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What are the downsides of breastfeeding?
Q: I’m planning to breastfeed, but I want to know if there are any downsides.
A: I glad to hear that you’re planning to breastfeed. You’re making a good choice. I strongly support and encourage breastfeeding for many reasons, including nutritional and health benefits for your baby as well as psychological benefits stemming from the warmth and comfort that comes from nursing.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to consider. Breastfeeding can be painful at first. Your nipples may become cracked and sensitive, sometimes making it very uncomfortable when your baby suckles. (You can place silicon “shields” over your nipples while nursing if this happens.) Your breasts may become engorged – filled with milk between feedings – which can be very uncomfortable, too. On occasion, some mothers develop mastitis, a breast infection that results from the entry of oral bacteria from your baby’s mouth into your breast. This condition may resolve with home remedies or may require a course of antibiotics.

It’s important to take good care of yourself when breastfeeding, being sure to get adequate rest, drink plenty of liquids and consume a healthy diet. You’ll need to wear clothes that accommodate breastfeeding, and you may need to overcome inhibitions about feeding in public. You’ll also be advised to avoid cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs; all these items may affect your breast milk.

If you’re planning to breastfeed you probably realise that you won’t be able to get much help with nighttime feedings. You’ll obviously be the main caretaker at night, but at least you won’t have to wake up to prepare a bottle.

If you plan to work after your baby’s born, you’ll need to decide whether to pump milk while you’re at work or combine breastfeeding with bottle feeds using formula. I breastfed all three of my children, and I used both methods with good results. While breastfeeding can be demanding at times, the advantage of having a food source that’s always fresh, freely available and perfectly suited for your baby most often outweighs the inconveniences that may be faced.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist