Some breastfeeding difficulties are caused by things that moms inadvertently do that can sabotage their own breastfeeding efforts and they don’t even know it.
Many women have some level of anxiety over breastfeeding, especially with the first child. You want to do everything right, but there are so many small ways that you can go wrong. It’s best for your breastfeeding efforts if you can relax and feed in confidence, and this list will help you do just that.
10 Ways Moms Inadvertently Cause Breastfeeding Difficulties
Here are the top 10 ways that you can sabotage your efforts and also how to avoid making each of these mistakes so you can be a breastfeeding success!
1. Depriving the new baby of skin-to-skin contact.
For most women, the first opportunity for skin-to-skin contact is right after the birth of the baby. Cradling your little one directly to your breast and feeling that closeness does more than start the bonding process between parent and child. Take a look at this list of additional benefits of skin-to-skin contact:
- The baby’s temperature and breathing rate are normalized.
- The baby’s blood sugar levels are higher.
- Bacteria from your skin is picked up by your baby, which works with breastfeeding to protect your baby’s immune system.
- The baby is less likely to feel distressed or unhappy when direct contact with a parent is allowed.
Do you need anymore reasons to cuddle your baby next to your skin after birth and beyond? You can give your baby this much-needed luxury by keeping the little one in your room at the hospital rather than allowing him or her to go to the nursery. If your baby is a preemie, ask the doctors about ways to provide skin-to-skin contact even if the baby is in an incubator.
Once you leave the hospital, make some time for skin-to-skin contact each day. Taking your baby’s clothing off and allowing him or her to rest flat on your chest after each feeding is a good option if you have the luxury of staying home with your baby. The lack of clothing may also keep your baby more alert for more productive feedings. Swaddling is great, but you don’t have to keep your baby swaddled all the time.
2. Freaking out about milk production and offering a bottle too soon.
Your milk should come in within a week of delivering your baby. For most women, it starts flowing strong within the first five days. Before that happens, it may seem like you aren’t producing enough milk to sustain your hungry baby. Rather than jumping right to the bottle out of panic, give breastfeeding a chance.
The more your baby breastfeeds, the more your body is signaled that more milk is in demand. This will naturally help increase your milk output. If you switch to a bottle and the baby stops breastfeeding as often, then you’re sending the signal that less milk is in demand.
If you get past the five-day point and you’re still concerned about the amount of milk that you’re producing, make sure that your baby is emptying both of your breasts at each feeding. If they’re feeding every couple hours but not long enough to empty both breasts, consider pumping to finish the job. You can freeze that milk to ensure that you always have milk on hand. If you do end up going the bottle route, at least you can supplement with breast milk rather than formula.
3. Supplementing between breastfeeding sessions too early.
Rather than giving up on breastfeeding and switching to bottle-feeding entirely, some mothers freak out about milk supply or other issues and start supplementing their breastfeeding efforts. If this is done too soon, the baby doesn’t have time to become a breastfeeding champ. Since it’s easier to latch onto a bottle nipple and most bottles deliver the milk at a faster rate, you run the risk of your baby starting to prefer the bottle to your breast. Nipple confusion is another potential problem.
The solution is to wait at least a month before supplement with a bottle, even if you are filling it with pumped breast milk. There are exceptions to this, such as women who are returning to work or have long-term milk supply problems that force an earlier supplementation routine.
4. Forcing the baby to feed on a strict schedule.
Demand feeding versus scheduled feeding. This is one of the oldest controversies for breastfeeding parents. The best option is to allow your baby to feed whenever they want, but not all mothers have the luxury of staying at home every day to make this a possibility. Rather than forcing your little one to only feed at certain times of the day, find a way to make demand feeding work even if your baby is receiving bottles of breast milk from a secondary caregiver. Encourage paced feeding for caregivers!
Feeding on demand ensures that your baby is listening to his or her body to take in the amount of milk needed to sustain growth. It may also cut down on the amount of crying and fussing that adults have to endure because the baby will know that nourishment is available when he or she needs it. They aren’t going hungry when food is available on demand.
5. Introducing pacifiers and other artificial nipples before breastfeeding is fully established.
Just like supplementing with a bottle too soon, there’s a chance that your baby will suffer from nipple confusion. Newborns have to learn how to properly latch to their mother’s breast and how to suck effectively to maintain a smooth flow of milk. When artificial nipples are introduced at the same time, they have to work harder to figure out why the breast doesn’t function like the pacifier.
The solution here is simple: Wait at least three or four weeks before you introduce any type of nipple other than your own. This is a mistake that women make because pacifiers are offered at the hospital, and often that comes right after the baby is born. It seems like such a natural thing to plug one into the baby’s mouth, but you have the choice to wait so that your baby has an easier time adjusting to breastfeeding.
Related > Best Pacifiers for Breastfeeding Babies
6. Listening to advice from the peanut gallery.
You know who makes up the peanut gallery in your world. It’s likely your own mother and father and perhaps your spouse’s parents as well. You may include your well-meaning siblings, close friends, and even colleagues, church acquaintances and people who seem to come out of the woodwork when they see a baby in your arms.
All of these people have opinions on how you should feed your baby. They have their own life experiences that they just must share, hoping to spare you from their own mistakes. You may even start hearing the opinions of people who don’t have children or who haven’t been present in the lives of their own children. All of this is offered as well-intentioned advice, but you can’t allow it to interfere with your personal parenting decisions.
First of all, listening too much is a great way to get confused because so many people have conflicting ideas about breastfeeding and parenting. It’s sometimes alarming to hear horror stories regarding things that you’re currently trying with your own baby.
You can avoid the confusion and worry by not taking all of this advice to heart. You’re doing the research, talking to your pediatrician, consulting with your lactation expert, and taking all the right steps to do what is right for your baby. You also have a gut instinct that is far more powerful than any advice given from someone else. Listen to that instinct (and TRUST it!) Do what you know is right for your little one.
7. Returning to work too soon.
If you have no choice but to return to work soon after your baby is born, you can move past this one to #8. We get it and want to encourage you to keep breastfeeding anyway! YOU CAN DO IT!!! (If you must return to work quickly…here are tips to keep your supply up!)
But if you are lucky enough to have the option of waiting awhile to return, take it! Not only does waiting give you more time to heal from childbirth and bond with your baby, but it gives the baby time to adjust to breastfeeding and work out a natural feeding schedule. You don’t want to force a strict schedule, but many babies will develop their own if given the freedom to do so.
Waiting at least three months before you return will also give you time to learn how to pump and store breast milk. This is generally enough time for physical healing, and your baby should be feeding like a little champ by that time. If you can wait until your baby is six months or older, the transition will be even easier for everyone involved.
8. Failing to develop a support system of breastfeeding supporters.
While breastfeeding comes natural to some women, others have struggles or even anxieties that surface. The best thing that you can do for your own peace of mind is surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through and who are supportive of your efforts. If all you hear are messages that you should give up or that it’s not worth the struggle, it will be much harder to sustain breastfeeding long term.
Many women find breastfeeding support at church or through local mommy groups. You can also connect with other breastfeeding mothers online, and that actually increases your chances of finding other mothers who can answer your questions and share a diverse range of experiences!
9. Not asking questions or reaching out for support when needed.
There are many problems that you may encounter while breastfeeding, including tongue ties and latching issues. Too many women suffer through alone, trying to research online or waiting for the problem to pass on its own. Not only does this add to the stress of parenting a new baby, but it sometimes allows minor problems to progress into much bigger problems.
It’s always easier to ask for help while the problem is minor. Even more serious issues are best handled when discovered early on. You also don’t want your baby to suffer needlessly if there is a simple solution to the problem at hand. Finally, you simply deserve help if you’re concerned about even something minor. Parenting is hard enough, but it gets even harder if you’re on your own.
You can get help from that network of breastfeeding supporters that we already discussed about. You may also talk to your spouse, your friends, your medical providers, or members of your church. Keep asking for help until you find someone who can help you find a solution to the problem.
10. Accepting visitors without complaint in the early days of breastfeeding.
For many women, the parade of visitors starts before they even leave the hospital. Each person is just so eager to get their arms around that sweet newborn, and they think that they can help by giving the new mother a moment to rest. The problem is that it’s difficult to work through the struggles of early breastfeeding with an audience, so those well-meaning visitors quickly become interferences.
The solution is to simply insist on your right to privacy (and don’t feel guilty about that!!!) When the word of the baby’s arrival into the world is announced, include a polite note that you aren’t accepting visitors until a later date. If someone shows up unexpected, have your spouse, a nurse, or another loved one explain that you’re currently not open to visitors because you’re learning to care for your new baby.
This may seem rude, but it gives you and the new baby the time needed to adjust to breastfeeding. It will also allow your baby to bond with a few well-chosen people who genuinely are helpful to you during this time. Plus, you won’t have to worry about where all of those hands have been, and there will be no one sneezing over your baby or trying to squeeze cheeks and inspect tiny fingers and toes too early!
Whether you’re expecting a baby or you’re currently breastfeeding, use this list to ensure that you’re getting the most out of the breastfeeding experience. Not only will you feel less stressed, but you will get your breastfeeding off to the BEST start!
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