Nature’s first food is best for your baby, but breastfeeding can be more difficult than you think at first
While you were pregnant, you had daydreams about the day when your baby would be here and how you’d provide him with the best nutrients possible—your milk. Perhaps you envisioned yourself stationed on a park bench, discreetly nursing your newborn with Mother Nature as the backdrop to the experience. Then cracked bleeding nipples and a screaming, hungry baby later, and you felt like a failure.
Here’s what no one may have told you: You’re normal. Speed bumps are part of the process, but we’ve got solutions to five of the most common hurdles.
1. Swollen, Sore, Hard Breasts
Your breasts are most likely engorged, which typically happens in the first two to five days after delivery. Engorgement can also happen if you skip nursing sessions or don’t fully drain your breast when pumping. The solution: Nurse (or pump) every two to three hours. Apply warm compresses before feeding to ease milk flow and use cold packs between nursing sessions for discomfort. You can also hand-express some milk while you’re taking a hot shower; be sure to breastfeed or pump immediately after your shower.
2. It Hurts
Some discomfort is normal when your baby first pulls your nipple into her mouth, especially in the first few weeks after giving birth. This usually dissipates after six weeks. Pain that lasts the entire time you’re feeding, however, is not normal, and it means your baby’s mouth is not latched onto your breast properly. The solution: When your baby’s mouth is wide and her tongue down, bring your baby to your breast with your nipple aimed toward her throat. Try to get as much breast tissue into her mouth as possible. If you’re still having trouble with your latch-on method, contact a lactation consultant.
3. You’re Leaking—a Lot
If you’re not emptying your breasts every two to three hours, they’ll become overly full and leak. Leaking can also be triggered by the sound of a baby (yours or someone else’s) crying. The solution: Nurse or pump on schedule and invest in absorbent breast pads to place inside your bra.
4. You Feel Like a Feeding Machine
Pumping or feeding every two to three hours can make you feel like a milk ATM. Throw in exhaustion from just giving birth, sleepless nights and out-of-whack hormones (not to mention a case of the baby blues), and it’s normal to feel trapped. The solution: Start pumping milk so your significant other or the Grandma can take over a feeding for you every once in a while. Sometimes just getting out of the house can work wonders, too, so grab your breastfeeding cover and you and baby Malik can head to the coffee shop on the corner.
5. Pumping at Work Is Difficult
Your boss resents your frequent pumping breaks or there’s no private place to pump. The solution: Tackle this problem before you go on maternity leave. If possible, let the human resources department know you’re planning to nurse and you’ll need a private place to pump with an electrical outlet. The Affordable Care Act says employers are required to provide nursing moms pumping breaks and a place to pump in private (that isn’t the bathroom) with an electrical outlet.
Since health-care providers are the public’s first line of defense against widening health disparities, and breastfeeding is one of the best early ways to combat many of these conditions, the National Medical Association has formed the Breastfeeding Alliance. This task force, supported by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, is designed to educate physicians about the importance of breastfeeding and encourage them to start the dialogue about the practice with new moms.