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Babies are born to be breastfed. It is a statement made by the Le Leche League and by nature herself. Women start producing prolactin during their pregnancy and lactation can start as early as the second trimester. It is not only a species-specific food but changes constantly to be tailored to the particular baby (or babies) who are being breastfed at the time. Mother sustaining baby is simply a continuation from pregnancy. Naturally, it is a rare case where the mother is unable to feed her baby after giving birth and in that case (or adoption where induced lactation or donor milk are not an option, formula is a wonderful invention for the baby to get nutrition).
Poor diet and the medicalization of birth have increased the amount of trouble women have in exclusively breastfeeding their babies, or even breastfeeding at all. It is common to hear of women not producing enough milk or of having breastfeeding hurt.
Common Causes of and Solutions to Breastfeeding Problems in the first days:
Medication during birth - Whatever the mother gets, the baby gets as well. Babies who recieved epidurals or many other interventions during birth, or simply had a very rough start, may also need many interventions to get started breastfeeding. Help will be needed to get a proper latch, calm a crying baby, or wake a baby who's sleepy from all the medication he received. The best and simplest remedy is to do skin to skin contact. Even if baby doesn't want to eat right away this will help immediately calm him down and stabilize his temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Motherbaby closeness also produces hormones that promote milk production and let-down.
Bad latch - Getting the proper latch from the very beginning is crucial to breastfeeding ease and sucesss. A bad latch can be caused by improper positioning, nipple confusion if baby was given pacifiers or bottles, or tongue tie. Bad latches lead to, among other problems, the baby not getting enough milk and losing weight, rising bilirubin levels, mother experiencing sore nipples, engorgement, ineffective let down, and plugged ducts. A midwife, doctor, nurse, or doula trained in breastfeeding can assess a proper latch. Breastfeeding should never be painful. If you have any problems, especially in the early days, see a lactation consultant right away. Having a baby swaddled can also make it harder for him to suck effectively. Swaddled babies can't move as much to get more comfortable, to stretch and take deep breaths, or regulate their temperature as easily.
Low blood sugar or high bilirubin levels - solved by frequent nursing. Low blood sugar can be caused by many factors such as low oxygen from fast cord clamping where blood didn't finish transferring from the placenta to the baby. But, like adults with low sugar, small frequent meals can also help bring levels up. For bilirubin, frequent nursing means more frequent stools and bilirubin is expelled through stools.
Common Causes of and Solutions to low milk supply:
Not emptying the breast often enough and fully enough in the first few weeks sets the mother's output at inappropriately low levels she cannot recover from long-term. This can be caused by many reasons: feeding baby on a schedule vs on demand (not frequent enough breast stimulation), timing feedings (taking baby off of one breast before he reaches the hindmilk), supplementing with formula from the start (affects both frequency of feedings and amounts baby will take), a bad latch (baby cannot suck effectively so the breast isn't fully emptied at each feeding - this can also lead to plugged ducts and mastitis). Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. The more you nurse your baby as he needs it, the more in sync you will be with producing the amounts he needs. Crying is the last sign of hunger and babies should be fed before they cry. There are many signs of hunger you can look out for such as rooting, putting a hand in his mouth, making sounds, etc. A quiet alert baby is much easier to feed than an agitated crying one that needs to be calmed down first. Especially in the first 3 months babies eat 6-17 times. The frequency is higher in the early days and during growth spurts, especially at night.
Diet - Caffeine, hormonal contraceptives, anemia, smoking, allergy medications, and an underactive thyroid can all be regulated or changed with a healthy diet. Most importantly, liquid in - liquid out. In order to make more milk you have be well hydrated. Even drinking an extra cup of water prior to or during nursing your baby can make a difference in your milk supply.
Stress - Stress may inhibit your let-down reflex. If you cannot move away from the source of your stress the simplest thing to do is focus on your baby and your breath. Just taking a few slow deep breaths and letting them out slowly should help settle both of you. If you are in a rush somewhere remeber that taking 3 breaths takes much less time than wrestling a potentially squirmy hungry baby while you both wait for your milk to let down. Having your partner give you a shoulder or back massage can also help.
Dealing with feeding marathons: It is hard enough to wake up every 2-3 hours around the clock to feed a growing newborn but what do you do when he suddenly ramps up to nightly cluster feeding or a growth spurt with 30min - 1hr nursing around the clock? You may be tempted to give them formula. It is much harder than breast milk for babies to digest so they will not be hungry as often but then you tamper with the supply and demand cycle and it will be harder to continue nursing after the growth spurt. The good news is growth spurts are just that - spurts of time. Even if they last longer for some babies than others they do pass quickly. An hour may seem like a day and a day may seem like a year. Preparing yourself mentally for it and knowing this is all just a short time in your baby's life when they are completely dependant on you will help. Get a good book, an audio book, a movie to watch, or just meditate while your little one grows. At night, it is possible to get a reasonable amount of rest while baby nurses by co-sleeping with baby in bed with you or in a side car. Even a bassinet pulled up close will let you reach over for a stirring baby in the middle of the night without fully waking either of you.
Getting sleep with a baby: Many studies were done showing that babies and mothers sync their cycles when they sleep together. They are in light sleep, deep sleep, and awake at the same time. Mother isn't awakened from a deep sleep by a wide awake crying baby as when they are far apart or even in separate rooms. The baby simply stirs in his sleep and the mother, also in a light sleep, is immediately aware and can comfort the baby with minimal sleep disturbance to either. Same goes for feedings. Once breastfeeding is well established and the mother has learned how to feed lying down (it can be harder with smaller babies or babies with latch problems) there is little need to fully wake at night.
Formula: While breastmilk is the ideal nutrition (and medicine!) for babies, sometimes mothers are unable to boost their supply despite their best efforts and have to supplement. However, only breastmilk contains antibodies and everything else you need to build an immune system, hormones (including sleep inducing hormones at night after a few months!), enzymes to help digest foreign proteins, lactose (raw cow milk also contains this but it gets destroyed in the pasteurization process), allergy protection, vitamin K2, and long chain fatty acids for brain development. Immunity agents in breastmilk also promote normal growth of the thymus which, among other things, makes killer white bold cells (t cells). Exclusively formula fed babies have an abnormally small thymus gland and thus are more prone to infection.
Most formulas are based on cow milk which contains foreign proteins baby is unable to digest and can become sensitized or allergic to. Some also have high fructose corn syrup and sugar as the first two ingredients. Both cause inflammation and obesity in humans. Cow milk (and formulas based on it) also differ in ratios of their base ingredients; cow milk is designed for fast weight gain and strong bones - in baby cows. Commercial formula is highly processed to add in as many of the ingredients we know of so far in breastmilk and though many can't be replicated it is acceptable nutrition a baby can have before starting solids. You can also choose to make your own formula using goat milk. Goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk and its nutrients are more readily absorbed by the body.
To make goat milk baby formula: combine filtered water, powdered goat milk, eskimo's 3 (omega 3s), a children's probiotic, liquid pediatric supplement, and rice syrup (optional for flavor). If you would like to make your own formula and feed your baby solely that, make sure you do so under the guidance of a supportive and knowledgeable caregiver.
Sleeping with baby - Breastsleeping from DONA
Swaddling - wikipedia + it's sources
Online resource for all things breastfeeding: Kellymom.com
Formula vs Breastmilk comparison - Dr. Gina Shaw
Goat Milk vs Cow Milk vs Breastmilk - Dr. Axe
Family Practice Naturopath, Chiropractor, and Acupuncturist (based in manhattan) - Dr. Gabrielle Francis