Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges: A Helpful Guide for Parents-to-be

May 16, 2023 | Mental Health, Newborn, Postnatal, Pregnancy

Breastfeeding is widely advocated across the UK due to the numerous benefits it can bring for you and your baby. But we recognise that breastfeeding can come with its unique set of challenges.

In this blog, we’ll explore some valuable tips to help you navigate through the challenges of breastfeeding towards a positive experience for both you and your baby.

 

What are some of the challenges of breastfeeding?

When a woman is breastfeeding, her body undergoes various transformations to support this important function.

As the breasts begin to produce milk some mothers may experience engorgement, which is a condition where the breasts become hard, tight, and painful due to excessive milk production. Apply warm compresses or take a warm shower before breastfeeding to help milk flow. Gentle breast massage and expressing a small amount of milk before latching can also relieve engorgement [1].

Breastfeeding also affects a mother’s energy and nutrient needs. It requires extra energy and nutrients, often leading to increased hunger. It is important for breastfeeding mothers to maintain a healthy and balanced diet and stay hydrated [2] to ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients.

One significant change that occurs during breastfeeding is weight loss [3]. Breastfeeding can contribute to postpartum weight loss, particularly in mothers who exclusively breastfeed. This is because breastfeeding burns calories and helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size.

Some mothers report discomfort from soreness on the nipples whilst breastfeeding, which could be a result of poor latch or positioning of baby, or down to hormonal changes. Seeking advice from a specialist will help determine a tailored solution for you and your baby.

There are some further common challenges that many mothers experience, which may include blocked milk duct, not enough breast milk or on the other hand too much breast milk [1]. Your midwife, health visitor or specialist can provide you with additional support and information on how best to manage these concerns.

How can I manage the challenges of breastfeeding?

1. Seek support from clinical experts

Before your baby arrives, consider attending antenatal classes to gain insights into breastfeeding. Our antenatal classes are taught by midwives and will cover topics such as latch and positioning techniques, establishing milk supply as well as bottle feeding and combined feeding.

Our midwives will also include practical demonstrations and workshops so you can practice techniques and understand the mechanics of breastfeeding with our expert to hand.

By taking the opportunity to ask questions and address concerns during your pregnancy, our classes can give you the confidence and preparation if challenges arise when you begin your breastfeeding journey.

After your baby is born, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant for clinical advice. Contact us on info@theparentsclass.com if you’d like support in finding a lactation consultant that can help.

2. Involve your partner and support system

Your support network’s encouragement, understanding, and practical help can make a huge difference when it comes to navigating life after baby is born [4].  Partners can take on practical tasks to care for both you and your baby can give you that much needed time to rest. But remember to take up any offers from friends and family to help. If your baby is not yet born, this is a great opportunity to think about a postnatal plan to consider the above.

3. Create a comfortable environment

Find a cosy spot with robust support for your back and arms. Dim the lights, try some soothing music, or use a white noise machine to create a relaxing feeding experience.

  • Use pillows or cushions to support your baby and your arms
  • Find a comfortable chair or position that supports your back
  • Use a breastfeeding pillow to support your baby and take the weight off your arms

4. Find local breastfeeding groups

Breastfeeding support groups and cafés can offer a safe and welcoming space for parents to share their experiences and seek guidance from experienced breastfeeding advocates [5]. These groups not only provide valuable tips and advice but also allow you to connect with other parents facing similar challenges.

Participating in local breastfeeding groups can help you build a strong support network, gain confidence in your breastfeeding journey, and find comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this beautiful and sometimes demanding experience.

What are some additional benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding stimulates the release of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin, which are responsible for milk production and release [6].

These hormones can also have a calming effect on the mother, promoting relaxation and bonding with the baby.

Breastfeeding has an impact on the immune system. It boosts the mother’s immune system, providing protection against infections and illnesses.

Breast milk itself contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections and illnesses as well [7].

While breastfeeding can present challenges, there are lots of resources and support available.

We hope this blog has introduced some of the ways in which you can prepare or manage any problems you may experience.

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References:

[1] NHS: Common breastfeeding problems
[2] NI Direct: Healthy eating for breastfeeding
[3] The relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum weight change–a systematic review and critical evaluation
[4] Emotional and informational social support from health visitors and breastfeeding outcomes in the UK
[5] UK women’s experiences of breastfeeding and additional breastfeeding support: a qualitative study of Baby Café services
[6] UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Refresher Sheet
[7] NHS: How long do babies carry their mother’s immunity?

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