What Happens When You Can’t Breastfeed Your Baby

Can’t breastfeed your baby? Here is what you can do about it

Despite being one of the most natural and wonderful experiences for a mother and her new baby, getting started with breastfeeding might not always be easy. For instance, physiological issues and illnesses might make it difficult for the mother to produce enough milk or for the baby to latch on correctly. However, there are many different ways to tackle such hiccups and ensure that your little one gets all the nutrition he or she needs. Read on to know all about it.

When can’t you breastfeed?

Several situations may make breast milk production or feeding a challenging process. In such cases, immediate medical support, nutritional advice, pre-planning and adjustments, and constant attention are required. Here are some instances where you can expect a hitch in normal breastfeeding.

  • The breast physiology: Having fewer than usual milk ducts might mean slow breast milk production and release. So, when your baby feels hungry, a low supply can make it difficult for you to meet his demand. This is generally the case with mothers who have been through recent surgeries or are cancer survivors.
  • Other health issues: The mother may face reproductive issues postpartum too. This might reduce the breast milk production after delivery due to a lack of nutritional balance. Sufficient nutrients are essential for the correct breast milk composition. A C-section also weakens the mother for several hours post birth, and causes the anaesthesia’s effect to linger for a long time. This limits initial breastfeeding in particular and can reduce the production in the long run too.
  • Several studies have shown that consuming oral contraceptives or habits like alcoholism or chain-smoking can impact breast milk production qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Scheduling feeds: Working women may need to spend hours away from the baby even while breastfeeding needs continue. Feeds are hence scheduled rather than provided as per the baby’s demands and hunger pangs. Now, in case of demand feeding, the mother’s milk is instinctively produced in suitable quantities and the nutrient composition is also based on the child’s needs. However, scheduling can mean deviation from this natural course. Also, deciding when to halt feeding must be the baby’s call. It must be uninterrupted.
  • Latching-on issues: Various reasons such as cleft lip or palate, inappropriate positioning of the baby while feeding, or extremely painful nipples can make the breastfeeding experience undesirable for the mother as well as the child. Not only does it cause discomfort and dissatisfaction, but it also reduces the milk produced, as the breast is not being stimulated sufficiently and the milk is not being consumed completely.
  • Sleep cycles: Typically, breastfeeding must occur at short intervals. Too many hours of sleep through the night can reduce the frequency of feeds and stimulation of the breast. If required, the baby must be woken up and fed in such cases.

So, while you and your little one are going through the lactation phase, look out for these signs of low breast milk supply:

  • Insufficient weight gain: A paediatrician should monitor the weight of your baby regularly to see how much he or she is gaining and at what pace. Though weight gain depends on the birth weight, it should increase by an average of 20-30g per day, after the initial week. This will indicate if the baby is being nourished appropriately or not.
  • Dehydration: If your baby refuses to feed, feels inactive, has a dry mouth or dark coloured urine, fever or diarrhoea, seeking immediate medical assistance is recommended. Decreased wetting of nappies or those that are lighter in weight are also signs.
  • Excessive crying and prolonged dissatisfaction: Babies might wish to breastfeed to satisfy their hunger but might not be comfortable with the experience due to some of the reasons discussed above. This must be taken seriously and medical advice should be sought.

What can you do about it?

  • On a priority basis, get enough rest and medical assistance to correct any health issues you may be facing as a new mother. Correcting health issues also requires correcting any undesirable lifestyle habits you may have, such as smoking or drinking. Following a balanced diet supported by prescribed medications or nutrient supplements, is also recommended.
  • Try to breastfeed every three hours. Or better still, breastfeed on demand and keep that uninterrupted. Offer both your breasts for each feed and switch between the two quickly if the baby is falling asleep. Pre-plan and pump milk to be stored, in case you will be away from your baby for a long while. It is always better to prioritize direct feeding over the breast pump method, nevertheless.
  • Try natural breast milk boosters such as fenugreek, vegetables (particularly the green leafy ones), oatmeal, sesame seeds, and garlic. These can be included in greater proportions in your diet, to support sufficient breast milk production. Taking balanced meals enriched with proteins and calcium will also benefit your baby, by altering breast milk composition.

To conclude, for half a dozen months, your baby will be completely dependent on you for his nourishment, growth, and development. And the quality of breastfeeding will directly impact that. Hence, resolving health problems, keeping a constant watch on your diet and reading signs of inadequate nutrition in your baby can make the lactation phase easier. Feel free to seek medical assistance and nutritional advice throughout this period and keep the above tips in mind.