From the joy on the faces of women who just gave birth, I have learned that having a baby is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world.
It is common to hear people, especially young ladies, worry about the process of childbirth – the pain associated with it for some and the complications that others face due to this experience.
However, the pain that most people especially, those who have not gone through childbirth are usually unaware of is the one that comes after the experience due to breastfeeding.
What is Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is feeding on a breast, but in this context, we are looking at a mother feeding her child with milk from her breast.
Importance of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding does a lot of both mothers and their babies. Some of its importance are:
Effects of breastfeeding on the Breastfed Babies :
- Breast milk provides all the nutrients needed by the babies for the first few months of their lives at the right amounts.
- Breast milk can be easily digested in the infants’ system when compared to infant formula.
- It lowers the risk of allergies, obesity in adult stages, and asthma.
- It contains antibodies than enables the infant to fight off bacteria and viruses.
- Some studies have shown that breastfeeding helps children in the development of high IQ.
- Sudden Infant death has also been said to be reduced by breastfeeding.
- It helps the babies bond and feels safe in their mother’s arms.
- Colostrum is a perfect example. It is a thick yellowish fluid produced by the breast during the first few days after birth. It contains high protein, low sugar, high amount of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody, and other nutrients and antibodies.
Effects of breastfeeding On The Breastfeeding Mothers:
- It helps in the reduction of bleeding after childbirth and delays the return of menstruation.
- Breastfeeding results in the release of oxytocin, which helps in uterus shrinkage.
- It helps in depressing postpartum depression. This has been attributed to the hormones released during breastfeeding, some of which serve as an anti-anxiety drug.
- It also helps decrease the mother’s chances of having breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other illnesses.
- It helps the mother lose more pregnancy weight as it burns extra calories.
- Breast milk comes naturally. It doesn’t have to be bought or cooked or boiled, saving your time, money, and energy.
What Causes Painful Breastfeeding?
Despite the numerous benefits of breastfeeding, many mothers have decided not to breastfeed their children.
Research shows that some of them have associated their decisions with the pain that comes with breastfeeding for some women.
Naturally and normally, breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. However, there are some reasons why the process can be challenging
Some causes include:
- Baby is not latching properly
- Cracked, Sore or Bleeding Nipples
- Blocked Milk duct
Sucking at the tip of the nipples is not a proper way to latch and can easily result in pain for mothers.
For the first few days, mothers need to get help from latching consultants or experienced mothers as the case may be to determine proper latching methods and breastfeeding positions.
Improper latching leads to cracked or blistered nipples and can also be seen in babies’ appearance as they might not gain enough weight.
Proper latching involves the nipples going deep into the baby’s mouth. When the nipples are not appropriately placed, it will be in between the baby’s tongue and hard roof of the month, causing pain when the baby applies pressure during sucking.
Dealing with improper latching can just be about positioning.
- Laid-back breastfeeding – Here, the mother is leaning backward on a chair, taking the babies full weight in her stomach. The baby’s natural instinct is triggered to feed.
- Side-lying – The mother lies beside the baby, uses one free hand to lift her breast and nipples into her baby’s mouth, and then supports the baby’s head and neck with the hand to avoid straining. It is best for mothers who had an incision to widen vaginal opening during childbirth, a process known as an episiotomy.
- Cross cradle hold – The baby’s body is facing its mother while the side of its head is resting in the mother’s elbow. The baby’s belly is positioned against the mother’s body for support, with the baby’s neck and head’s free hand.
- Many other positions that proper aid latching are also available.
Thrust is a fungal infection that causes red nipples, peeling skin, red patches on the mother’s breast, and pain.
On the baby, white dots or circles can develop on the inside of their lips or roof of their mouth.
It is usually caused by overgrown yeast in the human system, mostly noticed if the mother’s iron is low. Health practitioners generally prescribe medications.
This can be developed on its own or occur as a result of other issues like thrust, cracked nipples, or plugged duct.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast caused by infection or poor draining, and if left untreated, it can become an abscess.
A very tender, red, or hot area of the breast can be a symptom of mastitis. For treatment, breast massage, empty breast, and moist heat (hot showers or use of napkins dip in hot water on the affected area) can be employed.
If it doesn’t get better in hours, contact your health care professional. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for some time.
The frenulum – a membrane under the baby’s tongue can also cause painful breastfeeding. How?
Well, if this membrane is too short or tight, it stops the baby’s tongue from moving correctly, making him or she suck the breast harder and longer before feeling full.
Doctors have a procedure they carry out to free the baby’s tongue in cases like this.
Some ways suggested by mothers and medical practitioners to ease breast discomfort are:
- Take out a bit of milk from the breast, rub it on the areola and nipples and let it dry to help with cracked nipples.
- To prevent nipples from rubbing on clothes, use breast pads or shields.
- After each breastfeeding, allow nipples to feel some fresh air for a while
- Be mindful of the bra you use. Poorly fitted bras can contribute to the pain.
You and your babies deserve the best, and breastfeeding offers that. Do not let the fear of breastfeeding take away the benefits it comes with.