Common breastfeeding mistakes and how to avoid them

Feeling some pain or discomfort initially when you start breastfeeding is absolutely normal but it should not be continuous or prolonged.

By Rama Mahajan

Breastfeeding is easy for some mothers but difficult for others. Each mother and infant is unique and so is their breastfeeding journey. As a lactation consultant, I have seen many mothers making the same mistakes again and again. They try to find solutions in a similar manner as well. Knowing some common breastfeeding mistakes and how to avoid them can give you the best chance at a happy, successful breastfeeding journey. As they say, forewarned is forearmed

#Mistake 1: Not asking for help

It is said that breastfeeding is easy, natural and instinctive but for some it is stressful, complicated and difficult. Breastfeeding is a skill similar to cycling or swimming. It can be learned, practiced and perfected. It is normal to make mistakes while you and your baby are learning to breastfeed. But not asking for help further aggravates the situation. You may turn to your relatives and friends for suggestions and tips. They may be able to provide you some help based on their experience. Their problem could have been because of an entirely different cause requiring different treatment. Online support groups and YouTube videos may also give you some solutions. However, it is recommended to consult a lactation expert to sort out your lactation related issues. A lactation expert will find the exact underlying cause for your problem and then will offer a solution. Many mothers ask for help at later stages when simple issues have become more complicated requiring more intense treatment or are too late to be resolved.

#Mistake 2: Pain is normal

It is a common mistake to think that pain during nursing is normal and expected. Feeling some pain or discomfort initially when you start breastfeeding is absolutely normal but it should not be continuous or prolonged. Mothers must realise that breastfeeding is painless. To resolve pain, first find the actual cause and then find a solution. It could be poor latch, breast engorgement, wrong breastfeeding position or may be a tongue tie. Also remember breastfeeding is a partnership between mother and baby. The problem could be because of either of them. So mothers need not feel guilty all the time.

#Mistake 3: Not taking care of yourself

It is very important to take care of yourself while breastfeeding. Lactating mothers need to understand that their health affects breastfeeding patterns. In order to have continued milk production, your body takes nutrients from the bones, blood and muscles. If mothers fail to eat right their store will start depleting. New mothers do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep during the first year of childbirth. Lack of sleep coupled with deficient nutrition and inadequate hydration will make mothers lethargic. She may also be emotionally and mentally drained and likely to fall sick which may impact the newborn care. Take care of yourself along with caring for the baby. A healthy mother will be able to give a healthy feed to the baby.

#Mistake 4: Introducing bottle too early

One of the most common mistakes is giving the bottle or pacifiers to babies too early. Mothers tend to offer the bottle feed under peer or family pressure. A working mother typically starts the bottle early as she has to join back thinking the baby may not accept the bottle later. Many mothers bottle feed for convenience and comfort. Giving the bottle before successfully establishing breastfeeding is not advisable. Babies find sucking at the bottle easier and may sometimes refuse to suckle the breast. This may also lead to nipple confusion. Milk supply may go down altogether. If you are planning to return to work and if you feel the need to supplement your baby with bottle feed, introduce the bottle at 6-8 weeks and not before that. Offer only 1 or 2 bottles each day. Give the baby your own expressed milk each time you bottle feed. Always hold the baby close to your body. Feeding times are also bonding times. Breastfeeding provides nutritional as well as emotional security to the baby since the baby remains in skin to skin touch while directly feeding from the mother.

#Mistake 5: Formula milk is same as breast milk

This is the biggest mistake of all and is completely false. New mothers need to understand that breastmilk is living and a dynamic fluid. Breastmilk keeps on changing as the baby’s needs change. Breast milk is the ideal food for babies for the first six months. It has numerous benefits for the baby and the mother. Till date, no scientist has been able to replicate the composition of breastmilk. Infant formulas do not contain the immunity-boosting elements. Formula milk is best to be used in emergencies and under the supervision of the physician.

In my view, the most important thing to remember about breastfeeding is that it’s a learned process and doesn’t necessarily come naturally to some moms and their babies. You can read books and listen to stories of varied experiences from everyone but still your situation could be different from everybody else’s. You will have to rely on your own motherly instinct when breastfeeding mistakes happen. However, recognising the type of common breastfeeding mistakes that can occur and how to fix them, can prepare you for a happier and successful breastfeeding journey for you and your baby.

(The writer is a Lactation Consultant, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.)

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