Breastfeeding can be the most rewarding yet challenging experience for a mother.
With so much emphasis placed on pregnancy, all things postpartum or otherwise known as ‘the fourth trimester’ can get neglected. Breastfeeding falls into this category, and often mothers feel left on their own attempting to navigate this new role, however with the right support and education, mothers should feel empowered.
Breastfeeding continues the functions of the placenta including immune protection, nutritional nourishment, establishes the gut microbiota, supports neurocognitive development, regulates neural-hormonal function and promotes bonding.
The unique composition of breastmilk is simply unable to be manufactured as an equivalent due to the unique balance of specific and digestible nutrients, which is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months, then combined with appropriate food introduction, and continuing for the first 2 years of life.
Despite the biological nature of breastfeeding, each mother-baby journey is unique, and it's very common to experience challenges. There are many reasons that breastfeeding may not be possible for you including poor/low milk production, latching difficulties, personal preference, early return to work pressure, health complications and so on. You may decide that bottle feeding works best for you and your baby. If so, there are a few options when it comes to bottle feeding - pumping your own breast milk, donor milk or formula. If you decide to use formula, I would ensure the formula is organic, and free from corn syrup and palm oil at a minimum.
If you find yourself struggling, or it's impacting your mental health, it's important to seek support and professional guidance, or simply give yourself permission to stop. A happy mother is more important than persevering through the complexities of breastfeeding.
It’s not a surprise that mothers can sometimes feel defeated, lost, or incapable when you constantly receive conflicting information from doctors, nurses, midwives, family, friends, books, podcasts, the internet and even keyboard warriors. It’s important to do what feels right for you, and seek support from those you trust.
- In terms of nutrition, ensure you’re consuming a well balanced, wholefood diet specifically rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and Vitamin D sources to support healthy lactation, reduce allergies and improve neurological development due to the exposure of essential fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols.
- Nutritional supplementation may be required to improve nutrient levels for the mother, especially if there’s an obvious deficiency (i.e. iron or essential fatty acids)
- Keep well hydrated. A good 1L insulated drink bottle with a straw is highly recommended!
- Consuming warming and nourishing foods, especially iron-rich meals to replenish iron levels post-birth. Slow cooked meals are amazing for this! You may want to prepare and freeze healthy meals and snacks (such as Lactation Cookies) ahead of time so they’re ready for you when you need them.
- Establish a holistic and appropriate support network i.e. certified lactation consultations, paediatrician, and/or naturopath to ensure you receive adequate pre- and postnatal breastfeeding education, and support from qualified practitioners if needed
- Early uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact between mothers and babies following birth improves breastfeeding outcomes and promotes bonding
- Following childbirth, hormonal changes occur (a decline in oestrogen and progesterone and an increase of prolactin) to allow for breast milk secretion.
- Prior to the letdown effect, colostrum provides nutritional nourishment during the first few days postpartum.
- Insufficient milk supply presents as a common challenge that a mother may experience. If this is the case, a Naturopath would typically recommend herbs with a galactogogue action such as Fennel, Fenugreek & Shatavari, all of which ingredients are included in the Mammae Bosom Ritual Infusion, Organic Loose Leaf Nursing Tea. Galactagogues are a powerful yet gentle way to promote the letdown reflex and stimulate milk production. Enjoy by adding galactagogues to your meals, consume as a herbal tea (for an easy option, I recommend the aromatic Nursing Tea Ritual from Mammae), or as prescribed by your Naturopath as a herbal tonic.
Every woman’s breastfeeding journey is beautifully unique and special in its own right. Always seek professional guidance and create a safe and open dialogue with other mama’s, midwives, lactation consultations, doula’s, Naturopaths, family/friends as well as diving into your own personal research via books, podcasts, journal articles so you can make an informed and educated choice. Ultimately, the decision that’s right for you, will be right for your bub too and that’s all that matters.
This article was made in collaboration with Mammae
Image sourced via Pinterest
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World Health Organisation, (2022). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1