Breastfeeding is natural. It has evolved over millions of years as a physical, biochemical, and hormonal interaction to meet the biological and psychosocial needs of the new child. Babies are born with necessary instincts and reflexes to nurse, but for mothers facilitating proper breastfeeding is a learned skill. In the past women learned to breastfeed from other women by growing up next to them and observing them. Today the distance between women and mothers has nearly eliminated this built-in learning and support system. The lack of learning and support environment leaves many new mothers helpless against many common breastfeeding mistakes that increase the risk of early termination. Here are 7 most common breastfeeding mistakes to avoid a long and rewarding breastfeeding experience.
Mistake 1. Thinking you can’t Breastfeed
There are different myths about reasons why some women may not be able to breastfeed. In fact, 97 percent of women are physiologically able to breastfeed. Be always confident in your body and its ability to make milk and feed your baby. As the renowned pediatrician, Dr. Sears said: “Your body nourished this baby through pregnancy. There’s no reason to think that you won’t succeed at breastfeeding.”
Mistake 2. Sticking to a Schedule
The golden rule of breastfeeding is to feed on demand and to follow baby’s hunger signals or “cues.” Nursing on demand may become exhausting in the post-partum period, and you may start doubting if your baby really needs all that nursing at all or gets enough milk.
There are key reasons why your breastfed newborn nurses more often than formula fed babies. Thanks to the enzyme called lipase that aids digestion, breastmilk is digested in 60-90 minutes. On the other hand, the tiny stomach of a one-month-old infant is only a size of an egg and can fill 80-150 ml of milk. This is why nursing 10-12 times a day or even more is very much normal in the first few months. Also keep in mind that your baby may eat constantly, be fussier at the breast, and clingier than usual few days before a growth spurt.
Mistake 3. Taking Pain as Normal
One of the most common breastfeeding mistakes is taking breast and nipple pain as normal and somewhat expected. While some discomfort or soreness of nipples is normal for moms who have just started breastfeeding, ongoing pain is never normal.
Treating the pain by applying creams or ointments, without addressing the causes of the pain, may make the situation even worse. The most common causes of nipple soreness and pain are baby’s poor latch, engorgement, or child’s tongue tie. Most often, they result in the baby having difficulty to remove the milk from breasts and lead to poor weight gain. If you are unable to end the pain by changing nursing positions or avoiding engorgement, it’s the right time to reach out to a lactation consultant.
Mistake 4. Supplementing without Objective Reasons
Another common breastfeeding mistake is starting complementing with formula due to subjective perceptions of low milk supply. Please remember that soft breasts, not pumping “enough”, or fussiness of the baby at the breast are NOT signs of low milk. The only objective indicator of low milk supply and a reason for supplementation is poor weight gain. Anytime you think about starting supplementing, weight your baby first. If your baby’s weight gain is within the normal range, there is no need for supplementation.
Mistake 5. Giving a Bottle or a Pacifier (too early)
Bottles and pacifiers increase the risk of nipple confusion. When babies breastfeed, they coordinate their tongue and jaw movements in a certain, unique way. In case of a bottle, babies do not need to suck “correctly,” because the milk easily flows from the bottle thanks to gravity. When babies use too much bottle, they may become frustrated at the breast, and some of them may even completely refuse to latch, giving preference to a bottle. Bottles and pacifiers are particularly risky when the baby has a poor latch or the mother has cracked nipples. Lactation consultants usually recommend postponing introducing bottles or pacifiers until the baby is at least 6-8 weeks old and the breastfeeding is well established.
Mistake 6. Not Seeking Help When You Need It
The post-partum period can be stressful and emotionally and physically exhausting for many of us. Cracked nipples and pain, together with sleepless nights, may make our lives even more miserable. The worst decision, perhaps, would be to sit around and stew over the problems instead of asking help. There are many support mechanisms you can mobilize. Ask your partner or relatives to help you with the housework, other kids, or just look after the baby so you can have a short nap. Reach out to fellow moms, local or online breastfeeding support networks and groups, or seek the advice of a lactation consultant. Once you overcome the difficulties of the first few months, breastfeeding will become an enjoyable process and will give you a feeling of a special bond with your child.
Mistake 7. Forgetting to Take Care of Own Self
Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding put an enormous pressure on our bodies and resources. Having a good rest, eating healthy food, and staying hydrated are important preconditions for successful breastfeeding. Try to keep your responsibilities around the home as low as possible. Limit the number of visitors for the first few weeks. Don’t demand too much of yourself. Pamper yourself. Be good to yourself, so you can be good to your child.
Have you made any of the above breastfeeding mistakes? How did you overcome them? Share your experience with us.