The Struggle Is Real – Breastfeeding is Hard!

Have you had difficulty with breastfeeding your little one? Were you surprised because you were told that breastfeeding comes naturally? Breastfeeding, just like anything new, requires time, patience, practice, and problem solving. Just because a body is biologically predisposed to something, does not mean it will be easy. It can be frustrating, especially during this emotional time in a new family’s life.

Have you ever been told that your milk “didn’t come in,” that your breasts may be too small, or your nipples are not sufficient for breastfeeding? A lot of women are told or feel that the reason they are unable to breast feed is because of them. It can feel defeating, that your body has somehow failed what it was supposed to do naturally. This can make a new mom feel awful and have negative, lingering effects. This is not to discount that some women may have increased difficulty due to physiologic and anatomical reasons that may require a little extra help. Common breastfeeding issues that can be managed with the help of a professional include nipple pain, nipple breakdown, thrush, a painful latch, difficulty breastfeeding on both breasts, low milk supply, or if your baby has difficulty latching and getting milk. In some cases, professionals and those helping with breastfeeding may be so focused on the mom, they might not give enough attention to the baby. Some moms may be put on unrealistic pumping/feeding schedules to increase milk supply or feel like they are attached to their baby all day and night. They may be constantly weighing their baby and focusing on numbers, which again, can negatively impact the feeding relationship.

What can help save sanity and the breastfeeding relationship? Involve a person with knowledge about both breastfeeding and how a baby eats and swallows, such as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) with credentials in breastfeeding, like a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). Many people associate speech therapy with helping kids say their sounds, read, or improve language skills. A lot of people are unaware that speech therapists also focus on all aspects of feeding and swallowing. These pediatric specific professionals understand barriers to safe feeding and swallowing, mostly when related to bottle feeding. However, combining that knowledge with a lactation credential, allows the speech therapist to have the specialized ability to understand the mechanics and physiology behind lactation and breastfeeding.

For example, a baby is not gaining enough weight but seems to want to be at the breast for hours on end. Mom is getting frustrated because she does not know what to do. Her nipples feel fine, and she has been told the latch looks good. When assessing a baby like this, a speech therapist certified in lactation would initially look/feel how the jaw, tongue, cheeks, lips, and palate are working together, along with checking strength and range of motion. She would then watch the baby at the breast, looking at how the baby latches, the suck/swallow/breathe pattern, and further assessment of any overt or potential swallowing difficulties. A variety of recommendations, such as positioning, stretching, feeding duration, or timing could be made to help the baby be more efficient when feeding at the breast.

With the rise in the number of women wanting to breastfeed, it is not unrealistic to seek professionals that familiarize themselves with the mother/baby breastfeeding relationship, as well as the mechanics and anatomy for efficient feeding and swallowing skills when trouble arises. For those working with newborns and infants, it is possible to support families with bottle feeding, breastfeeding, or a combination of both while keeping little ones safe and efficient. The bottom line is that no one should ever feel shamed for simply feeding their baby. What is important is that your baby is fed, whether breast, bottle, or a combination of both. Your baby will thrive on your love and affection, not the method by which they are fed.

If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, Alyssa Patton, a Speech Language Pathologist and Certified Lactation Counselor at Mosaic Rehabilitation, can help. Call (406) 388-4988 to set up an appointment today.