Nursing your baby may be a little tough at first, but a few basic tips can help get you started on the path to an enjoyable breast-feeding experience.
Sometimes the natural way of feeding your baby doesn’t come naturally at all. It surprises many new mothers how hard nursing can be at first. When the baby books say breast is best, mothers who struggle to breastfeed may feel they are failing their baby. What the books may not say is not all babies adapt easily to nursing. Some babies are fussy and others won’t latch on. With patience and persistence, new mothers and babies can learn about nursing together. Follow these basic tips and nursing can be the intimate, soothing experience you’ve heard about.
Find a comfortable, serene place to sit and feed your baby. The room doesn’t need to be silent. Every baby must become accustomed to the sounds around their home, however, the early days of nursing should take place in a spot where you can relax. Try lying in bed so you can rest while Baby nurses. If you sit in a chair, use a pillow to prop the arm where Baby will rest. Take deep breaths. Drink a cup of chamomile tea. Sometimes stress can inhibit milk flow. It’s important to relax. Being calm helps your milk let down.
Position the baby so her entire body faces yours and her head rests in the crook of your arm near your breast. If Baby is lying on your lap face up and needs to turn her head to nurse, she may not be able to latch on correctly. If you hold her head in your hand instead of letting it rest on your arm, she may react to the pressure of your hand and push her head back instead of relaxing toward the breast.
Lift the breast and hold it toward the baby’s mouth to help her latch on. She will likely “root” around until she lands on the nipple. Make sure the baby takes the whole areola in her mouth. If she catches just the nipple it will be painful for you and difficult for her to nurse. If a pinching pain occurs when she begins to suckle, don’t yank her off the breast. This can make the pain much worse. Take your pinky finger and put it in the corner of her mouth to break the suction. Back her off the breast and try to re-position her onto the nipple. If she is in the correct position, there should be no pain. After about five minutes, switch her to the other breast. Nursing from both breasts will encourage milk supply and help avoid engorgement and clogged milk ducts. As your baby becomes a better nurser and your breasts become less sensitive, you can leave her on each breast for a longer amount of time.
Some new mothers may experience cracked or bleeding nipples in the first few weeks of nursing. This usually occurs because the baby is not positioned correctly while nursing or has trouble latching on. To soothe cracked nipples, try these simple, inexpensive remedies: apply warm tea bags or compresses before and after nursing; smooth lanolin over the sore area; take a mild pain reliever about a half hour before nursing to ease the pain; change breast pads often to keep nipples dry. If problems with pain or bleeding persist, consult your doctor or lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is not always as easy as it looks. With determination and a little inside information, every mother can offer her baby the strongest possible start.
What You Need to Know
Your body. Feeding your baby. Simple enough. Why would you need a specialist to show you how it all works? The first weeks of breastfeeding for some new moms can be exhausting, frustrating and painful. Nursing’s not always easy, but it’s a skill that — with a little patience and determination — anyone can learn … maybe with even a little help from a lactation consultant.
Who Is a Lactation Consultant?
Lactation consultants come from a variety of backgrounds. The most highly trained are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) certified by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Their training includes 90 hours of lactation education and up to 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work as well as college level courses in biology, anatomy and nutrition. These professionals are committed to helping women breastfeed and have more classroom and clinical training than other breast-feeding counselors. Some registered nurses or other medical professionals also may take courses to augment their education so they can better assist women with breastfeeding.
What They Do
Your consultant may be based in a hospital or she may have a private practice. You may go to her office or she may make home visits. She will examine you and your baby to rule out obvious physical problems that may hinder breastfeeding. Next, she will talk to you about how to position your body, how to hold your baby and how to place him on your breast and help him latch on. Then, she will ask you to nurse while she observes your process. She can advise you on how long to nurse and how often. She will support you by confirming what works, coach you on alternative approaches and may provide a written plan for you to follow when she leaves.
Lactation Consultants help when …
• You don’t live near female relatives who can show you the ropes, or you’re the first of your friends to have a baby.
• You’re anxious about nursing.
• You had a multiple birth and need advice on feeding two or more babies.
• Your baby has nipple confusion and won’t take your breast after trying a bottle.
• Your nipples are cracked and sore.
• You have a low milk supply.
• You need to learn how to express your milk.
• You have physical issues such as inverted or flat nipples.
• Your breasts are engorged and painful.
• Your baby has trouble latching on.
How to Find One
Some hospital facilities contain lactation centers that will send a specialist to your room to work with you before you are discharged and provide service for up to 10 days after Baby’s birth, according to International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). You can also seek a referral from your obstetrician, pediatrician or a breast-feeding support organization such as La Leche League. Also, The ILCA has a directory of certified consultants at ilca.org.
What’s The Cost?
Lactation consultants are trained healthcare specialists, so don’t expect a bargain. Fees can range greatly according to your location and your consultant’s experience, among other variables. Check with your insurance provider as it may cover some lactation services under obstetric or first year pediatric care.
The good news is a lactation consultant can usually target your problem and quickly get you on the right track. Within just a few visits, you and your baby can be nursing like champions.
Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer.