Rules and regulations have no place in the mother-baby relationship. Each mother and baby dyad is different and what works well for one mother and baby may not work well for another mother and baby. The important thing to do is to look at the mother and baby as individuals.”– Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC in The Mother-Baby Dance After breastfeeding all four of my children as long as 4 years so far, I've developed quite a relationship with breastfeeding. I've weaned too early, worried about making enough milk, tandem fed twins, had clogged ducts, mastitis, and nursed all night long, and all day. I *love* to talk with other moms about their problems and success with breastfeeding. I've heard lots of stories over the years and I've found that many of the same questions come up over and over. Here are some of the most common breastfeeding concerns addressed.
One of the first worries moms have is whether their babies are getting enough milk or even milk at all. For a first time mom it's not always obvious if milk has come in and hospital staff can be quick to offer some "just in case" formula. Problems with milk coming in is rare but an easy way to check is simply by monitoring wet diapers. What goes in must come out! Nursing babies should have around six wet diapers in twenty-four hours. Milk should have replaced colostrum by five days postpartum.
Something that many people don't realize is that yes, babies nurse all the time. Ever heard the health benefits of eating small, nutrient dense, and frequent meals? Well babies know how to stay healthy! Fussing to nurse often means your baby knows what he needs: food and comfort. Growth spurts can also add to already frequent nursing, don't worry, it won't last forever!
Along the same lines, throw all the schedules out the window. The bodies of mother and baby are made to function naturally. If babies are fed when they show hunger cues they will be physically and mentally healthier. This also prevents many breastfeeding issues for mom. Moms body will automatically make the right amount of milk when feeding on demand. This means less risk of clogged ducts or mastitis and less worrying about making enough.
Letting babies eat when they are hungry does not spoil them, in fact it teaches them to eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. They won't over eat in fear of having to wait, instead they will associate nursing with comfort and trust. How does mom get sleep?- Sleep is different for every family but there is something to be said about the fact that traditionally and still in many cultures babies and children co-sleep with their parents. It seems that like breastfeeding, our bodies were designed for co-sleeping. Moms and babies get better sleep when they don't have to get up to nurse. Sleeping with baby has many other uses besides helping mom sleep better though. It prevents SIDS, keeps moms cycle from coming back, and night time milk even contains amino acids that aid in sleep for baby.
When babies are around two months old, moms breasts start to stabilize production. They don't feel as full, and many moms start to worry that they aren't making enough milk and turn to supplemental formula. Supplementing can become a vicious circle though. The more formula is used the less the baby nurses and as result less breast milk is made. The same can be said about introducing cereals at a young age. Even though many doctors recommended cereal at 3-4 months there is much evidence that it is hard to digest and unhealthy for babies. And of course, it lowers the amount of breast milk ingested and made by mom. Six to twelve months, or when baby shows signs of interest in food is a much better time to introduce solids.
Sometimes cereals or medications are recommended for babies who spit up. While there are instances when medications can help, most of the time babies just need time to adjust their brand new bodies and spitting up is a natural part of that. I am a firm believer that cereals only complicate things.
Nursing in public or NIP as it is fondly shortened, is something that may take practice and time to get used to but there are many tips and tricks to make it easier without having to hide while nursing. One easy way to breastfeed discreetly is by babywearing. Many moms can nurse while wearing their baby without anyone even realizing. Some moms like to use nursing blankets but babies tend to dislike having something over them while eating. Wearing nursing friendly clothing helps. Loose fitting shirts, scarves, and layers all work well.
Almost all moms experience some kind of soreness in their breasts or nipples while breastfeeding. This is always a source of questions because there are many things that can cause pain and make breastfeeding difficult. Engorgement, cracks, and general pain from incorrect latch are common in the first few weeks. All breast issues benefit from rest and ventilation. Wear loose fitting cloths, no bra, or breathable pads if needed.
Engorgement is when breasts are too full. It's sometimes necessary to pump to relief the pain but too much will result in more milk which worsens the problem. Engorgement usually will subside after a day or two of nursing on demand. For relief a cold compress may be used on the irritated breast and massage may help also. If milk is excessive and too fast for the baby it can be hand expressed before nursing until it slows down a bit.
When nipples are cracked from latch issues it can make it very difficult to nurse. Natural oils can help cracks stay moist and heal faster. If uncomfortable nursing continues and incorrect latch is suspect a lactation consultant or local La Leche League members can often help things clear up quickly. Once a good latch is established there should be no pain from normal breastfeeding.
Anyone who has experienced thrush in their breasts knows it is a whole different kind of pain. It is described as a burning or shooting pain through the ducts. It makes nursing horribly uncomfortable. Thrush can be treated with natural or conventional antibiotics. Either way a good probiotic is recommended. If nipples are cracked and sore, coconut oil topically is very soothing and antibacterial.
Duct issues have a similar feel to engorgement. A plugged duct occurs when the milk duct is blocked with dried milk and it is backing up inside the duct. Plugs can occur from not nursing enough, stress, or from restricting bras and shirts. They feel like a hard lump, can be very sore, and can sometimes cause low-grade fever. Plugged ducts can be treated with massage, compresses, and most important, lots of nursing. It's crucial for the baby to nurse on the affected duct. To do this, position the baby so that the chin is pointed to the sore spot the breast.
If a clogged duct is not properly treated it can become infected and is then called mastitis. Mastitis is much more serious and seeing a health practitioner can be necessary. It includes fever, aches, and pain. Mastitis can also be caused when infection enters cracked nipples or even from too much stress on the mother. Like plugged ducts, mastitis requires rest and lots of nursing. The infection can be treated naturally but if it doesn't improve after about two days you may need to see a doctor.
Something often questioned with older babies is self-weaning. When babies get old enough to start moving and exploring they often become less interested in nursing. Many moms take this as a sign that baby is ready to wean when actually they need to nurse just as much as ever. At this age babies have a natural curiousity that compels them to keep moving. During this time babies will nurse more at night or nurse longer sessions to make up for nursing less often. Patient mamas will see that like many things this is but a phase that will pass quickly and nursing will pick back up to its normal level. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two and many children will happily continue until around four years old.
Are there any other burning nursing questions you have or problems you hear frequently from other moms? Let us know here or chat with us on Instagram, @Boba.
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