If you are a mom or thinking about becoming a mom, you’ve most likely heard about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. In the past few decades, breastfeeding rates have risen steadily, likely due to the increased understanding of breastfeeding by medical professionals, combined with the efforts of organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, WHO and the Le Leche League that have been working hard to promote breastfeeding and support breastfeeding mothers.
While there is no doubt that the rising rates of breastfeeding is a very good thing, there are some circumstances in which breastfeeding may not be the best choice for you or your child. Always consult with your OB / GYN, midwife, or pediatrician if you fall into any of these categories or if you are having other issues with breastfeeding. Choosing whether or not to breastfeed your baby is a personal choice, but that doesn’t mean you have to face any obstacles by yourself!
Mom has a virus that can pass through breast milk. If a mom has been infected with HIV or has AIDS, or a mom with tuberculosis or human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II should not breast feed their babies. Mothers with these viruses may pass them to their babies through breast milk.
Moms taking certain medications or treatments. Mothers taking cancer chemotherapy medications, or those undergoing radiation treatment, are advised not to breastfeed. Also, moms taking certain migraine, anxiety, or sleep-aid medications may not be able to nurse their babies. In general, moms taking medications of any kind (even over-the-counter) should check with their pediatrician before breastfeeding their baby while on the medications.
Baby diagnosed with galactosemia. Galactosemia is a rare genetic disorder that inhibits the body from digesting a simple sugar called galactose, which is prevalent in breast milk. Babies with galactosemia must be fed a very strict diet that is free of lactose and galactose.
Baby is failing to thrive. A failure to thrive is a term used to describe inadequate growth or the inability to maintain growth and is a sign of undernutrition. Many different things can cause a failure to thrive but in some cases involving breastfed infants, the cause may be that they are not getting enough calories from milk through breastfeeding. In these instances, the underlying cause for the baby’s failure to thrive can usually be overcome with the help of qualified experts (like a lactation consultant or a pediatrician), but there are some cases in which it may be best for both mom and baby to start supplementing with formula. Only you and your team of experts will be able to determine what course of action is best for you and your baby of he or she is diagnosed with failure to thrive.
When it’s all just too much. For some moms, breastfeeding can be one of the most difficult experiences of their life. As much as they want to breastfeed, it just doesn’t go as they planned. Moms can experience many difficulties that can make breastfeeding intolerable: recurrent mastitis, cracked and bleeding nipples, a low milk supply, severe postpartum depression, etc. While most of these hurdles can be overcome with proper support by a lactation consultant and/or a doctor, sometimes the struggle is just too much. Mom guilt can overwhelm you when you feel like you’re failing at something that you think should come naturally. But while breastfeeding is a natural process, that does not mean it always comes naturally. It is a hard thing for you and baby to learn to do properly. And while it certainly is worth it to try your best to successfully breastfeed your baby for as long as you can, it is not worth it if it is going to spoil the joy of motherhood.
If you are missing the awesome wonder of mothering your child because you’re too consumed by guilt or stress or angst over breastfeeding, just let it go. The most important thing is feeding and loving your baby and if that means you do it with formula or in a bottle, so be it. Give yourself grace, and give your child what he or she truly needs: a full belly and a relaxed mama.