Our resident nutritionist gives us the lowdown on why you shouldn’t give up straight away if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding your newborn.
The time after delivery can be very stressful for the mother, baby, and everyone involved. The baby’s erratic sleep pattern along time the mother’s physical fatigue from labour and delivery is exacerbated with the baby’s constant breastfeeding all throughout the day.
The caring mother endures all of this, only to sometimes hear a week or two after the delivery of the baby, that the baby is not getting enough milk and needs to supplement with formula.
This sends the mother on a whirlwind of depression, guilt, and worry about the child. The mother is then confused on how much formula to give and how to give it and often stops breastfeeding all together. If this is you, then stop, and see a lactation consultant immediately. There are two scenarios for this case:
1. The baby is gaining enough weight
Many physicians will plot the baby’s weight and height in comparison to formula fed babies, which will show that the breastfed is underweight when in fact the baby could be gaining weight beautifully on the breastfed charts. The physician should check the baby’s weight for age, height for age, and more importantly weight for height. A short baby who is 3.5 kilos could be just fine, whereas a tall baby who is 3.5 kilos would be underweight.
– The baby should have regained birth weight by 14 days
– The baby should be gaining 20-30 grams per day after the 14 day period
– The baby should be having frequent poop and wet stools
– If the baby does not fit all 4 categories then the baby could be not gaining enough weight and we should not explore option two.
2. The baby is not gaining enough weight
This could be due to two reasons:
– The mother is not making enough milk which can be solved in the majority of the cases using a few different methods and by providing the mother with a nutritionally complete diet plan with the help of a nutritionist. If this does not work then the IBCLC can recommend that the mother explores certain medications to improve milk supply with her health care provider. If there are medical reasons that are apparent for the mother not making enough milk, then the IBCLC will inform the mother and still try to maximise the amount of breastmilk the mother can make.
– This is the more common reason: it could be that the baby is not extracting milk from the mother properly. This could also be due to two reasons:- incorrect latch, which can be easily solved with proper assessment by an IBCLC; or tongue or lip tie, which can affect the baby’s extraction of milk and may or may not cause breastfeeding pain for the mother. The IBCLC will do an assessment and inform the mother to check with a tongue tie expert. You can read more about tongue tie and see images here. Dr. Medhat Abu-Shaaban is a paediatrician and tongue tie expert in Dubai who does free assessment of tongue tie and lip tie and tries to fit in mother’s who have this issue on an urgent basis so they can get help as soon as possible. If tongue or lip tie are indeed diagnosed then the doctor will recommend the way to move forward which is usually through tongue tie release which should takes a few minutes and can be done under local anaesthetic.
As you can see, there is a lot that could be done before giving up on breastfeeding, mama.