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Breastfeeding Challenges – and Support

Posted on Aug 22, 2014

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All major medical organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that breastfeeding is the preferred way to feed newborns. Breastfeeding also protects against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases and allergies. The AAP recommends mothers breastfeed babies exclusively for about the first six months of life.

But breastfeeding is not without challenges. It can take a few days for a new mom and baby to adjust to breastfeeding, which can be stressful for everyone involved.

“The belief that all newborns will latch easily and breastfeed without problems after a few minutes of age is a bit of a myth,” says Cara Barone, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF).

In fact, breastfeeding takes practice and perseverance for many women, according to lactation consultants at PAMF. It is a skill set for mom and baby that takes time, correction and dedication before getting it right.

Dr. Barone and Karen Shin, M.D., an obstetrician at PAMF, say there are several medical reasons women may have difficulty breastfeeding:

  • There can be anatomical issues on either side (mom or baby) that make breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
  • Milk supply may be low due to surgery or hormonal issues.
  • Sometimes a woman needs to take a medication for her own health that renders breastfeeding less safe for her infant.
  • At times, doctors and lactation consultants can’t find the underlying cause of the problem, which makes the inability to breastfeed even more disappointing for a woman who is seeking answers and help.

“For women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason, they should be supported,” Dr. Barone says. She and Dr. Shin offer this advice:

  • Women need to know their breastfeeding struggles are real and that they are not alone.
  • They need to be encouraged in their strength in their new parenting learning curve.
  • They shouldn’t feel guilty because breastfeeding didn’t work for them.

“Women and new parents should recognize that their most powerful choice is to choose what’s best for themselves and their families. And if breastfeeding isn’t part of that plan, it is OK,” says Dr. Barone. “Their baby will thrive, grow and flourish with formula and love.”

Barone-Cara-2013-web Cara Barone, M.D. is a pediatrician and at the Palo Alto Medicial Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shin Karen Shin, M.D., is an obstetrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation