Breast is best? Not so for some new moms with early breastfeeding challenges. According to a new study from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, first-time mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding are 10 times more likely to quit within the first two months. In the first three days after giving birth, pain, low milk supply, and problems with the baby's ability to latch on to the nipple were cited as the primary concerns of 92 percent of the 532 new mothers in the study. The first-time moms continued to report breastfeeding problems in interviews scheduled seven days postpartum and again at 14, 30, and 60 days after birth.
Common obstacles to breastfeeding
According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the most common physical obstacles to breastfeeding include nipple soreness, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, infection, and a low milk supply. Add to those problems postpartum fatigue and sleep deprivation, discomfort, a lack of support, and even a lack of interest, and you have quite a list of obstacles for new moms to overcome.
For me, the biggest obstacle to successful breastfeeding was my babies' premature birth. As a first-time mom to twins born five weeks premature, I still wanted to try to breastfeed. And with the help of a pump, I managed to provide breast milk to my twins for the first six weeks of their lives. Still, I was one of the many new moms who stopped breastfeeding before two months passed.
With a preemie, or two, the obstacles to breastfeeding can include a total inability to latch, the necessary use of a breast pump, a strict round-the-clock feeding schedule, a low milk supply due to premature delivery, a lack of privacy in the NICU, and the stress of caring for babies who are medically fragile.
Support before and after birth
According to the researchers in the Cincinnati Children's Hospital study, support is essential to the breastfeeding success of first-time moms, and it needs to come both before and after birth. Support before birth includes preparing a new mother for what to expect and how to handle common breastfeeding problems. Support following birth should be extended past the first day or two while the new mother is in the hospital.
One problem I had, as a first-time mom, was actually getting out of the house to find help. My milk supply never increased enough to fully support both of my twins, and by the six-week mark, they were consuming more formula than breast milk, even though I was pumping every three hours, night and day. If I'd had access to help, I might have been able to increase my supply and continue breastfeeding, as I did with my youngest child.
From my own experience, I would encourage expectant mothers to find support before giving birth: Engage friends who have successfully breastfed their own babies, join a La Leche League group, and get to know a certified lactation consultant.
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