Breastfeeding is the natural way for women to feed their babies, but unfortunately for many women getting baby, or our bodies for that matter, to cooperate with breastfeeding doesn’t always seem to come naturally. Even though it seems like breastfeeding should be instinctive, many new mothers find it to be frustrating, unproductive, and awkward at first. If this is you, don’t worry. You’re not alone – many women have gone through it and come out on the other side successful. The good news is that with patience and some guidance, you can work through the frustration and be successful at breastfeeding your baby.
Frustrations with breastfeeding can cause some women to give up on breastfeeding altogether. Don’t let this be you! Experts have long touted the benefits of breast milk for babies. A mother’s breast milk contains antibodies that helps babies fight off infections and breastfed babies also have lower risks of developing asthma or allergies. It has also been proven that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months have lower instances of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. All of these are very good things for your baby, so don’t give up just yet.
There are three common frustrations with breastfeeding that cause women to give up, but there are ways to work through them and get you back on track to breastfeeding your baby:
- Breast pain. It’s normal for new moms to have some tenderness once they start breastfeeding and when their milk comes in. Nipple soreness can also be caused by your baby having a poor latch, know that your baby should have a deep latch to prevent forceful sucking. If you feel this may be an issue for you then a consultation with a lactation consultant can aid in getting baby to latch on properly and help ease the soreness. If you have sever soreness accompanied by flu-like symptoms, you could have a clogged duct or breast infection and need to see your doctor immediately. Otherwise, for common nipple soreness, there are some things you can do to try to alleviate the pain. Use lanolin made especially for use on nipples and purchase breast shells to keep your bra from rubbing against your nipples. Also try nursing on your least sore side first. If you have a breast pump, rest your nipples by pumping for a day or two to allow sore or cracked nipples time to heal. You can also use a nipple shield to help take the edge off of some of the discomfort of nursing.
- Finding the right position. Many new moms become frustrated because they just can’t seem to find the right position for both them and baby to be comfortable during breastfeeding. As with learning any new skill, it takes practice to find the position that is right for you and your baby. There are some common positions you can try. The cradle hold is accomplished by sitting with your baby lengthwise across your lap with your elbow supporting her head and your hand supporting her bottom while using your other hand to support the breast. The cross cradle position is done by holding baby on her side and touching you. Use the arm opposite of the breast she’s feeding with to support her body while your hand supports her head. A nursing pillow can offer additional support for baby’s body when using this position. Try the side-lying position by lying on the side of the breast you will be using. Lay baby on her back facing you and use your opposite arm and hand to support his body and head, bringing him toward you. Alternatively, you can support baby in the crook of your arm if it is more comfortable for the two of you. One of the most popular breastfeeding positions is the football hold. This position is accomplished by holding baby at your side face up and lengthwise. This works best by supporting baby with pillows. Use the arm on the side you are nursing on to support baby at your side and guide her to your breast. This is one of the easier positions, allowing you to concentrate more on getting baby latched properly. Hopefully one of these positions will work for you and baby, but if not then keep trying different positions until you find one that works for both of you. Don’t give up, the perfect position for you is out there, you just have to find it.
- Nipple confusion. The early introduction of a bottle is a common mistake made by new moms. Most lactation experts recommend that parents wait 3 to 4 weeks before giving their baby a bottle in order to avoid nipple confusion, which occurs when baby becomes confused on which technique to use on which nipple, since the technique for sucking on a bottle nipple differs from the technique for feeding from the breast. Nipple confusion can be frustrating for both mom and baby, but if your baby is already experiencing nipple confusion, don’t despair. There are ways to get her back on track with breastfeeding. Start by banishing bottles and pacifiers altogether. Give your baby lots of skin to skin contact to reacquaint her with the pleasures of breastfeeding. Breastfeed her when she first wakes up in the morning or when she awakens from a nap. Use a breast pump or manual expression to keep your milk flow up so that baby will be rewarded with instant gratification when she latches on. It’s normal for babies to seem puzzled or uncertain when being reintroduced to the breast and it is normal for it to take a few days for her to become completely comfortable with breastfeeding again. Be patient and don’t give up, you will get your baby back on track again. If she needs to be fed with an alternative to the breast, such as if she needs supplements to breast milk, try non-bottle methods such as spoon feeding or using an eye dropper or feeding syringe.
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but follow these tips and be patient and it will get easier. Most importantly, don’t give up as the benefits to your baby are well worth the effort!