On Healthful Woman, Dr. Stephanie Melka reviewed a few things that women should know about breastfeeding. Dr. Melka underwent advanced training in breastfeeding medicine so she can better help her patients and address common misconceptions. Listen to the full episode on the Healthful Woman website, or continue reading to learn more.
Dr. Melka explains that with her patients, she usually brings up breastfeeding at around 28-32 weeks, because that is typically the time when women begin to look for a breast pump. “I generally start open-ended—’what are your plans on feeding?’—because I don’t mean for any of this to be pushing breastfeeding if somebody doesn’t want to, or can’t, or chooses not to.” Before the birth, Dr. Melka will guide patients through what insurance covers and what supplies they might need, such as breast pumps or breastfeeding pillows. At this stage, many women are also interested in discusses when they will go back to work and other issues surrounding breastfeeding.
When considering the benefits of breastfeeding, many prioritize the health benefits of the milk for the baby. However, several other benefits for both the baby and mother are also significant. Breastfeeding is a major method through which the mother and baby bond, which is a very important factor in recovery after birth for many. This is just one reason why doctors often recommend that women breastfeed their baby rather than exclusively pump or formula feed if they are able to.
Research suggests that early success with breastfeeding is the best indicator that a mother will be able to continue breastfeeding long-term. So, Dr. Fox suggests that women focus on the first several days of breastfeeding rather than trying to plan too long-term, “[to] sort of get everything set up early, that’s really the key.”
Breast milk is “all supply and demand” as Dr. Melka explains, and babies transfer milk better than a breast pump. So, the idea that pumping milk rather than feeding the baby directly is better for establishing a supply is a misconception.
Two of the most common issues while breastfeeding are engorgement and mastitis. Engorgement occurs when the breast produces milk that is not released, often directly after birth or when a woman chooses to slow or stop breastfeeding. Some common treatments for engorgement include wearing tight bras, such as sports bras, using ice packs, and over-the-counter medications like Sudafed.
Mastitis is an infection of the breasts, which presents itself as a red spot that is swollen and warm to the touch. Mastitis can typically be treated with antibiotics, and women can continue to nurse while they have mastitis.
Finally, when women struggle with breastfeeding, latching is often the primary problem. Her OB/GYN or lactation consultant can help her learn how to properly hold the baby and the breast to have more success with latching.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!