All major medical organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that breastfeeding is the preferred way to feed newborns. Breastfeeding protects against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases and allergies. AAP recommends mothers breastfeed babies exclusively for about the first six months of life.
But breastfeeding is not without challenges. It can take time for a new mom and baby to adjust to breastfeeding, which can be stressful for everyone involved.
“The belief that all newborns will latch easily and breastfeed without problems after a few minutes of being born is a bit of a myth,” says Cara Barone, M.D., pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
In fact, breastfeeding takes practice and perseverance for many women, according to lactation consultants at PAMF. It is a skill set for mom and baby that takes time, correction and dedication before getting it right.
Dr. Barone says there are several medical reasons women may have difficulty breastfeeding:
- There can be anatomical issues on either side (mom or baby) that make breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
- Milk supply may be low due to surgery or hormonal issues.
- Mom may be taking a medication for her own health that renders breastfeeding less safe for her infant.
At times, doctors and lactation consultants can’t find the underlying cause of the problem, which makes the inability to breastfeed even more disappointing for a new mom who is seeking answers and help.
“For women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason, they should be supported,” Dr. Barone says. “If breastfeeding isn’t part of that plan, that’s OK. Their baby will still grow and flourish with formula and love.”