by Sanaz Majd, MD
Did you know that before the 1930’s, all babies were exclusively breastfed? That was when infant formula was invented, which truly changed baby nutrition and the work/home/life situations for parents. But since then, numerous studies have compared breast feeding with formula feeding, and it’s been shown time and time again that nothing compares to the real thing. By breastfeeding your child at least for the first 6 months of life, you are providing them with more than just nutrients – you give them the best possible start.
However, breastfeeding isn’t easy or possible for everyone. In fact, there’s a host of problems commonly associated with breastfeeding. Today, I will address these issues and provide 6 tips on how we can overcome them.
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Tip #1 - When Should You Start Breastfeeding?
You should start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth. In fact, as long as your baby is born healthy, some hospitals will hand the baby over to the mom to breastfeed in the birth room. The milk that is released in the first few days is called “colostrum,” which is thicker and smaller in quantity. It clears away meconium, otherwise known as the baby poop in the womb, and helps prevent jaundice. The more you breastfeed, the more milk is produced – it’s all about supply and demand. This is an important time to not give up and continue to attempt breastfeeding. The baby will need to be fed about every 2 hours for at least the first month of life.
Tip #2 - What if the Baby Doesn’t Latch On?
Latching on can be tricky at first, but easy once you get the hang of it. Try this: sit back in a comfortable position and hold the baby with one arm. With your other index finger gently tickle the baby’s chin/lower lip to open. Once it’s open wide, push the breast in (using your hand on the breast in a “C” shaped position away from the areola, the darkened area surrounding the nipple) and make sure the baby’s mouth is covering as much of the areola as possible.
Tip #3 - How Can You Prevent and Treat Breast Engorgement?
Breast engorgement is most common in the first week after delivery. If the baby does not adequately remove milk, breasts may feel hard, painful, and hot.
You can prevent it by frequent breastfeeds to remove the milk, or by using a breast pump. There are even some inexpensive manual breast pumps you can use for this purpose if you don’t want to invest in an expensive electric one. If you don’t have a breast pump, you can self-express the milk on your own when you feel the engorgement. Most newborns need to feed somewhere between 8 to 12 times every 24 hour period. If you are experiencing engorgement while trying to wean off breastfeeding, weaning more gradually will minimize these symptoms.
As for treating engorgement once it’s already occurred, apply a hot, moist compress to your breast for 5 minutes, or try taking a hot shower before nursing. If engorgement is severe, try the opposite – apply a cold compress instead both before and after nursing to minimize the pain and swelling.
Tip #4 - How to Manage Sore Nipples
This is quite common in the first few days after delivery, but does resolve soon after for most women. But sore nipples can occur at other times as well, and is often due to improper positioning. If Tip #2 regarding the proper latch is not working, see if your insurance plan has a referral system in place for a lactation nurse to review proper positioning with you and your baby.
To prevent soreness, try breastfeeding frequently to avoid rigorous nursing by your hungry baby. Offer the least sore breast first. In addition, attempt to release the suction before taking the baby off the breast. This is accomplished by placing a clean finger through the side of your baby’s mouth between the jaws. Once you feel the suction break, then you can remove your cute munchkin from the breast. Only use water for washing the nipple, and no other chemicals or soaps. Try to let the nipples air out as much as you can.
Tip #5 - How do You Know if Your Baby is Getting Enough?
First of all, let your baby guide you – they are good at that. Once they are full, they stop. Don’t try to overfeed. Offer one breast at a feeding and if the baby wants more soon after the same feeding, offer that same breast. Then rotate for the next feed.
Also, you’ll know if your baby s getting enough if there are 6-8 wet diapers and multiple bowel movements per 24 hours. Keep a chart of baby’s feedings, amount of time per breast, the number of wet, and poopy diapers a day. Take this with you to your baby’s next doctor visit. Your baby’s family doctor or pediatrician will also be weighing and graphing your baby’s growth, which is also another good measure of sufficient nutrition.
Tip #6 - When Should You See Your Doctor?
Breastfeeding is super important for your baby’s immune system and health. So if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please make sure to see your doctor as soon as possible:
any difficulty in spite of following the above tips
severe breast pain
And remember that many insurance plans have lactation nurse coverage – ask your doctor for a referral.
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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.