For some, breastfeeding can be both an easy choice and a smooth experience. For others, however, there can be many challenges. After surviving hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and other related complications of pregnancy, many women may find themselves struggling with breastfeeding after HG.
Well-meaning others may voice doubts about her ability to meet the demands of her young infant after suffering from HG. The use of medications may cause safety concerns around lactation. Feelings of defeat and disconnection from their body, and even your baby, can be common yet painful reactions to having faced a pregnancy, birth, or early breastfeeding experience that went much differently than what you always envisioned. All of these reasons, and countless others, can make breastfeeding the last thing on a mother’s mind, even if she had previously intended to breastfeed.
It is important to remember that these things must not be what defines you as a mother. Every mother loves and wants what is best for her baby and herself. What you decide is up to you. The best way for you to make an informed decision is by to access to accurate information and supportive care.
No matter the circumstances, it is absolutely normal for a mother to feel overwhelmed with guilt or a sense of failure. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a skilled network ready to step in to support you as early as possible to issues before they arise.
Support for breastfeeding after HG
Here are a few tips on resources to be sure you have contacts for before the birth takes place:
Whether your baby is not latching well, not getting enough milk, hurting you when latching, or you’re not sure if it’s going right, it’s never too early to check in with an experienced lactation specialist. You can make sure things are going right or learn about adjustments you need to make to prevent common issues. Ask your hospital or insurance for a lactation educator, counselor, or internationally board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for help early and often. Free support is available with local WIC peer counselors or volunteer breastfeeding support organizations like La Leche League.
Follow up closely with your provider to monitor your postpartum recovery. If you are feeling unwell or unsure, do not wait until your postpartum visit. You know your body best, so advocate for yourself and seek an appointment as early as possible for any concerns. You may also request to have your blood tested to check your vitamin (more on that below) and hormone levels if you’re concerned about the quality and quantity of your milk.
Nutritionist or registered dietician
Generally, lactating mothers are able to produce enough milk for their infants as long as they are getting sufficient food and water. After surviving HG, however, it is a good idea to work with someone who can help you monitor your body’s nutritional status as you recover and produce milk for your baby. Your hydration status, calorie intake, and levels of vitamins, A, D, B1, B12, and K, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Like-minded support groups
Social connections with other mothers with similar goals and/or experiences can be a wonderful source of motivation, support, and inspiration. Information about support groups can be found at your medical office, on social media, and with friends and family. Make sure it’s a group you feel comfortable with.
Medication safety sites
More often than not, the majority of medications can be safely taken while breastfeeding. However, professionals may feel it’s safest for you not to breastfeed while on medication. This is when you can be empowered by the resources available to base your decision on facts established by research. Lactmed and Infant Risk Center are updated with the latest research on the safety of medications while breastfeeding. You can ask your healthcare provider to check before prescribing a medication or if you have concerns about any effects your medications may have on your baby.
Pregnancy and postpartum mental health support
When so much of everyone’s preoccupations are focused on your body’s health and the well-being of your infant, little attention gets paid to your emotional wellness as you process all that you have gone through and the momentous transition to becoming a mother. People often underestimate the profound impact that your mental state will have on your recovery, your confidence in your ability to take care of your baby, and even the sense of comfort your baby can feel. If you are not feeling like yourself, talking to a perinatal therapist can help. If you are unsure where to find help, talk to an expert for free at Postpartum Support International (800-944-4773). The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is another resource where you can process your feelings with a caring expert (833-852-6262).
Learn more about breastfeeding after HG here.