9 reasons why you might not be able to breastfeed your baby

9 reasons why you might not be able to breastfeed your baby

Being unable to nurse a baby is one of the most common issues faced by new moms. This can be a result of several physical as well as psychological issues. Difficulty to feed sufficiently is a problem that needs immediate attention and solution as it can lead to nutrition-related health issues with the baby.

In addition to that, it can be emotionally draining for a mother to be unable to breastfeed her baby as much as is required. In some cases, even after several attempts at nursing, it may become necessary for mothers to supplement the baby’s nutrition with some bottle feed.

It is therefore, important to understand why some mothers are unable to breastfeed their baby exclusively. Before that, take a look at some interesting breastfeeding statistics of Indian mothers as per UNICEF:

9 reasons why you might not be able to breastfeed your baby


Also Read: 5 Best Formula Powders if You can not Breastfeed your Child

Who should not breastfeed?

It is best for women with the following conditions or lifestyles to avoid breastfeeding:

  • Women who are receiving any radiation therapy.
  • Moms on mood-altering medication or hormonal medication such as antithyroid drugs.
  • Moms who have a serious or active infection such as tuberculosis.
  • Those who have any severe heart condition or deficiencies such as anemia.

Reasons why you are unable to breastfeed your baby

Low milk supply makes it extremely hard for you to breastfeed your baby. Here are some of the most common causes for low milk supply:

#1. The glandular tissues are insufficient

Sometimes, the breasts may not have developed properly and the ducts that produce the milk prove insufficient. Although the ducts and tissues increase during pregnancy and are further stimulated after breastfeeding, some women do not experience as much increase in breast size as others and may have issues while feeding their first born.

#2. Hormonal issues

Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, diabetes, thyroid, or any other hormonal imbalances have issues in conception and breastfeeding. Low milk supply is a common problem faced in such cases.

#3. Any surgery in the past

Surgeries including breast enhancement or reduction, and nipple piercing can lead to low milk production. These procedures can damage the milk ducts in the breasts leading to low milk supply. The effects that these surgeries or procedures have on milk production are different in different people and also depend upon how long back the procedure was performed. Complications and scarring can also lead to milk production issues.

#4. Taking oral or hormonal birth control

For some women these hormonal birth control pills, injections, and patches may not have any effects. However, using them before the baby is four months of age can lead to low milk production.

#5. Medication

If you are taking any herbal or even allopathic medication, you may see a fluctuation in milk production. Medicines containing ingredients like pseudoephedrine, bromocriptine or methergine can lead to low milk production. Even herbs like parsley, sage, and peppermint when taken in large quantities, can affect the production of milk.

#6. Baby is unable to suck milk properly

It is possible for the baby to have some anatomical issues that are making it difficult for him to suck milk. Issues like having a tongue tie which means that the tongue is being held too tightly by the thin membrane just below the tongue often leads to sucking issues. You may be able to find the membrane holding the tongue easily in some babies and in some, it is very difficult to identify.

Babies use the tongue to push the milk into their mouth. The baby should be able to stick his tongue out over the bottom lip. When the baby is crying, check if the tongue is able to touch the roof of the mouth. Even issues like a cleft lip can lead to sucking difficulty in babies.

#7. Stopping night feed or Irregular feeding schedules

Several programs have become known recently to train the baby to sleep through the night and not wake up for night feeds. For all mothers, the amount of milk that can be stored in the breast varies. The hormone prolactin, that signals milk production, is highest at nights. Therefore, with reduced night feeding, prolactin levels drop, causing lowered milk supply in general as well.

Irregular feeding schedules or using pacifiers can also affect the amount of milk produced. The rate of milk production increases, when there is no stored milk in the breasts. If the breasts are full, naturally, milk production reduces. Increasing the time between each feed, using a pacifier or simply scheduling the feed in a manner such that the gap is at least of three to four hours can affect milk production. This is because the breasts remain full for a longer period. As a result, milk production slows down.

#8. Jaundice or medication during birth

Mothers who consume medication such as epidurals or Demerol during birth may find their babies to have a difficulty to latch on properly. This happens due to a dulled feeding behavior caused as a result of exposure to pain medication. Newborns who have jaundice at birth might feel sleepy and unable to feed on time. In these cases, it may become necessary for you to pump the milk out so that the production of milk is not reduced. After the jaundice is treated and after the birth medication is excreted from the baby’s system nursing becomes much easier.

#9. Using formula supplementation

If you use any supplementation with formula, the breasts may begin to produce less milk. This is true in the first few weeks of birth, especially. The ability of the breast to produce milk is influenced by how much milk is being removed. With formula, your baby will not be consuming as much breast milk. The response to this is that the breast produces less milk overall.

How do you know when feed is insufficient?

There are some signs that you should watch out for to know if the baby is getting sufficient feed:

  • No Weight gain: In the first week, the baby may lose about 10-15% of the body weight. However, after this, weight gain should occur week after week. If you see that there is no weight gain, then the baby is not getting enough feed.
  • The baby is fussy after feeding: When milk production is low, the baby’s tummy is empty even after you have finished a feeding session, leaves the baby cranky. The baby is not swallowing the milk: When feeding, listen carefully for a gulping sound. If you do not hear any gulping noises, chances are that the baby is not swallowing the milk properly.
  • Diaper changes: If the baby gets enough milk, he or she will pass urine at least six to eight times a day. In the first week, this number might be less as the baby is still consuming the colostrum.
  • The color of the stool: If the baby is getting enough milk, the stool will turn into a dark yellow color by the second week. If the stool is less in quantity than usual and very dark, it is a sign that the feed is not sufficient.
  • The mother’s breast: If your breast is not light and soft after feeding, it means that the baby is not drinking enough milk.
  • The frequency of feeding: The feeding frequency should be as follows:

Why you might be unable to breastfeed your baby?

If the baby shows more cues for feeding than required, it means that he or she is not getting enough feed.

Also Read: 8 Precautions in Breastfeeding when Mom is Sick (Including 5 Advantages)

Tips to improve feeding

  • If you are on any medication, make sure you consult your doctor to reduce the dosage or stop the medication if possible.
  • Make sure that the baby is in a comfortable position with the head held firmly in place. To improve latching, hold the head of the baby closer to the breast and place the upper jaw of the baby behind the nipple using your thumb.
  • Eat well. Foods like fennel seeds, spinach, carrots, garlic, raw papaya, black sesame seeds, and oatmeal can improve production of breast milk.
  • Consult your doctor to get necessary supplements to improve the quality and the quantity of the breast milk produced.
  • Make sure that you look for the baby’s hunger cues for feeding to empty the breasts regularly. This is also important when you are using baby formula.
  • Use a breast pump if the feeding interval is higher.
  • If you are using formula, make sure you get a feeding bottle that has a good quality nipple. Keep the formula warm enough for the baby to drink.

Breastfeeding is a delight for the mother and vital for the baby. However, if for some reason you are unable to feed your baby as much as you would want to, it is advisable to identify the cause. Stressing over it is not a solution. Consult your gynecologist to identify the cause and find a suitable solution.

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