Many nursing mothers have been discouraged and even stopped nursing due to the pain caused by dry and cracked nipples. When nipples are in this condition, severe pain can result when an infant latches on to the breast to feed. This is relatively normal but not always mentioned by the doctor after the birth of a child.
The constant sucking of a nursing child and presence of digestive saliva can cause the breast to dry and crack. The best cream to apply is a natural lanolin. It can be found at any local pharmacy where baby bottles are sold. When the infant is done nursing, simply wipe the breast clean and dry and apply lanolin to the nipple area generously. Use nursing pads to protect clothing from lanolin. Next time the infant latches onto the breast to feed, the pain will be minimal to nonexistent. The lanolin will moisturize and heal the nipples.
During early days with your baby, when you're not trying to manage a work schedule, enjoy the floating quality of time. Nurse your baby whenever he or she is restless or fretful, without counting minutes or even really giving any thought to time.
Allow yourself to drift and daydream, letting those early days and nights wrap around you and your baby like a blanket. If the baby stays latched on for a long time, be creative with positioning so that you can read or half-nap yourself. Let your body ease into this new relationship without worrying over ounces or minutes, and you'll both enjoy the shared relaxation.
Your baby will associate eating with ease, and his or her digestion will benefit from this sense of well-being. Your ability to bond with your baby will be strengthened by finding personal coziness together.
Many new mothers are taken aback that something as natural as nursing a baby can be so complicated. Finding the correct position, getting the baby to open its mouth wide enough and making sure that the infant is eating enough are all important considerations for breastfeeding mothers. Most literature from breastfeeding organizations emphasize how natural, peaceful and calming breastfeeding can be. The truth is, breastfeeding can be a relaxing, precious time between mother and child. However, it takes time for the mother and child to find a rhythm, and in the interim, breastfeeding can be frustrating and, at times, painful.
Many new mothers are shocked by the pain of nursing. One major reason for this surprise is that medical literature implies that nursing should always be painless. Experts tell mothers that pain is a result of improper positioning or poor technique. The pain of latching on in the first few days is often referred to as "discomfort." Mothers often give up on nursing altogether because they believe that the pain means that they are constantly doing something wrong, and they do not know what to do differently.
Experienced lactation consultants realize that some women do experience extreme nipple soreness in the first week of nursing, despite correct positioning and technique. Often these women have very sensitive skin to begin with, and the suction of a baby nursing for hours can be quite painful. However, if these women persevere, the pain should lessen by the third or fourth day of nursing. Usually, by day seven or eight, the nipple has developed a callous, and pain is practically non-existent. If a lactation consultant assures a mother that she is nursing correctly and she is still in pain, she should realize that the tenderness is likely temporary. By sticking with it, she will likely soon be pain-free.
A lactation consultant can also help mothers identify other causes of pain. Thrush, a type of yeast infection, mastitis, clogged ducts and engorgement can also cause extreme pain for nursing mothers. Additionally, incorrect positioning can cause pain too. If a mother has pain while nursing, she should seek the advice of a lactation consultant to ensure that she's doing everything correctly.
Although pain can be a tip-off for nursing problems, nipple soreness does not automatically mean that something is wrong. Many experienced nursing mothers expect pain in the first few days and work through it using pain relievers, soothing creams and herbal remedies.
Every woman's body and every baby is slightly different. It is very rare for a woman to not produce enough milk, but each woman's storage capacity within each breast will be unique. Each baby will also have a unique eating speed. Some babies may eat slowly, and each nursing session may take 30-40 minutes. Other babies may eat quickly, or more frequently, and an entire nursing session may be completed in 5-10 minutes. As long as the baby is gaining weight and having dirty diapers regularly, all are fine.
Unfortunately, many women are told to feed the baby a set amount of time, such as 10 minutes on each breast. To understand why this may not work, you must understand breastmilk.
There are two main types of breastmilk: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk, the milk that will come out first when the baby latches on, is much more watery, and is great for quenching baby's thirst. Hindmilk has more fat and is much more opaque and white. A woman who has a large storage capacity in each breast may have much more foremilk in each breast as well. If she only lets the baby nurse ten minutes on each side, the baby may be getting mostly just foremilk. Since the milk is more watery, chances are the baby will get hungry quicker, gain weight more slowly, and have fewer bowel movements.
Rather than try to time the baby, the mother should allow the baby to nurse as long as he or she wants on one breast. When the baby lets go naturally, burp him, then offer the second breast. If the baby is still hungry, he will take it. If the baby does not take it, or does not nurse as long on that breast, then begin the next feeding session on the second breast, and keep alternating back and forth. As the mother becomes an experienced nurser, it will become more like second nature to begin breastfeeding on the fuller breast.
If you ever have reason to suspect that the baby is getting mostly foremilk due to symptoms such as
- greenish bowel movements
- slow weight gain PLUS very frequent eating (very frequent eating alone is not a symptom, it can indicate a growth spurt, a needy baby, and a host of other situations)
It may be worth trying block feeding. With block feeding, the mother will feed the baby from the same breast for an extended duration, such as 3-4 hours. This will help ensure that the baby is getting plenty of rich hindmilk.
When breastfeeding, many moms use the same hand and wrist positions every time they feed their baby. These positions are the most comfortable and natural, so it is normal for them to be used repeatedly. However, if used repeatedly, tendinitis may occur. Tendinitis is a painful condition which can take several months to heal. Healing the condition also requires limited movement of the hand and wrist, which can make continuing to breastfeed very challenging.
To prevent this, moms should switch their hand and wrist positions frequently when breastfeeding. Even the smallest tweaks can prevent the condition from occurring. Move the wrist slightly up or down. Put the fingers together instead of spreading them. The simple tweaks will help the mother use different tendons and muscles instead of always relying on the same ones.
Breastfeeding in public can be a little awkward at first. While you might feel self-conscious, the reality is that probably no one is paying attention or even knows that you’re feeding your precious baby. To ensure you feel comfortable and covered, take a few extra precautions. When you first start breastfeeding, practice at home in private. Make sure your baby can easily latch on before you nurse in public. Wear breastfeeding-friendly clothes. A button-down blouse or a v-neck t-shirt are helpful and provide easy access. Always have a baby blanket or nursing cover with you. In restaurants, try to sit in a booth or at a corner table to provide coverage for your back. Drape your blanket or cover over your shoulders, the baby, and your mid-drift. Your little one won’t mind the extra coverage and you will be able to feed your little one with confidence.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|