Breastfeeding benefits and what to do when the milk isn't flowing

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Physicians generally agree: breastfeeding is best for you and your baby.

Previous state law permitted women to breastfeed in public but did not expressly reference women who choose to use a breast pump. (Photo: Aurimas Mikalauskas / CC BY-SA 2.0)

But what happens when it just...isn't happening?

"Some moms are forced to go back to work sooner, and maybe they don't have the infrastructure at their jobs that supports them to pump," said Brittney Pohler, PA-C, MPH at Baylor Scott & White Health's OBGYN department. "Or maybe they just don't make enough milk; in a perfect world, we would all love to be able to feed our babies, but it's hard."

That's when Pohler says you should talk to your pediatrician. In fact, she's seen both sides of this conversation.

"My son is six months old, and he fell off his growth curve," said Pohler. "I still tried to breastfeed and keep my milk up when I could, but we supplemented to keep him healthy and growing."

Pohler says your pediatrician will track your child's growth and let you know if the same option is right for your family.

"That doesn't make me less of a mom," said Pohler.

As for what to do to supplement, that's another conversation to have with your pediatrician. All formula on the market is FDA-approved, but certain products can be used for certain issues.

"Does your baby have a health issue like reflux and you need a specific formula? Is it an allergy, and they want to avoid some of those irritants?" said Pohler. "The great thing is that formula is so close to breastmilk, that they're all great in calories or nutrients."

Still, Pohler encourages new parents to use breastfeeding when they can, preferably exclusively breastfeeding in the first six months. There are many benefits for both mom and baby.

"We see with mom that you can reduce your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and even some long-term chronic health diseases like diabetes," Pohler said. "For baby, we see we reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, eczema, respiratory infections, and even ear infections go down."

For the full conversation, see the video player above.