When does breast feeding get easier?

Dear Doctor,

I am nursing my two-weeks-old baby. However breast feeding is not as easy I thought it was. These first few weeks have been really tough, I have no appetite, I also have little supply of milk and I am still having trouble getting my baby on the latch. The entire process is painful and frustrating, how can I deal with this?

Lina

Dear Lina,

Pregnancy and lactation occur due to balance of hormones estrogen, progesterone and prolactin in the body during pregnancy. Levels of prolactin rise too which stimulates the production of milk duct. After delivery prolactin levels also remain high. Apart from prolactin, milk production is stimulated by suckling of the baby on the breast.

However multiple factors can impede breast feeding.

Proper latching of the baby’s mouth to the nipple is important to ensure she sucks properly. If not done well, the baby’s mouth and nose can press on the breast tissue making it difficult to breathe. Hence she is not able to suck properly.  Very small babies tend to get tired easily after sucking a small amount, at a stretch they feed only small amount and then become tired. They also tend to get distracted by the slightest sound or light.

A baby having some congenital defect in the mouth or palate is also unable to suck properly and adequately.

Breast feeding is equally demanding for a new mother. She needs to take a balanced nutritious food and drink plenty of fluids to ensure sufficient production of milk. In fact senior experienced women recommend that a new mother should drink some fluid like hot milk, water, tea or coffee just before feeding the baby.

It is equally important that the woman is relaxed while breast feeding a baby. Stress tends to reduce amount of breast milk production.  In fact due to stress and anxiety sometimes a woman does not get milk for a day or so after delivering a baby. It is only when she becomes relaxed that she is able to produce enough milk.

A breastfeeding mother should ensure that there is no disturbance while feeding a baby. The room should be quiet with no bright lights.

In spite of these measures if it seems that the baby is not feeding properly medical advice should be sought..

Therefore, a woman should be careful. After six to eight weeks of delivery, she should use some contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy. As such, breast milk is best for a baby and has numerous advantages. Hence, she should breastfeed the baby as long as possible. However, she needs to be careful to avoid a pregnancy in this period.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine.

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