The very best breast-feeding advice I ever got was exactly what I didn’t want to hear:
1. Your nipples have never experienced the power of a newborn’s suction.
2. There is usually improper technique in the first few nursings that bruise and cause the nipples to crack. Once you get the groove down, you still have to wait for your nipples to heal before you can feel relief.
I can’t help you with the first cause of pain, but the second can be completely avoided if you follow these steps.
When bringing your child to your breast, make sure that the bottom half of your areola enters your baby’s mouth first, followed by your nipple and as much of the top half of your areola as can fit. Try to aim your nipple to the back of the roof of your baby’s mouth. Your baby will be better able to activate your milk glands from this position and your nipples will be spared. What you are trying to avoid is having your child nibble on your nipple, which is very painful, completely unnecessary and inefficient for the extraction of milk. You will probably need to cup you breast in your hand as you offer it to your baby to achieve proper positioning. It can take several attempts to get it right which can be very frustrating for both of you. Try to remain calm, even though baby may be screaming. As the mother you are responsible for setting the tone and energy, so be determined and calm. It will work out.
The other common error rookie moms make is allowing the baby to unlatch before gently breaking the suction. The proper way to take the child off your breast is to gently insert your finger into the side of baby’s mouth to release the suction. Do this when you need to relatch for proper positioning and when you suspect your baby is about to unlatch on his own because he’s squirming and moving his head. Make sure your fingernails are unpolished, because you don’t want your manicure to chip away toxins directly into your child’s mouth. You will be washing your hands so often that any manicure would quickly be ruined anyway.
Breastfeeding has to work for both mother and child. The cumulative effect of absorbing unnecessary pain yourself will begin to wear on even the most devoted mother. Nursing needs to be a positive experience for both of you. Think of the safety instructions on an airplane. First you put on your own oxygen mask, then your child’s. Taking care of yourself by insisting on proper technique, sleeping whenever you can, eating healthful food often, drinking water constantly and being kind to yourself is really just another part of caring for your little one.
1. Apply wet heat to your breast before nursing or when you are feeling super-engorged. You can do this by taking a hot shower, applying hot washcloths or leaning over a bowl of hot water and allowing your breasts to soak.
2. Hand-express a bit of milk before nursing and use your hand to squeeze down the area around the areola so baby’s mouth can fit around your breast. Keep holding it down until your breast deflates a bit. This happens within a few minutes of nursing.
3. Resist the urge to use a mechanical breast pump because it will only encourage your body to make more milk. If you give your body a few days or a week, it will naturally adjust its production to match the needs of your baby. Pretty cool, huh?
Keeping baby awake for the entire feeding can be tricky during the sleepy newborn period. Undressing baby, fiddling with his feet and ticking him can help keep him alert enough to feed. Sometimes switching breasts every five minutes can help because the jostling prevents a nap. If you do this, however, make sure that baby comes back to each breast for the hind milk. A baby who got two drinks, but no meal will be hungrier sooner than a baby who has properly eaten. That being said, try not to drive yourself too crazy with the clock. If your baby is healthy and adequately gaining weight, obsessing over minutes can lead to useless stress. Feeding your child is a natural process and it usually doesn’t conform to rigid calculations.
By the way, after a few weeks baby won’t be so sleepy. This is just a temporary stage, but you want to establish good habits from the start. This way baby will get complete and perfect nutrition, and you will gain some personal freedom.
Even though is extremely stressful to hear baby cry, it is really best to have a stick-with-it attitude. You and baby will figure out breastfeeding together, right now. Don’t offer a pacifier or a bottle with the plan of nursing for the next feeding. You will only make it that much harder on yourself and baby. If you get too upset during an attempt at feeding, either have your partner hold the baby while you step outside for five minutes to compose yourself or use relaxation music to calm yourself.
In a few weeks, your nursing relationship will be well-established and you will look back at the early days and feel so happy that you stuck to your guns. If, at that point, you feel your baby needs a pacifier occasionally or you have to be separated during a feeding it is OK to use an artificial nipple.
On the other hand, sometimes nursing can be a frustrating experience. The precious time right after nursing, when baby is full of contentment and your milk, is golden. You have every right to claim it as your bonding time. Cuddle your baby and eat up his deliciousness. It is unfair if mommy only gets the baby when he’s upset and hungry. Nursing releases bonding hormones into your body. If you feel the strong desire to hold your baby, that is nature’s way of telling you to do just that. Don’t let go until you are ready.
This is La Leche League’s 24 Hour Breastfeeding Hotline 1-877-4-LALECHE
Try to line up a mentor mother you already know. This can be your own mother, your sister or a friend who has successfully nursed her own child. These people can offer invaluable advice and support at any time of the day or night.
There are also a number of lactation consultants available, so have a few recommendations from your birth practitioner or your child’s pediatrician ready before you go into labor. Lactation consultants vary in the quality of their advice, so a good recommendation is important.
Congratulations on bringing this new life into the world and thank you for taking such good care of it with your own, perfect nourishment.