Managing Common Breastfeeding Issues & Concerns; A Learning Curve For Both You And Your Baby
Lactating during and after pregnancy is a natural process of a woman’s body, however, breastfeeding is a learned skill that requires practice by both moms and their babies alike. Here’s some practical tips to help new moms bond with their babies and fully embrace the joys–and hardships–of breastfeeding.
Empowering Baby’s Immune System
Because breast milk is made from mom, her immunity is going to be passed on to her baby. Studies have shown that babies that are breastfed are less prone to asthma, allergies, colds, and ear infections.
Breastfeeding Makes For Calm Moms & Babies
The natural process of lactation releases hormones into a woman’s body, that helps calm mother and baby alike. This calming effect leads to a peaceful household, not to mention the deepest possible bonding experience between a mother and her child.
It’s A Money Saver
Formula is expensive–roughly $1.00 per ounce, which adds up to $30-$40 per week in infant formula. Why spend all that money when you have a natural resource of something even better?
Latching is perhaps the #1 key to successful breastfeeding. Watch your baby for the early signs of hunger, such as kicking or wiggling or sucking on fingers or fists. To achieve a good latch, position your baby in such a way that his chin, chest and knees face the breast. Tickle your baby’s nose or lips with your nipple and wait for her mouth to open like she’s yawning, then gently place her on your breast by leading with her chin and lower lip. You will know your baby has achieved a good latch if you hear her suck, swallow and breathe in a regular pattern.
It’s normal for your nipples to feel sore when you first start to breastfeed, especially if you’re a first-timer. But if baby has latched and the pain lasts longer than a minute into your feeding session, check your positioning.
Try to achieve an asymmetrical latch where baby’s mouth covers more of the areola below the nipple rather than above. To reposition him, place your index finger inside baby’s mouth to take him off your breast. Tickle his chin or wait until he yawns so his mouth is wide open and seize your opportunity. When he is correctly positioned, his chin and nose touch your breast, his lips splay out and you can’t see your nipple or part of the lower areola.
Cracked nipples can result from a number of causes, such as thrush, improper breast pumping, dry skin and latching difficulties. During your first week of breastfeeding, you may experience bloody discharge when your baby is first learning to breastfeed. It may be a little unsettling, but it won’t harm your baby in the least. Try breastfeeding more frequently for shorter periods. The less your baby experiences critical hunger, his feeding behavior will be less urgent and less damaging to your nipples. Stay away from lotions to heal the cracks, but try leaving some milk on your nipples to air dry after feeding. Breast milk has naturally-occurring healing properties, but if that technique fails to work, try over-the-counter lanolin cream, specifically made for nursing mothers. You might also try hard plastic breast shells inside your bra.
Ducts clog because your milk isn’t draining completely. Again, the more frequently you breastfeed, the less likely your milk ducts will clog. If you feel feverish or achy, you may have an infection, which is the right time to contact your doctor. A nursing bra that is too tight can also cause clogged ducts, so make sure you size appropriately. Try applying a warm compress to your breasts, and massage them frequently to stimulate milk production and movement.
Engorgement/High Milk Supply
Engorgement makes it difficult for baby to latch on to the breast because the nipple no longer conforms to his mouth. Again, the more frequently you breastfeed, the less likely you will experience engorgement.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection in your breasts marked by flu-like symptoms such as fever and pain in your breasts. Mastitis is quite common in the first few weeks after birth, so don’t be alarmed if it happens to you. The only way to treat the infection is with antibiotics, hot compresses, and most importantly, frequent emptying. It’s safe and actually recommended that you continue breastfeeding when you have mastitis.
Thrush is a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth, which can also spread to your breasts. It causes incessant itchiness, soreness, and sometimes a rash. Your doctor will need to give you antifungal medication for both you and your baby. This is the only way to insure that neither you nor your baby can re-infect each other with another round of Thrush.
Low Milk Supply
Frequency of nursing or pumping is the best cure for low milk production.
Baby Sleeps At Breast
Your baby is understandably exhausted for the first few months after birth (hey, aren’t you?), so falling asleep while nursing is common. When you notice baby’s sucking slowing down and her eyes are closing, try stimulating her by burping or tickling or gently rubbing her back.
If you squeeze your nipples and they don’t protrude, chance are you’ll have a tougher time breastfeeding. Use a pump to get the milk flowing before placing baby at your nipple and use breast shells between feeding. Once you feel like your milk supply is adequate, try using nipple shields if baby still has problems latching.
Painful, Overactive Let-Down
If you feel a prickly sensation after nursing, this is most likely due to overactive let-down. Try feeding your baby longer on one particular breast and switching to the other only if you need to. If the sensation worsens from a pins-and-needles level of pain, you may need to see your doctor for antibiotics intended to treat a bacterial infection.