she can get some extra sleep.” Be prepared: Have dad do one night feeding. “You can pump earlier in the day to make a bottle or give one formula bottle once a day if you feel super stressed,” Ayers says. But wait at least a week to establish breast-feeding before adding a bottle of breast milk or formula.
Successful breast-feeding often takes a team effort. That’s especially true in Cleveland’s inner city, where only about 11 percent of women receiving WIC benefits breast-feed. “We thought, We have to do something,” says Dr. Lydia Furman, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. She helped create Breast for Success, a two-year project that offers free support to moms and dads through information sheets, brief education sessions, and phone calls and visits from a lactation counselor. “There is lots of evidence that shows having the support of the father makes a huge difference,” she says.