It’s a common misconception – breastfeeding is easy because it’s natural. Unfortunately, for many women, breastfeeding can present many challenges. Breastfeeding issues can arise from the get go, develop slowly over time or present themselves at different times in a child’s feeding experience. Nursing can also vary from child to child. Women who had an amazing experience breastfeeding their first child, may find it difficult to nurse with their second child.
If you’re experiencing issues breastfeeding, you are not alone! According to a survey published in Pediatrics, two thirds of new mothers have trouble breastfeeding. Although it may seem like you may never get the hang of breastfeeding, don’t lose hope. With a little help and some effort, you too can experience the joy of breastfeeding!
The First Few Weeks
Despite what you may think, babies aren’t born breastfeeding pros. In many cases, babies must be taught how to successfully nurse. Generally, the first few weeks of life (3 – 4 weeks) are the most important for establishing good breastfeeding techniques. During this time, most lactation experts recommend holding off on giving your baby a bottle or pacifier. Feeding from a synthetic nipple is a lot different than feeding from a mother’s nipple, and the difference between the two may cause nipple confusion.
Building a good milk supply is also important during the first few weeks of your baby’s life. Milk supply is based on demand and supplementing with formula, pumping or using a pacifier may negatively affect your milk supply.
If your baby is a quick learner and you are able to establish a good latch from the get go, feel free to introduce a bottle or pacifier a little earlier than 4 weeks (but no sooner than three weeks).
Importance of a Proper Latch
If your little guy or gal doesn’t know how to latch on properly, a multitude of problems can arise like sore nipples and inadequate milk supply. To learn how to latch your baby on correctly, please read Teaching Baby How to Breastfeed.
If you’re practicing a good latch technique, but your baby is still clamping down, you may need to evaluate:
- How wide his mouth is when latching on. Make sure his mouth is opened as wide as possible before latching him on by gently pressing down on his chin. If it seems to help, tell your baby to “open wide” and show him by opening your mouth wide.
- How much of your areola is being placed inside his mouth. The more of your areola you can fit inside his mouth, the better. To ensure as much of your areola is placed inside his mouth, compress your breast into a C or U shape (like a sandwich) before latching him on.
- The flow of your milk supply. If your flow is strong and you have a forceful letdown, he may be clamping down to slow the flow of your milk. If you think this is the issue, hand express your milk till letdown occurs and then latch him on.
When first attempting breastfeeding, some nipple pain is normal. However, feeding your baby should not be painful every time. If you’re experiencing nipple pain regularly, adjust your baby’s latch. After gently breaking your baby’s latch, open his mouth wide and then latch him back on again. Repeat this process until your baby is nursing without causing you any pain.
Another issue some mothers run into during the breastfeeding process is nipple damage. As painful as sore nipples can be, it’s important to remember: nipples will heal if a good latch is being used. And, it’s not necessary to stop nursing as they heal. To aid in the healing process, apply a nipple cream before nursing and don’t dry out the area too much.
Engorgement and Flat Nipples
Engorged breasts and flat nipples can make latching on more difficult for your baby too. When dealing with engorged breasts, hand express some of your milk before latching your baby on. If flat nipples are causing you issues, try practicing the “sandwich hold” mentioned above.
Need More Help with Your Nursing Journey?
When beginning your breastfeeding journey, it’s best to avoid synthetic nipples or pacifiers at first and most importantly, practice a good latch. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above will help you and your baby experience breastfeeding success!
For more information about solving the issues that can arise during the breastfeeding process, please read Resolving Breastfeeding Issues – Part 2. The team at My Organic Company also recommends reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger.