It’s an activity as ancient as humanity itself, but breastfeeding can still take a little practice to master. Here are helpful tips to boost breastfeeding success for you and your baby.
It’s a rare mom-baby duo that masters breastfeeding right away without a single snag. For most new moms and babies, learning the nursing tango involves a few missteps and a lot of practice.
Here’s how to sidestep some of the more common breastfeeding problems.
Difficulty Latching On
You’ll know your baby is having trouble latching on if your nipples feel sore and your baby always seems hungry without gaining weight.
To avoid: It’s all about positioning. Make sure your baby’s head and body are aligned, rather than at an angle to each other. With your free hand, support the feeding breast and stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple to stimulate the feeding reflex. When he opens his mouth wide, gently bring his head to the breast, so he gets as much areola into the mouth as possible.
If you feel pain after the first minute of suckling, it’s a red flag that your baby isn’t properly latched on. Break the suction by inserting a pinkie into the side of his sucking mouth, and try again. Keep trying and your baby will get the knack.
Sore, Tender Nipples
There can be a little pain involved due to physical changes behind breast milk production, infant suckling, and exposure to dry air.
To avoid: It’s smart to break the suction by inserting a pinkie into the side of his sucking mouth or allow him to release first. Using cotton bras and breast pads will help you avoid trapping moisture. To help soothe nipple pain, apply breast milk or purified medical-grade lanolin ointment.
Low Milk Supplies
If you feel like you’re not producing enough milk or that your baby’s not gaining enough weight, your breastfeeding days aren’t necessarily numbered. Get help from a lactation specialist, nurse, or family physician to solve problems, and know that milk supply can fluctuate during the first three weeks.
To avoid: It’s best to feed your baby on demand, and often, to help amp up your milk supply. Other tips: Make sure your newborn is latched on properly, and wait until you’ve established a good milk supply to supplement.
Felt as tenderness, redness, or heat in one area of the breast, a plugged duct may also appear as a small lump or show a white dot on the duct itself.
To avoid: Try not to skip feedings. Check that your bra isn’t too tight and pressing on your nipples.
When the symptoms of a clogged duct are accompanied by all-over achiness and fever, you may have an infection, or mastitis. Tell your doctor so you can be properly treated.
To avoid: It’s smart to take care of plugged ducts, engorgement, and other breast woes quickly so they don’t worsen. You can talk to a lactation consultant or peer counselor if you’re struggling with any aspect of breastfeeding. Also try to get help with household chores and baby care from your partner, relatives, or friends so that you can sleep and eat properly—a run-down new mom is at higher risk of mastitis.
This common yeast infection thrives where it’s moist and warm—like a lactating nipple and a hungry mouth. Your baby may have white patches or redness in the mouth, or diaper rash. Your nipples may turn deep pink and be tender all through and after feeding.
To avoid: Thrush is hard to prevent and usually requires treatment (for both of you) with anti-fungal medication. Keeping your nipples dry can help stem the back-and-forth spread.