During my medical training, I thought breastfeeding was as simple as holding your baby up to your breast and baby would naturally just feed. I didn’t realize how stressful breastfeeding could be until I had parents approach me with difficulties in latching, lactating, or producing milk. After my daughter Madi was born, I realized how anxiety-provoking breastfeeding can be, and how women having difficulty breastfeeding may feel a lot of shame and guilt (even though they shouldn’t!).
“Most women should breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue to breastfeed through the first year, combined with complementary foods.”
Breastfeeding is known to support infant nutrition, gut function, and immunity.
Breastfeeding is known to support infant nutrition, gut function, and immunity. It is also an excellent opportunity to bond with your baby. Because of its health and economic benefits, numerous organizations (including the World Health Organization) support breastfeeding as the primary or sole source of nutrition for infants up to 6 months old.
A study published in Pediatrics supports that human milk is recommended as the “exclusive” nutrient source for term infants for at least the first 6 months of life, and should be continued with the addition of solid foods thereafter.
In my family medicine practice, I also have lots of patients whom have difficulty breastfeeding.
Women can have difficulty breastfeeding due to challenges with milk supply, latching, medical illnesses, stress, or bonding.
As a family doctor, I know that breast milk is the optimal choice for the health benefits as well as economic benefits. But once I became a mom, I realized the pressures that we are placed under as women to produce milk every time our baby needs it.
In my medical practice, I have seen this pressure can lead to feelings of guilt and shame for some women.
Difficulty breastfeeding is incredibly frustrating, and can lead to mom guilt and feelings that you are “letting down” your baby.
When my patients are having a lot of difficulty breastfeeding, I often refer them to a lactation consultant to see if we can help the problem. But sometimes their difficulties persist despite through medical intervention.
Infant formula is a safe and reliable option to feed your baby that you should not feel ashamed about!
I try to support the idea that women should “breastfeed if you can.” For many women, breastfeeding may not an option (and there are many reasons why this might be!). But supplementing or feeding with formula is also safe option that I entirely support and emphasize that a woman should not feel guilt or shame if they are having difficulty breastfeeding.
Infant formula is manufactured to be nutritionally complete with similar fat, protein, and carbohydrates that breast milk contains. I always emphasize to my patients to breastfeed if you can, reach out for support if you need it, but know that infant formula is alternate source of complete nutrition for babies.