What to do if you really CAN’T breastfeed

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Raising and caring for an infant is hard work and sometimes, not being able to breastfeed due to a case of insufficient milk can add to the stress. Here are tips on dealing with the issue while caring for your baby.

"I found it extremely challenging to breastfeed. My supply was low, my breasts ached, I had trouble latching and I was also suffering from post natal depression," shares Vanessa Lim, mom to an 18-month-old.

"I tried everything I could possibly think of, from fenugreek supplements to hourly latching and about a month in, I decided that I was at my wits end, and I was going to stop."

"I joined a number of various breastfeeding mums groups online and when I shared my struggles and the fact that I was toying to stop, I got more flak then I have ever gotten for anything in my life. That drove me to a further state of depression, which was a bad place for me since I was already wracked with guilt."

In a society where mothers often turn on each other; judging one another on their choices of career mindedness versus staying-at-home and breast versus bottle feeding, the mother who can't breastfeed her baby is often left feeling ‘less than’ or ‘inadequate’. But this is simply not true.

Why some mothers cannot breastfeed

The following is a list of reasons why mothers may not be able to breastfeed their babies:

  • Physical conditions such as anemia or cancer often leave mothers unable to provide their baby an adequate supply of milk.
  • Poor nutrition. In situations where the mother’s dietary needs are not being met, it is only reasonable to assume that she will not be able to provide her baby with the nutrition he or she needs.
  • Addictions. Mothers who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol or even mothers who are not willing to abstain from these things should not breastfeed their babies.
  • Mothers who have undergone chemotherapy in the past or who have had breast surgery will often be unable to breastfeed due to the lack of milk glands in the breast.
  • Mothers who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (postpartum thyroiditis)
  • Mothers whose nipples become cracked and possibly infected may need to suspend or discontinue breastfeeding.
  • Mothers who contract mastitis will need to suspend breastfeeding for a while.

What’s a mom to do?

The first thing a non-breastfeeding mom needs to do is stand in the mirror and say to herself, ‘I’m a great mom and my baby isn’t going to suffer because I’m not breastfeeding’.

Take it from this mom of four who never breastfed her babies - my children were happy, healthy, well-rounded and intelligent babies, toddlers and children who grew into happy, healthy, successful and adults with families of their own.

Following your pep-talk, realize that the matter at hand is providing your baby with the nutrition necessary for healthy growth and development. The most important thing is to educate yourself on your list of available options and pick the one that makes the most sense for you.

There are plenty of baby formulas on the market that provide your baby with the nutrients that he or she needs. You can also turn to the human breast banks or ask friends and relatives to donate their excess supply to you.

How to decide what's the right option for you

Before you decide what option is right for you, evaluate your current situation. Some things to think about include:

  • How much money are you able and willing to spend on feeding your baby?
  • Do you have the necessary storage facilities to keep donated milk?
  • Are you comfortable with the risks associated with donated breastmilk?

Option 1: Infant Formula

Infant formula gets a bad reputation. Studies show that formula fed babies have a much higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). As a result, the WHO has recommended that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.

Nevertheless, many women do suffer from medical or other conditions that prevent them from breastfeeding. In this case, formula is a great option.

So what are the different kinds of infant formulas?

Cow Milk Formulas

Most infant formula is actually processed and altered from cow's milk. After processing, supplements are added to the cow milk to ensure that the baby has the necessary nutrients that he or she needs. The majority of formulas on the market are cow milk formulas.

Soy Milk Formulas

Most babies do fine on cow milk. However, some children may develop an allergy towards regular cow's milk formulas. In this case, soy milk formulas may be a good alternative. The majority of key nutrients in soy milk formulas are the same as cow milk formulas, just fortified differently. Soy milk formulas are also a good option for vegan families that choose not to consume dairy products.

Option 2: Breastmilk Banks & Donated Breastmilk

There are a few breastmilk banks in the Philippines, which help those moms with milk supply issues but want to breastfeed.

For a full list of Human Milk Banks all over the Philippines, click here.

It's important to note however, that there are risks associated with breastmilk sharing. Although relatively rare, diseases such as HIV may be transmitted via breastmilk. It's important that moms understand the risk of sourcing milk from mom-to-mom organizations.

Option 3: Wet Nursing

Wet nursing is a time old tradition that has largely fallen out of favor due to the availability of infant formula. Some moms choose to source milk from people that they know and trust. However, take into account that milk sharing with close friends or family is not necessarily safer than doing it with a stranger.

It's your decision to make!

At the end of the day, how well and how much you love your baby matters a lot more than what your baby’s food source is. If you don’t believe me, go to your local high school and try to distinguish between the kids who were breastfed and those who weren’t. Now try to distinguish between the kids who are nurtured and loved and those who aren’t.

If you can't breastfeed, this really shouldn't bring you down. This article explains why and the most important thing is to remember that you're not alone. Hopefully, this piece has helped lift your spirits.

Let us know in the comments section, how are you feeding your baby?

This article was originally published on theAsianparent Singapore

READ: Coping with low milk supply: A guide for first time moms