We all hear that breast is best and, indeed, it has many health benefits for our newborns. But it’s not always easy for many new moms despite our best efforts. I cried tears of frustration as I desperately tried to get my son to latch. To make matters worse, I wasn’t a very good milk producer. How could something that should be so natural, so innate be so damn hard? I felt like giving up and I know I was not alone.
Breastfeeding can be the source of great joy as you bond with your baby and unexpected sadness when it ends up being more difficult than you ever imagined. To help moms, we talked to top experts, including lactation consultants, a registered nurse, and an OB/GYN, who offered advice on how you can overcome the most common breastfeeding hurdles.
Hurdle #1 MY BREASTS ARE ENGORGED & FEEL LIKE THEY’RE GOING TO BURST!
Here’s Help: “Cool temperature and pressure will alleviate the pain and engorgement, along with acetaminophen or ibuprofen,” says OB/GYN Dr. Liz Lyster. “Here’s an old wives tale that actually works: take a green cabbage cold from the fridge and tuck one or two of the leaves inside a tight bra or sports top – relief will be yours very quickly! Then if you want to keep nursing, get back as soon as you can to applying heat (feels good in a hot shower) and nursing or pumping.”
Hurdle #2 MY BABY WON’T LATCH ON
Here’s Help: “For proper latch-on, the baby’s chin should anchor on the breast about 1 inch from the nipple,” advises Gina Ciagne, certified lactation counselor and a senior director at Lansinoh Laboratories. “And then the top lip should pop over the nipple. When a baby is sucking efficiently you will see the temples and jaw moving and hear a gentle exhale (“kuh”) after every couple of sucks.”
Hurdle #3 MY NIPPLES ARE SO SORE & CRACKED, IT HURTS TOO MUCH TO BREASTFEED
Here’s Help: “NOBODY warned me this would be the most pain I remember from when my first son was born,” shares Dr. Lyster, a hormone expert. “A thick lanolin-containing ointment will feel really good and seal up those cracks. Apply the ointment right after nursing to give it the most time to soak into that poor sore nipple surface. Also, a little acetaminophen before nursing won’t hurt the baby, especially if it helps you hang in there until those nipples toughen up.”
Hurdle #4 MY BABY SLEEPS THROUGH FEEDINGS. SHOULD I BE WAKING HIM?
Here’s Help: “If an infant is under 4 weeks, the answer is yes,” says registered nurse Deedra Franke, who is the certified lactation consultant for Baltimore’s Mercy Hospital. “If the baby is older than 4 weeks and has been gaining weight well, developing well, as per your baby’s health practitioner visits, then you don’t need to wake baby. A baby under 10 weeks needs to feed 8-12 times in 24 hours.”
Hurdle #5 I’M NOT PRODUCING ENOUGH MILK
Here’s Help: “Heat and stimulation are what get the milk production going,” advises Dr. Lyster. “So, warm moist washcloths, hot showers, pumping — especially if you think your baby is not really emptying your breasts when you nurse. In other countries, nursing mothers are given darker ale-types of beer to help increase milk production! Also, some herbal remedies are said to help boost milk production, such as fenugreek or raspberry leaf. Watch out though for upsetting baby’s tummy with these.”
Hurdle #6 I HAVE TO WORK & CAN’T BE HOME TO BREASTFEED
Here’s Help: “Breast milk production works on supply and demand, which means if you are apart from your baby for a prolonged period, you need to pump to keep up your supply,” says Ciagne. “You will also need expressed breast milk for the baby when you are not together. It is important not to skip the stimulation your body needs from nursing sessions so you need to pump as often as you would breastfeed.” That means, if baby is nursing every two hours, you need to pump every two hours so your body continues to produce breast milk at that time, she urges. “It is ideal to pump until your breasts are softened and the milk streams slowly, meaning you have removed as much milk as possible during the session,” she adds. “If you are unable to get a full pumping session in, don’t skip it, but rather try to pump just a little bit so your body knows to continue making milk.” Ciagne also suggests talking to your boss about your breast pumping needs before you head back to work. The new Health Care Laws enacted in 2012 include specific breast milk pumping provisions, which mandate that employers provide the time and place where breastfeeding and pumping moms can express their milk–and someplace other than a bathroom!
Hurdle #7 MY FRIENDS/FAMILY/NEIGHBORS/HUSBAND ARE DISCOURAGING ME AGAINST BREASTFEEDING
Here’s Help: “Discouraging statements from family or friends can serve as opportunities to provide information about breast milk which they may not be aware of,” says Sharen Medrano, a Board Certified Lactation Consultant in New York City. “Inform them of the antibodies, white blood cells and other amazing properties in breast milk which keep your baby healthier and lower the risks of obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and a myriad of other diseases later in life. It also helps to lower your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.” Another perk? “Breastfeeding saves families money, since your body produces it,” she says. “You are likely to have a few breastfeeding cheerleaders by your side after addressing these points.”
Hurdle #8 I HAVE SEVERE PAIN IN ONE OF MY BREASTS
Here’s Help: “If over-the-counter pain medication, applying heat and continuing to nurse or pump relieve the pain, then you probably won’t need a doctor,” says Dr. Lyster. “If you have fever or continued pain, however, it’s probably best to let a doctor check you out.”
Hurdle #9 MY BABY WANTS TO NURSE ROUND-THE-CLOCK & I’M GETTING NO SLEEP – I CAN’T FUNCTION
Here’s Help: “Babies feed often and need to feed around the clock for brain development, to keep up your milk supply and to avoid too deep a sleep and to avoid overfeeding,” explains International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor. “New parents, particularly moms, really should nap at least once a day and let the dust accumulate in corners and let e-mails go unread for a few weeks or months.” Another strategy she offers: Go to bed early a couple of nights a week and learn to nurse lying down with your baby next to you. “This is a great way to get rest and feed your baby,” adds O’Connor. “If you are a healthy, breastfeeding , non-smoking, non-drug using mom it is NOT dangerous to sleep with your baby on a safe surface – never a couch.”
Hurdle #10 MY NECK & SHOULDERS ARE KILLING ME
Here’s Help: “The best nursing position for a mother is the one that allows her to feel most comfortable, even if it’s not one she has seen a book,” advises Medrano, who runs a breastfeeding support group at NYC’s Yummy Mummy boutique. “A great nursing position is one where the mother leans back and brings the baby to her. Dr. Suzanne Colson has done extensive research on how mothers feel more comfortable and babies nurse better in the laid back position since it brings out a baby’s natural feeding instincts.
Hurdle #11 I CAN’T TELL IF MY BABY IS ACTUALLY EATING/GETTING ENOUGH
“Is she peeing and pooing?” asks O’Connor, author atwww.mamamilkandme.com
. “Is she gaining weight after the first few days? There is no problem if she is gaining well and she nurses to sleep. But if she is lethargic you may have to stimulate her and make sure she is taking in the right amount of milk.”
Hurdle #12 I AM AFRAID TO BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC
Here’s Help: You are not alone. That is actually the most common breastfeeding concern. “One of the great advantages of breastfeeding is that a mother always carries milk at a perfect temperature and so it actually frees her up from feeling that she needs to be home to feed,” says Medrano. “These days there are tons of breastfeeding apparel, nursing covers and carriers, which make it easier for a mother to nurse in public. With a little practice, in front of a mirror at home, mothers can realize how easy it can be.” Don’t forget: It’ also your right to nurse whenever and wherever your newborn needs to. Adds Ciagne, “You are responding to your baby by providing her tailor-made nourishment, and there are laws protecting your right to do so in a public place.”