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Why Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Easy

Chelsea Gonzales

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For some women, breastfeeding is a dream come true. For others, there are other things they’d rather be doing. However, there is yet another group of mamas—a group who, whether they like it or not, has a hard time breastfeeding their babies.

There are many reasons for this, and very few of them are the fault of the mother. Therefore, it is highly important that no mother is ever shamed for how she feeds her child. After all, you never know what another person might be going through, and while we all know breastfeeding is ideal in most situations, in the end, fed at all is best.

Want to know why breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone? Many women are curious about this, and it’s a topic I feel everyone should educate themselves on. Therefore, I’m going to use this article to share what I know.

Low Milk Supply

A woman who has true low milk supply may not be able to provide an infant with enough nutrition, meaning unless treatment is available and effective, breastfeeding exclusively is not an option. That said, low milk supply is not as common as we’ve been led to believe. In fact, the many women who believe they have low milk supply likely could build their supply to be more than enough if given the support to do so.

When true low milk supply does happen, there is almost always an underlying cause. These could include:

  • Insufficient glandular tissue (hypoplastic breasts)

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • Hypothyroidism

  • A previous breast surgery such as mastectomy or a breast reduction surgery

  • Prior radiation treatment for breast cancer

Use of Medications

Of course, there are also those women who must use medications necessary for their health, but can’t be taken when breastfeeding. In many cases, these medications are non-negotiable, meaning breastfeeding is not an option and other ways of feeding must be sought out.

The kinds of medicines that are unsafe while breastfeeding include:

  • Chemotherapy drugs

  • Antiretroviral medications

  • Radioactive iodine

  • Some sedatives

  • Seizure medication

  • Medicines that may cause drowsiness and suppress breathing

Medications that can decrease the supply of breast milk include:

  • Cold and sinus medications that contain pseudoephedrine

  • Certain types of hormonal birth control

Infectious Diseases

Certain infectious diseases can also affects a woman’s ability to breastfeed her child safely. After all, nobody wants to pass a disease on to their little one, and breast milk can carry certain types of diseases.

The following are some examples of diseases that can be passed through breast milk and therefore prevent a mother from breastfeeding her baby:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

  • Human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV)

  • Herpes on the breast — This only applies to herpes on the breast specifically. If a woman has herpes in another place, it is safe to nurse her little one.

Another disease that can be dangerous to a nursing baby is Active Tuberculosis. That said, this disease is not passed through breast milk, but through respiratory droplets. Still, Active TB is spread easily, meaning an infected mother should not be near a baby, preventing her from breastfeeding. The exception comes in if the baby also has Active TB. In this case, baby can and should continue to nurse.

Classic Galactosemia

Galactose is found in lactose, which is the main sugar found in breast milk. Unfortunately, some babies are born with an inability to break down galactose, a medical condition called Galactosemia. Babies with this condition cannot take breast milk and must be fed a special galactose-free diet in order to prevent complications.

Phenylketonuria (PKU)

Little ones with Phenylketonuria can’t break down the amino acid phenylalanine. A buildup of this amino acid can lead to brain damage, meaning these infants must be fed a special diet.

That said, breast milk is actually relatively low in phenylalanine, so sometimes it is possible for the baby to breastfeed with formula supplementation under close supervision.

Maple Syrup Urine Disease

Sometimes babies are born unable to break down the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. When this happens, the buildup of these things causes the sweat, urine, and other bodily fluids to smell sweet like syrup. The sweet smell is not the true problem though. You see, this build up can cause terrible problems such as sleepiness, poor feeding, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death.

Obviously, these babies must be fed special formula, but some breastfeeding may be allowed with careful monitoring.

Of course, these are just some of the many reasons a mom may not be able to breastfeed her little one. Even something such as too much stress can affect milk supply, and unusual features such as inverted nipples can make breastfeeding more difficult.

Postpartum Anxiety 101

Chelsea Gonzales

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Anyone who has ever suffered from uncontrollable anxiety knows what a terrible feeling it is. Unfortunately, this same anxiety is something many pregnant women suffer from, and what’s even more unfortunate is that many of these women never recieve help.

The name for this condition? Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). Never heard of it? That’s okay, many people haven’t. However, it’s important that we get the word out, as this is a very serious condition that can actually lead to lifelong complications.

Therefore, we are going to use today’s article to introduce PPA and help raise awareness.

What is Postpartum Anxiety?

Like postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety is a disorder that occurs in women after they have given birth. In many women, the symptoms will appear immediately. In others, it could take several months after giving birth. Still others begin to feel the symptoms of anxiety a few weeks before they even welcome their little one into the world.

While PPA is similar to PPD in that it appears after giving birth, it is actually quite different in terms of symptoms. Women suffering from postpartum anxiety will experience nigh-unrelenting feelings of worry. Usually these worries are for her newborn and they refuse to be dismissed. This constant worry can result in trouble sleeping, changed eating habits, rapid heartbeat, hot flashes, nausea, an inability to focus, and shortness of breath.

Obviously, these symptoms are quite disruptive to everyday life, and can even make it difficult for a new mom to care for her baby.

What Causes Postpartum Anxiety?

After giving birth, women go through an enormous hormonal shift. This works along with changes in schedule, lack of sleep, and relationship changes with those nearest and dearest to them to set the stage for postpartum anxiety. At first, the symptoms may be subtle, or they may come on full-force right away.

Who Might Suffer from PPA?

Absolutely any mother who has just given birth can develop postpartum anxiety. In fact, as many at 11% of women suffer from this disorder. That said, there are some mothers who may be more susceptible to it, including:

  • Women with a personal or family history of anxiety

  • Women with a history of depression

  • Women who experience weepiness or irritability as symptoms of PMS

  • Women with eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • Women who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth in the past

What are the Treatment Options?

Luckily, there are very effective treatment options for PPA, meaning that those who seek out treatment will almost certainly overcome the anxious feelings that are disrupting their lives.

The first course of action will likely be ensuring the new mother has help with the little one, along with giving her a professional therapist to help her regulate her worried thoughts and give her coping techniques. Even these small steps can make an enormous difference, and by also adding regular exercise into the mother’s routine, the anxiety may be eliminated completely.

If the lifestyle changes mentioned above don’t do the trick, the next step is medication. Typically, medication is only used in the most severe cases and is paired with continued therapy and positive lifestyle changes in order to make the biggest possible impact.

Conclusion

Making people aware of the reality of postpartum anxiety is the first step in helping all mamas receive the care and attention they need.

If you feel you or someone you love is likely to develop PPA based on medical history or personality, hiring a postpartum doula is an excellent preventative measure. A postpartum doula can help the new mother by providing support during the weeks after baby’s birth.

Are you or someone you know currently suffering from PPA? please let a professional care provider know. Getting the proper help is the first step to happier days with your little one.