One of the biggest questions many women get asked when having a baby is whether they have decided to breastfeed or not. While some women do not breastfeed out of choice, many cannot do so for various reasons. Breastfeeding has benefits for both the baby and the mother, and most experts recommend it exclusively for the baby’s first six months. If you wonder why some women cannot or will not breastfeed their babies, this article has all the answers.
Reasons Why Some Mothers Do Not Breastfeed
Some expectant mothers ask the question can all women breastfeed? The simple answer is that most women can breastfeed but choose not to do so under specific conditions or circumstances. Here is a list of it all:
1. Medical Conditions in the Mother
Certain medical conditions make it difficult for mothers to breastfeed, such as:
1. Hypoplasia of IGT
Insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), or hypoplasia as it is also called, is a condition where the tissue of the mammary glands does not develop normally. Women who have IGT have breasts that cannot produce sufficient milk to feed the baby.
2. Serious Illness
Having serious illnesses such as heart failure or severe anaemia can make it unhealthy for some women to breastfeed. Any such serious health issues should be discussed with the doctor before going ahead with breastfeeding.
3. Breast Reduction Surgery
Women who have undergone breast reduction surgery are more likely to have low milk production as some of the breast tissue that produces milk will be removed. On the other hand, breast augmentation surgery also makes some women produce low milk.
4. Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
Although some women are physically capable of breastfeeding during their postpartum depression or periods of anxiety it could become a stressor. Women who are coping with psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety must discuss breastfeeding with their doctors. In some instances, it could be detrimental to mental health to continue breastfeeding.
2. Conditions in the Baby
Here are conditions under which a baby cannot breastfeed:
1. Classic Galactosemia
Galactosemia is a condition in which the body is not able to breakdown the simple sugar galactose. Galactose comes from Lactose, which is the simple sugar abundant in breastmilk. Therefore all babies who test positive for the condition cannot be given breastmilk or any milk in a bottle. Such babies will have to be fed a special formula that is galactose-free to stop complications arising from it, such as vomiting, jaundice, diarrhoea, developmental problems, and even death. There is also a milder form of the same condition called Duarte’s galactosemia, where the babies can breakdown some galactose. Babies diagnosed with this condition will have to have their diets monitored under a doctor who specializes in metabolic disorders. These babies can be breastfed along with formula supplementation that is galactose-free.
2. Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Babies who have PKU cannot breakdown an amino acid called phenylalanine. When phenylalanine concentration builds up in the body, it can damage the brain; therefore, these babies need to be kept on a diet with low phenylalanine. There are commercially available infant formulas for babies with PKU, and since breastmilk is quite low in this amino acid, the formula can be supplemented along with breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding needs to be controlled, and the levels of phenylalanine should be monitored through periodic blood work.
3. Maple Syrup Urine Disease
The maple syrup urine disease is a condition in which babies cannot break down the amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine. The name of the condition is derived from the effects of these amino acids accumulating in the blood as the urine, sweat, and ear wax give off the odour of maple syrup. If they build up to high enough concentrations, it can cause babies to become sleepy, feed poorly, vomit, experience seizures or coma, or even death. Doctors under such instances prescribe infant formula that excludes the amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Breastfeeding, along with formula, can also be recommended if the breastmilk quantity is carefully monitored.
3. Cases Where Nursing Isn’t Recommended
There are some of the medical conditions when should you not breastfeed:
1. HIV Infection
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be transmitted from the mother to the baby through breastfeeding. Therefore it is not recommended that such mothers breastfeed their babies. However, women who have Hepatitis C or Cytomegalovirus can breastfeed provided their nipples are not cracked or sore. If you have any infectious disease, it is ideal to discuss it with the doctor before proceeding to breastfeed.
2. Radiation Therapy
Women undergoing radiation therapy should never breastfeed their babies for a period of time after the treatment. Since radiation therapy is a serious health risk for your baby, it is recommended not to breastfeed or even be close to your baby for a period of time.
3. Being on Medications
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many common medications and immunizations are safe when mothers are breastfeeding. However, it is always ideal to consult your doctor if you are on any medication as there are some that can pass through breastmilk. Some examples include antithyroid medications, mood-altering drugs, and chemotherapeutic agents that can pass to your baby and hurt them. Breastfeed only when your doctor gives it a go-ahead. Also, make sure to mention any other drugs you might be using or alternative supplements, remedies or teas, or any over-the-counter medications.
4. Active Infections
Any serious active infections such as untreated tuberculosis can seriously harm the baby.
5. Alcohol, Smoking, or Drug Addiction
Nursing mothers should not indulge in alcohol or narcotic drugs as they can easily pass through the milk and harm the baby. Mothers who smoke are recommended not to breastfeed or avoid smoking at least 95 minutes before feeding to minimize the nicotine levels entering the milk.
4. Other Possible Reasons
There are a number of other reasons for women not to breastfeed, such as:
1. Traumatic Experience
Mothers who have undergone a traumatic experience breastfeeding their first child might choose not to do so with their second child. They may have suffered from a number of conditions that make it painful, either physically or psychologically, and choose to skip that experience completely with the second child. One common side effect many women suffer are clogged ducts that make it painful or an infection that causes swelling or more pain.
2. Returning to Work
Many women choose to get back to only a few months after their childbirth. During this period, they will have no time or be caught up with office work issues that prevent them from breastfeeding on-demand. While some women use breast pumps to balance both worlds, some skip breastfeeding altogether and stick to formula.
3. Some Don’t Produce Enough Milk
Some women cannot produce enough milk to satisfy their baby’s needs. There could be some underlying factors, but it is not the fault of the mother. When they cannot produce enough milk, it is perfectly normal to choose not to breastfeed altogether and go with infant formula.
4. Fear of Breastfeeding
While it might seem silly on the surface, some women are genuinely afraid of breastfeeding. Maybe the thought of something sucking fluids out of their body freaks them out, or they are afraid of using breast pumps or other methods. Whatever the reason might be, breastfeeding doesn’t appeal to some women, and if it is not helping them bond with their infant by relaxing together, it shouldn’t be forced.
5. For some, It’s a Matter of Choice
Many mothers decide that their baby is better off drinking infant formula, maybe because they are worried they may not receive enough nutrition or the baby refuses to breastfeed without a fuss. Some babies or mothers have health issues that make breastfeeding risky and bottle feeding a better option.
6. Easier to Bottle Feed Baby
Many working mothers who have help in the house to raise her infant choose to bottle feed so the baby can be fed by the dad, grandparents, or even their friends! On days when they are feeling unwell or are not able to stay up all night tending to a crying baby, somebody else can take over the job and bottle feed the baby.
There are numerous reasons why a mother would choose not to breastfeed her infant. Every mother, baby, and situation combination is unique, and the option of breastfeeding may be unavailable or even detrimental. While breastfeeding is an incredible bonding experience, not doing so doesn’t make you less of a mother.