The best and most natural way to nourish a baby is through breastfeeding, but there are a few breastfeeding problems that may occur when a mother starts to breastfeed. It’s important to try to alleviate discomfort and correct any major issues before giving up and turning to formula feeding. There are many healthful infant formulas on the market, but none are as fresh and nutritious as mother’s own breast milk.
When starting to breastfeed for the first time, new mothers usually experience breast tenderness and, sometimes, pain. The skin of the nipple is very sensitive and contains several ducts for milk flow. When the baby latches correctly onto the breast, the nipple skin is actively sucked. This can lead to irritation and cracking. A helpful addition to breastfeeding is the use of natural lanolin applied to the nipple skin. Lanolin is very safe and is fine to apply before and after nursing. New mothers find that applying a little lanolin can help ease cracking and sore nipples. Some new mothers also find it beneficial to apply cooling gel pads onto their nipples between feedings. After a short time, the soreness goes away. It is important to let a brand new baby nurse long and often, so enduring the temporary soreness and skin changes is imperative.
Getting a perfect latch between the breast and baby’s mouth can also be difficult. There are many ideas to help make this part of breastfeeding easier. Positioning the baby correctly can be a solution to an incomplete latch. Using a pillow on the lap can help secure a baby’s head and alleviate back strain for the mother, which will improve the latch. Each baby is different and will prefer to lay or be held a certain way for nursing. Holding a baby in the “football hold” can help a baby latch better. This position involves holding the baby’s body to the mother's side and allowing him to latch to the nipple on the same side. The best position for nursing is the one that is most comfortable for mother and baby and effectively allows milk transfer for the duration of the breastfeeding session.
Some mothers use nipple shields, or formers, which can be helpful if the baby is born premature or has another physical characteristic that might make latching difficult. Nipple shields can cause problems, such as mastitis or plugged ducts, and may not allow enough milk to transfer to baby. They should be used with caution and only for a very short time. Weaning from a shield can be very difficult - even traumatic - for the baby.
Milk supply - either too little or too much - is a common issue with breastfeeding. Milk supply is greatly affected by the mother’s diet, work schedule, pumping, and nursing schedule. The key to keeping a good, healthy, abundant supply of milk in the breast is to nurse frequently. An empty breast signals the body’s hormones to fill the breast quickly for the next nursing session. Calorie intake for a nursing mother should be a bit more than normal. Most experts recommend increasing daily calories by 300 to 350. Nursing mothers should not try to diet or fast! The nutrients taken in by the mother directly affect the nutrients in her milk. Consuming healthy fats and proteins, rather than simple carbs and white sugars, is best for enriching breast milk.
Oversupply of milk can lead to uncomfortable breast engorgement. This problem can be lessened by having baby nurse from one side only during a feeding session, then switching to the next breast for the next session. This will slow the production after a while and will help the mother’s body regulate the supply for her baby’s exact needs.
Many parents read countless books and articles on breastfeeding to prepare for the experience. Some even consult a certified lactation consultant (which is especially a good idea if you are having severe problems with either milk production or failure to latch). A baby, however, enters the world with only instinct and hunger for nourishment. He or she must be trained, to some extent, to find the best way to get the nourishment he or she needs. By working together, it is possible for families to find solutions to any breastfeeding problem. All they need is a little patience, support from extended family and friends, and the willingness to attempt a little trial-and-error to find out what works. The effort is so worth it!