Can't Breastfeed? Why and How to Deal with It?

Motherhood is the ultimate phase for most women.  Nothing explains the overwhelming feeling of love and compassion when you see your little one, from the time that he’s a fetus until he goes out of your womb.

All mothers want the best for their babies. They would do everything that they can within their power to give nothing but the best. Breast milk is one of the best things that a mother can provide to her child. Breastfeeding is not only about giving nourishment but it’s so much more. Unfortunately, not all women are blessed to be able to breastfeed. There are some mom who are unable to breastfeed, and this causes them frustration and disappointment. What could be the reasons why this happens? This article will shed some light on this matter.

Why Can’t You Breastfeed?

Doctors highly recommend that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first 6 months, and continue breastfeeding for a year or more. Unfortunately, there are conditions that inhibit some women to breastfeed their precious ones.

1. Breast Reduction

Women who went through breast reduction surgery may not be able to breastfeed. The procedure could damage the ducts, nerves and glands that produce milk, making breastfeeding difficult. Your milk flow will also be limited if your nipple was removed during a surgery and then placed on a reconstructed breast.

2. Hypothyroidism

The thyroid plays an important role during lactation; it helps regulate prolactin and oxytocin. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid is under-active. It makes breastfeeding extremely hard because the thyroid hormones are not active enough to stimulate your breast in producing milk.

3. Breast Cancer

Breast cancer survivor may find it difficult to be able to breastfeed as her breasts have undergone a lot of treatments and procedure. You are unable to breastfeed if you had double mastectomy for an obvious reason. It’s impossible to produce milk since your breasts have been removed along with the milk ducts. Cancer patients who are still undergoing treatments are also advised not to breastfeed.

4. Certain Medications

Some medications can affect your milk supply – some can drastically reduce the production whilst there are others that stop the production all together. Pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in over-the-counter allergy and cold medications, is known to reduce milk supply. Estrogen, a hormonal birth control, can also affect your milk production.

5. Anemia

Anemia is a condition when your healthy red blood cells are not enough. Having anemia while lactating can cause issues such as mastitis, clogged milk ducts and thrush. Developing nipple sores can be extremely painful since anemia slows down the healing process.

6. Retained Placenta

Some women have experienced where their placenta was retained – either it was not expelled within one hour of delivery or a piece of placenta was not expelled at all.

The detachment of the placenta serves as a go-signal for the woman’s body to produce milk. This signal can go haywire if a piece is left behind as the mother’s body think that she is still pregnant, hence making the mother unable to breastfeed.

7. Older Age

Though it’s not totally sure that milk production gets affected as the women aged, many lactation consultants think that it is happening. Older mothers who are having problem producing milk are advised to breastfeed their babies frequently and have skin-to-skin contact with their baby right after birth.

8. Extreme Stress

Extreme stress is a big no-no for lactating mothers as it can diminish the supply of milk. Though stress does not directly affect the amount of milk a mother makes, it can certainly affect milk production.

9. Being Malnourished

A newborn gets all the nutrients, energy and protein that they need from her mother’s breast milk. Women who are not getting enough vitamins and nutrients through their diet undergo a process called maternal depletion. A lactating mother may not be able to provide essential nutrients if she’s not getting enough of it, hence affecting her breastfeeding.

10. PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a disorder that makes mother unable to breastfeed as it affects the capacity of the mother to produce milk. This disorder does not only cause incomplete breast development, but it also makes the body resistant to insulin, causing mothers can’t breastfeed.

11. Sheehan’s Syndrome

A mother’s pituitary gland is affected when she has Sheehan’s syndrome. Because of this, the pituitary gland may not be able to release certain hormones that are necessary for the production of milk.

12. HIV

Mothers who are infected with HIV are highly discouraged to nurse their baby as they can possibly transmit the disease through breast milk.

What’s the Next Step Now That You Can’t Breastfeed?

  • Be easy on yourself – though breastfeeding would have made your motherhood journey more fulfilling, accept the fact that you can’t breastfeed. Not being able to nurse your baby does not make you less of a mother. You can still show your little one with love and attention even if you’re not breastfeeding her.
  • Find support – Most women will feel frustrated and disappointed knowing that they can’t breastfeed. Find support - your partner, friends, family – and talk about your feelings. Don’t be shy about admitting these negative feelings.
  • Find out about donated breast milk – You may be qualified for donated breast milk from a milk bank if your condition and your baby meet certain criteria. Talk to your doctor and lactation consultant about this option.

How Can You Bond With Your Baby?

Though breastfeeding is a great way to strengthen the bond between the mother and her child, it’s not the only way. When you’re nursing her through a bottle, hold your precious one close and make eye contact. Be responsive in all of her needs and give her all the attention and love.

Though breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of nursing your baby, don’t beat yourself up if you are unable to. Accept your condition and make up your inability to breastfeed with other factors. You are still a wonderful and amazing mother even if you can’t nurse your baby.

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