Benefits and Challenges of Breastfeeding

February 24, 2020

Benefits and Challenges of Breastfeeding

Are you a new mom who is trying to breastfeed?

We’ve learned so much in the past few decades about the importance of breastfeeding; but, let me tell you from my own experience—the pressure can be a bit overwhelming for a new mom! The day my daughter was born, she was on my chest in a matter of minutes and the nurse stood over us to watch her latch, ready to make that checkmark on the chart! I felt great for about half a day, until someone else came in and said “You’re not doing it right!”. After that, my daughter wasn’t gaining weight and had jaundice. So, homecare visits were ordered and finally in came someone with some compassion to the situation, advising that perhaps I wasn’t producing enough milk. Breast pumps were recommended to help with the production, a review of a proper latch and away we went. The breast pumps helped get the production of milk going and we were finally off to the races. 

I say all of this lightly, but I’ll never forget that feeling of wanting to cry every time someone imposed their advice on me and acted as though I was about to give up! 

Challenges that Cause Impact

Several factors can affect successful breastfeeding (none of which I knew when I had my baby):

  • Cesarean (C-section) delivery
  • Birth weight of less than 6.6 lbs
  • 5-minute Apgar score of less than 9
  • First contact with baby later than two hours after birth; or not staying together in the same room during hospital stay
  • Breastfeeding fewer than 8 times; and/or pacifier use within the first 24 hours
  • Suboptimal breastfeeding behaviour at three days postpartum
  • Flat or inverted nipples; or edema with moderate-to-severe pitting [1]

Further research explained that some women may stop breastfeeding before six months, due to additional challenges, such as: 

  • Lack of confidence in ability to breastfeed 
  • Not having a plan for the duration of exclusive breastfeeding
  • Little knowledge or breastfeeding problems during first week
  • Experience of less than five baby-friendly practices during hospital stay
  • Perceived milk insufficiency; or early supplemental feedings
  • Low breastfeeding self-efficacy
  • Lower maternal age and/or education [2] [3]


The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for children—including lowering the risk of Type II diabetes, obesity, and better intelligence scores. Breastfeeding helps protect infants from childhood illnesses; breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant requires until 6 months old (then complementary feedings can start with continued breastfeeding up to and beyond two years). Breast milk has antibodies and helps protect against childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. 

Breastfeeding is great for mothers—it helps lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as Type II diabetes, and postpartum depression. Also, breastfeeding can promote infant bonding, as well as greater postpartum weight loss. 

Breastfeeding has also shown to reduce acute otitis media (inner ear inflammation), gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (in young children), childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis (where bacteria invade and damage the wall of the bowel) [4] [5]

Tidbits and Key Takeaways

Some people may talk about nipple confusion and advise against a pacifier; however, a systematic review of two randomized trials after successful latching showed no significant difference in breastfeeding rates between those that used a pacifier and those that did not. [6] Also, including fathers in breastfeeding education may help improve breastfeeding rates. [7]

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Many challenges can affect successful breastfeeding and any new mother will require support and education
  • Challenges exist for continued breastfeeding and parents need to be educated on these challenges
  • There are outstanding benefits of breastfeeding for infants that also influence their health into childhood
  • Breastfeeding is great for moms too!
  • Including fathers in breastfeeding education may help improve breastfeeding rates

In our book, Recipes for Growing Me ~6-months, we’ve highlighted the continued importance of breast milk at this developmental stage:
Did you Know? 

When I’m 6 months old
There are so many things to try
But it’s mostly for exploring
And here is why
I need most of my nutrients
From formula or mother’s milk
It is so good for me
Like a natural silk
Don’t be afraid to tell me no
I’m just curious to ask you so

And remember…don’t hog the blog!
Please share with friends today.

Have a bloomin’ day!
Sarah & Karen


[1] Journal Pediatric 2014 Jun;164(6):1339

[2] International Breastfeeding Journal 2015;10:19

[3] Journal Pediatric Gastroenterology Nutrition 2015 Nov;61(5):577


[5] DynaMed, Ipswich (MA): EBSCO Information Services. 1995. Record No.T115517, Breastfeeding; [updated 2018 Nov 30]. Available from

[6] Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Aug 30: (8): CD007202

[7] DynaMed, Ipswich (MA): EBSCO Information Services. 1995. Record No.T115517, Breastfeeding; [updated 2018 Nov 30]. Available from

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