nursing tips for new moms
While some pregnancy books paint a perfect picture of breastfeeding, the reality of feeding for new moms isn’t always as rosy. From infections and sore nipples to feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, many women underestimate the physical and emotional toll breastfeeding can take.
Contributed by Jessica Remitz
Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to help you overcome roadblocks commonly encountered during your first few weeks breastfeeding.
Though it may feel like you’re the only one having difficulty, know that you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than one-half of American women leave the hospital with the intention of breastfeeding, while only 21 percent of them are still doing it six months later. The most common problem preventing moms from continuing to breastfeed is an improper latch.
To achieve the proper latch, hold your baby close to you (tummy to tummy) and high enough so that their mouth is lined up with your nipple. Tickle their lips with your nipple until their mouth opens wide, then pull them close, directing your nipple into the center of their mouth. Make sure they take in the entire nipple and about one inch of your areola.
Emotional challenges can be just as difficult as a physical issue — if not more powerful — in influencing a new mom’s decision to give up breastfeeding. It’s common for newborns to want to stay attached 24 hours a day, leaving moms fatigued and worried about their milk supply. In other cases, your baby may show no interest in feeding, leaving you feeling inadequate or like a failure. Many moms are on their own within days of giving birth with little or no support, which can make difficulties seem more formidable when you’re alone — especially for a first-time mom.
The first thing to do is recognize that it’s entirely normal to feel overwhelmed by breastfeeding problems, especially as you recover from childbirth and focus on getting to know your baby. Before throwing in the towel on even the smallest breastfeeding challenge, try discussing your issues with a lactation consultant. One of the most important things you can do is ask for help. A lactation consultant might help by demonstrating how a simple adjustment can help prevent or relieve sore nipples, explaining how chilled cabbage leaves can relieve engorgement or giving tips on how to help speed recovery from a breast infection.
If exhaustion is your main issue, try sleeping whenever the baby sleeps. Learn how to breastfeed while lying down so you can get the rest needed to establish your milk supply and sleep within easy reach of your baby so you can avoid pacing up and down the hall at night. Be sure to ask for help with meals, errands and household chores for the first few weeks too, if you can. Your parents, partner or friends could fill the role or, if you need more help, consider a doula.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything, try to readjust your expectations of how the first few months at home with your baby will be. Moms-to-be who are accustomed to a certain schedule during their pregnancy are bound to be thrown off by inconsistent nursing patterns, but keep in mind that the payoff will be well worth the effort.