What You Don’t Know About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can take a toll on both the body and the mind. For women who can’t or choose not to breastfeed, there’s the added guilt and judgement. Here, we break down the science behind breastfeeding—everything from how to improve lactation to why it may or be right for you.

By D Tejaswi
03 Aug 2021

The experience of breastfeeding is accompanied by several dilemmas and contradictions that vary from woman to woman. “Sore nipples, not having enough breast milk, breast engorgement, latching issues, poor positioning, psychological issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety can be confusing and isolating,” says Dr. Anuradha Panda, Gynecologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad. “No matter what you hear or read, it’s important to understand that there are workable solutions for every breastfeeding problem you face,” assures Dr. Panda.


It’s okay of you don’t want to breastfeed
“The decision to breastfeed is a personal one for each mother. You can still bond with your baby, know how much your baby is eating and provide the right nourishment they need,” says Dr Panda. “Your physician/health adviser would give you the best advice.”
A 2010 study published in Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says that while breastfed babies do have a modest advantage over bottle-fed newborns in terms of health, it appears that the difference is not due to the milk. Instead, everything about the baby’s health is decided before he or she is born, says the research.



Your doctor may tell you not to breastfeed
You might want to breastfeed, but cannot in some cases, at least not exclusively due to expressing issues or postpartum problems. “Some mothers are asked to temporarily not breastfeed, and others might be asked to not breastfeed at all, depending on the mother’s and baby’s overall health,” says Dr Panda.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mothers should not breastfeed at all if they have certain health conditions such as infant galactosemia, HIV, or ebola virus disease. “A person should not breastfeed if they are on certain medications (blood thinners, chemotherapy medicines, antipsychotics),” says the doctor. Mothers can feed expressed breast milk but should temporarily not breastfeed if suffering from untreated, active tuberculosis or varicella infection at delivery, she adds.



Your baby needs to learn how to latch
To be able to latch is a learning process for a baby. Do not worry if your new-born in initial days cannot latch or suckle effectively. Your doctor can suggest ways to help such as how to help your baby latch properly from the start. “To latch correctly, the baby has to take-in a good portion of your areola and not just the nipple,” advises Dr Panda. Also, it’s natural for babies to take some time, and unless the baby adjusts to the rhythm and position of feeding, remember that the baby should be encouraged to breastfeed, says the doctor. Your allies are time, patience, gentleness, and togetherness. “In a matter of a few weeks, you usually notice an improvement.”


Your breasts will need extra care
You need to take good care of your breasts to avoid potential issues like sore nipples and infection. “Basic breast care involves keeping your hands clean, washing breasts including nipples daily with warm water, avoiding soap on breasts, changing breast pads often and using a safe nipple cream after consulting with your doctor,” says Dr Panda.

Further, temporary problems such as mastitis, bacterial or yeast infection of breasts can hinder breastfeeding. It is important to consult a doctor in case of prolonged pain or pin and needles sensation in the breast area. Also, there are some basic tips you can practice to minimise chances of mastitis. “Ensuring a good latch, staying away from cigarettes, using warm compress to keep the milk ducts unclogged, and allowing the baby to completely empty one breast before changing to the other helps,” says the doctor.


You will have to deal with leaking milk
“Your body needs some time to adjust to breastfeeding and milk leaking from breasts is the body’s way of getting prepared for milk production and feeding patterns,” says the doctor. “It is important to be prepared and plan your outfit. Keep nursing pads handy, and spare bed linens by your side. Opt for smart camouflage colours when you dress,” suggests the doctor.


Certain food can help you increase milk supply
A well-balanced diet with high fluid intake is recommended, says the doctor. “Mainly, concentrate on your proteins, calcium and good fats,” she adds. You can get these from eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Secondly, “avoiding stress and getting good sleep” are two other primary factors that help regulate milk supply, says the expert. Hydration is key to regulating milk supply. A 1992 study in Canadian Journal of Public Health stated that milk supply is directly influenced and proportional to the water intake by the mother. Hence, it is important to stay hydrated and understand that water is your “breast” friend.


You can breastfeed even if you are Covid-19 positive
There is no data to prove that covid is transmitted through breast milk. “Just sanitise your hand, wear a proper mask and feed,” says Dr Panda.



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