How To Overcome Problems With Breast Feeding

A new mother and her baby can successfully overcome any breastfeeding problem that may arise with these tips.

The best gift that a mother can give to her newborn child is breastmilk. Perfectly formulated for the baby and full of wonderful antibodies, breastfeeding is far superior to bottle feeding with formula. However, some new mothers may find that breastfeeding does not come naturally, and many factors may encourage her to give up. Society is certainly quick to support a mother in her decision to bottle feed, but a mother is hard-pressed to find support when she is having problems breastfeeding.

With determination, practice, time and most importantly, patience, a new mother and her baby can successfully overcome any breastfeeding problem that may arise.

Perhaps the most daunting fear a new mother will have is that she will not be able to produce enough milk to sustain her baby. This doubt will especially come into play just after the baby is born, when the breasts' fluid seems to be very thin and watery. This substance is called colostrum and it is very beneficial indeed to a newborn. Imagine it as sugar water to give a baby back the energy he just spent going through labor. Colostrum is more than enough to satisfy a newborn's needs and it is very sweet. Even though a baby will naturally attempt to breastfeed, the sweet taste of colostrum will further encourage a baby to turn to the breast. Usually a mother's milk will come in completely two to three days after birth, but it may take as long as five days. This period of time is designed perfectly to allow mother and baby to practice and adjust to breastfeeding. Drinking plenty of water will also ensure that mother has more than enough milk for her baby.

Once a mother's milk comes in, it does so with a flourish. Suddenly a new mother's breasts are engorged with milk, which may cause her pain and make it hard for baby to latch on. The best way to relieve engorgement is to nurse as frequently as possible. It may be necessary to express milk in between feedings in order to keep engorgement at a minimum. There are many fine electric and hand pumps available in retail department stores and online, or a mother can hand express her milk. This is done by gently massaging the breasts, moving from the top down towards the nipple and repeating. Expressed milk, whether by hand or by pump, can be refrigerated or frozen. Another way to relieve engorgement is to use heat. Baths, showers, and warm washcloths placed over the nipples will stimulate the breasts' letdown response and encourage milk to flow on its own.

Whether or not a breast is engorged, a baby may have trouble latching on. Breastfeeding does come naturally to all babies but they are not born knowing how to do it perfectly. An engorged breast will be hard and may flatten the nipple so that baby has nothing to latch on to. Using methods to relieve engorgement will soften a mother's breast and allow the nipple to protrude. Still, flat nipples may be a problem. Wearing nipple shields for half an hour before feeding time will ensure that a mother's nipple is protruding enough for baby to suckle. If the breast still seems too full, slightly compressing the end of the breast in a "C" clamp maneuver will allow baby to latch on. To perform this maneuver the mother forms her hand into the shape of a "C", then squeezes the end of her breast lightly and presents the nipple to the baby.

Proper latch-on is very important in order to encourage letdown and avoid possible pain. Loud, clicking noises while a baby is suckling is a sure sign that he is not latched on correctly and that there is an air break in the seal his mouth has formed around the nipple. Check to make sure that baby's lips are pursed outward as if in an exaggerated kiss, and his mouth is formed in an "O". If not, use a finger or a thumb to gently pull baby's lips into the correct position. Break baby's latch and try again if necessary. A mother can help her baby practice suckling in between nursings. The pad of her pinkie finger will fit perfectly into the roof of baby's mouth and she can gently push down onto his tongue to encourage him to latch on tighter and make a better seal. Make sure that the finger is freshly cleaned and that the nail is very closely trimmed.

Perhaps the next biggest milestone in breastfeeding is finding a position that works best and is comfortable for both mother and baby. For new mothers, or those with large breasts, the "football hold" is much easier to start with than the classic "cross hold". To do this, a mother would place a pillow alongside her and lay the baby on it, underneath of her arm as if she were holding a football. The baby's head is then directly in front of the nipple and mother can easily see her baby's nose and mouth. A pillow placed across mother's lap may help support baby's head, as will a footstool for mother to place her feet on so that her knees are raised. Special nursing pillows, in the shape of a "C" or a "U" are perfect for this, as they wrap around a mother's back, side, and front all at once. The mother should be sitting up as straight as possible, using arms and pillows to bring the baby to the breast rather than slouching to bring the breast to the baby. Once this easier position is familiar to both mother and baby, more difficult positions and even nursing while laying down become much simpler to master. Mothers who have given birth via Cesarean often find the football hold is perfect, as it puts little or no pressure onto their abdomen while nursing. However, a mother should always experiment to find what is most comfortable.

The most effective way to adjust to nursing is to feed as frequently as possible. A good schedule for a newborn is to start feeding every two hours. Therefore, if a baby started feeding at 2:00, the next feeding would start at 4:00, no matter how long it took baby to finish the first feeding. Most newborns will nurse for fifteen minutes, but some are speed nursers and only nurse actively for five minutes. Others go more slowly and will nurse for close to an hour. Each baby is different and there is no set rule as to what is a "normal" feeding for a baby. Let baby set the pace and go with the flow. Frequent nursings have other benefits as well. The more often a mother allows her baby to nurse, the less likely she is to become engorged. It also gives both mother and baby plenty of practice to get the hang of things. Frequent breastfeeding will also reduce a mother's tummy at a faster rate, as the uterus contracts with the stimulation of nursing and returns to its normal size more quickly. Breastmilk is produced on a supply and demand basis, so a mother that nurses more often will be signaling her breasts to keep producing milk. Long periods in between nursings will reduce the demand, and therefore the supply.

Adjusting to a new baby and attempting to master breastfeeding can be a significant source of stress. A mother should take whatever steps necessary to ensure that she is as relaxed as possible while nursing. Pay special attention to shoulder muscles, as these tense up and signal that mother needs to relax. A quiet, private room with no interruptions or other family members is almost essential in the first few days while trying to breastfeed. While family members mean well, they will often make a mother feel pressured to perform or make her self-conscious. Those who are unfamiliar with breastfeeding will also put doubts into a new mother's mind, questioning if she is "doing it" correctly, if baby is "getting anything", and sometimes suggesting that a mother supplement her baby's nursings with formula. These doubts and wayward suggestions can cause more problems than any of the others discussed here. A new mother and baby need a quiet place to relax and focus on each other with no distractions or onlookers, and a mother should never supplement her baby's nursings with formula. Doing so would impact the supply and demand essential for breastmilk production. If feeding time comes during an outing, a mother may immediately tense up since she is not in the privacy of her home. Slipping into a bathroom stall or even going out to the car to feed will give a mother both security and privacy while allowing her to relax and focus on the task at hand.

Above all, a new mother needs patience and plenty of rest. Being tired brings on frustration more easily. A mother who naps when her baby is napping will be more rested, less cranky, and more able to deal with any problems she and baby need to work on. A baby will react to a mother's cues, so a calm and relaxed mother will encourage a calm and relaxed baby. On the other hand, a mother who is tense, cranky, and frustrated will have a fussy, cranky baby. Rest and patience are essential.

A new mother should take whatever steps necessary to surround herself with positive messages and support, and completely eliminate anything negative or stressful. Help is but a phone call away; the worldwide La Leche League is made up of volunteers who will answer a mother's call any time of day or night and help her with whatever support she might need. This organization can also be found online, as can many wonderful resources on breastfeeding and message boards dedicated solely to new mothers. It may be a challenge, but with determination to give a baby the best food possible and the patience to trust in her body and keep trying, a new mother can successfully master the art of breastfeeding and develop a special bond with her child that no bottle could ever provide.

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