Trouble Breastfeeding? It's NOT your fault!
Breastfeeding might seem like the most natural thing in the world after having a new baby, and we all know there are many benefits associated with it. Not only does it help you bond with your little ones, but it also ensures they’re getting vital nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
And some women choose not to breastfeed for a myriad of reasons. Formula options have also improved over the years as a result. The only requirement is that your feed your baby. Really!
But what about those new moms who want to breastfeed but are having trouble? That’s a different story. It can be frustrating and disheartening and even make you feel like you’re doing something wrong. If it feels like reality doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re not alone, and you’re not doing anything wrong. Breastfeeding is HARD. It is a labor of love.
New mothers need to understand that there are a variety of underlying conditions or issues that impact breastfeeding. The more you know about those issues, the sooner you can address them and make the best decisions for you and your baby as you go forward.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common ones.
1. A History of Trauma
If you have a history of trauma, you might be surprised to learn it can impact your milk supply. Particular if your trauma history consciously or subconsciously resurfaces while pregnant, during labor/delivery or during the early postpartum months. A traumatic birth experience can also play a role. Childbirth, pregnancy or the postpartum period can all “release” hidden trauma that may have been lingering under the surface.
That means even if you were traumatized years ago, the experience of childbirth could be an unconscious trigger. You might start to think about the event as though it was yesterday. Or if you were a child when you experienced your trauma, you may find that hypervigilance to protect your new baby is very prevalent. Triggered trauma releases oxytocin into the brain, which can reduce the amount of milk you’re able to produce.
2. A Hard Time Latching
If it seems like your baby either won’t latch or has a hard time staying attached to your breast, it could be because of a tongue/lip tie. Thankfully, in most cases, tongue-tied babies can undergo a small procedure to release the tie and breastfeeding will become easier for both mom and baby. If breastfeeding is painful for you, please find a local breastfeeding specialist who can evaluate your baby for a tie. Your pediatrician should have a list of local specialists. And the sooner a tie is diagnosed and released, the better the outcome with breastfeeding.
3. No Skin-to-Skin
When you’re developing a birthing plan, most doctors or doulas will talk to you about skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after they’re born. Most mothers choose to go this route, but it isn’t always an option. For example, if you or your baby need medical attention right away, you might not have the opportunity to hold them against you immediately.
Unfortunately, that can reduce the levels of Pitocin in your body. Pitocin is necessary for a strong milk supply, so if you don’t get that “rapid rise” in it from skin-to-skin right away, your baby might not be able to immediately breastfeed.
Mothers that do skin-to-skin contact immediately after their baby is born are twice as likely to start breastfeeding in the first hour. But don’t give up hope even if you weren’t able to hold them close. Skin-to-skin is still a wonderful thing to do once your baby is medically cleared and for several weeks after their birth. It will help to calm you both and promote healing.
Don’t Blame Yourself
There are several additional reasons you could be having trouble breastfeeding, but these tend to be the most common. The most important thing to remember is you’re not alone if you’re dealing with one of these issues. It doesn’t make you a “bad” mother, and you certainly haven’t failed in any way. Seek out resources through your OB/GYN, your child's pediatrician and also find a recommended lactation consultant. Therapist can also help if you feel like high levels of anxiety or activated trauma could be at play.
Again, breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby, but it’s not the only option. And, many, many moms do a mix of breastmilk/breastfeeding and supplement with formula. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! The health, and mental health, of everyone is important to balance at this crucial time as you welcome a new member to your family.
If you think anxiety or past trauma could be impacting your breastfeeding experience, please reach out! We can work together to set up a treatment team to help you on this journey. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you during your postpartum journey, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey and Florida via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.