Breastfeeding is hard on the best day. It can be tiring, grueling work, particularly if you've had a long night of it. It can also be beautiful and miraculous. It's amazing to think that not only did you grow and nurture this human within your body for nine months, you're now providing their nourishment as they make their way in the first bloom of life. But for some moms, it can be more than the long nights that make it difficult. For instance, if you have any of these six conditions, it might be hard to breastfeed.
It's important to note that while there are several conditions that make breastfeeding a challenge, there aren't as many as you'd think that would completely preclude you from breastfeeding, noted Infant and Young Child Feeding. There are resources available to manage the problems of these conditions, and many women will go on to have great success.
However, breastfeeding is a choice, and one you shouldn't feel shamed over. If it's not working for you and your baby, formula is a great option to feed your growing child. But, if you want to breastfeed and you're having problems, seek the guidance of a lactation consultant. Talk to your partner and OB-GYN. Get all the support you need, because even with something as personal as breastfeeding, it takes a village.
1. Flat Or Inverted Nipples
If you have flat or inverted nipples, you're not alone. According to Breastfeeding Basics, a full third of women have flat or inverted nipples. It makes breastfeeding harder for some, but usually not impossible. Breastfeeding Basics noted, "How much difficulty a flat or inverted nipples presents to a nursing baby depends on the degree of inversion as well as the baby himself. If you have a strong, healthy, full-term, vigorous nurser, he may be able to draw out the nipple and dislodge the attachments with relative ease."
2. Nipple Piercings
Are you the rebellious sort? A lover of body mods? Unfortunately, according to La Leche League, the scarring that happens can impact breastfeeding, as can the rings. They found that "nipple piercings can impact breastfeeding for both mother and baby. Common concerns for mom may include nerve damage that impacts the milk ejection reflex or scarring that obstructs the milk flow which can, over time, affect milk production."
True story: as a rebellious teen, I got both nipples pierced. (My mother is so disappointed reading this.) I took them out long before I began breastfeeding, but I managed quite well, even if the spray was a bit off the mark.
3. Postpartum Depression
There is a link between breastfeeding and postpartum depression, but it's unclear how it works. According to Depression Research and Treatment, "...while postpartum depression may reduce rates of breastfeeding, not engaging in breastfeeding may increase the risk of postpartum depression. Additionally, there is some evidence that breastfeeding may protect against postpartum depression or assist in a swifter recovery from symptoms." Meaning that depression may make it harder to breastfeed, but breastfeeding might help the depression. It's a tightrope.
4. Having A C-Section
According to the website for Dr. Sears, breastfeeding might be challenging for mothers post C-section. Not only is there the pain of the incision and inability to find a comfortable position in which to breastfeed, it also affects the mechanics of the act. The website noted, "It may, however, take a bit longer for mothers and babies to begin breastfeeding after cesarean surgery, and mothers’ milk tends to come in a bit later following a surgical birth."
5. Raynaud's Phenomenon Of The Nipple
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Raynaud's Phenomenon/Disorder is a vasospasm of the nipple that makes breastfeeding extremely painful. It also makes the nipples blanch or lose their color, and makes them highly sensitive to cold. Thankfully, there are treatments available, so talk to your OB-GYN.
6. Previous Breast Surgery
According to the Cleveland Clinic, any type of breast or nipple surgery from a biopsy to breast reduction to implants can alter your ability to maintain supply or breastfeed. It's all a matter of the individual damage to the tissues.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.