Written by Mary Helen Berg
Sometimes the natural way of feeding your baby doesn’t come naturally at all. New mothers are surprised to find that their body, or their baby, don’t necessarily cooperate making nursing more difficult to master. Not all babies adapt easily to nursing but with patience and persistence, you and your new baby new can learn about nursing together. Here are some tips:
Find a comfortable, serene place. The room doesn’t need to be silent as the baby must become accustomed to the sounds around the house. However, the early days of nursing should take place in a spot where the mother can relax. Try lying in bed so you can rest while the baby nurses. If you sit in a chair, use a pillow to prop the arm where the baby will rest. Take deep breaths. Drink a cup of chamomile tea. Sometimes stress can inhibit milk flow and relaxing can help your milk let down.
Position the baby so her entire body faces your body and the baby’s head rests in the crook of your arm near your breast. If the baby is lying on your lap face up and needs to turn her head to nurse, she may not be able to latch on correctly. If you hold her head in your hand instead of letting it rest on your arm, she may react to the pressure of your hand and push her head back, instead of relaxing toward the breast.
Lift the breast and hold it toward the baby’s mouth to help her latch on. She will likely “root” around until she lands on the nipple. Make sure the baby takes the whole areola in her mouth. If she catches just the nipple, it will be painful for you and difficult for her to nurse. If a pinching pain occurs when she begins to suckle, don’t yank her off the breast. This can make the pain much worse. Take your pinky finger and put it in the corner of her mouth to break the suction. Back her off the breast and try to reposition her onto the nipple. If she is in the correct position, there should be no pain.
After about 5 minutes, switch the baby to the other breast. Nursing from both breasts will encourage milk supply and help avoid engorgement and clogged milk ducts. As your baby becomes more comfortable, and your breasts become less sensitive, you can leave the baby longer on each breast.
Some new mothers may experience cracked or bleeding nipples in the first few weeks of nursing. This usually occurs because the baby is not positioned correctly while nursing or has trouble latching on. To soothe cracked nipples, try these simple, inexpensive remedies: apply warm tea bags or compresses before and after nursing; smooth lanolin over the sore area; take a mild pain reliever about a half hour before nursing to ease the pain; change breast pads often to keep nipples dry. If problems with pain or bleeding persist, consult your doctor or lactation consultant.
Drink Plenty of Liquids
Nursing mothers need to stay hydrated and should drink more water than they normally would. Taking in as much fluid as you can during the day helps to promote a good supply of milk.
Pump to Produce More Milk
Use a breast pump for 5-10 minutes after your baby is finished feeding. This additional stimulation helps train your body to produce more milk.
Herbs and Breastfeeding
First-time mothers often worry about whether they are producing enough milk and whether their baby is getting enough to eat. Herbal supplements, used by mothers in many cultures for centuries, can help boost your milk supply. The suggested dosage for each herb differs according to your needs. You may need to increase your dosage when breastfeeding begins to help launch your milk production. Then, as nursing and milk supply are established, you can gradually decrease your dosage.
ALWAYS consult a medical professional who is familiar with using herbs and alternative medicines. Strong adverse side effects for mothers or infants are unusual, but directions and proper dosage must be followed. Fenugreek, alfalfa or milk thistle can cause loose stools. Fenugreek can also give you a maple syrup scent that you notice on your skin, and in your sweat and urine. Blessed thistle may cause stomach sensitivity and irritate the gastric system. If you have asthma, lupus or take any prescription medication, you should check with your doctor regarding contraindications.
Herbal supplements that impact milk production are formally known as galactagogues or lactagogue. The International Lactation Consultant Association publishes a table on its website (www.ilca.org) that lists the most common galactagogues, suggested dosage and potential side effects.
Warm herbal tea such as Chamomile tea is said to have a calming effect while red raspberry tea stimulates milk production. Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, and aniseed can boost milk supply.
Herbs to Avoid
Sage is said to suppress milk supply and is sometimes used when a baby is ready to wean. Thyme, parsley, peppermint, and spearmint may decrease milk supply.
When to Call on a Lactation Consultant
Lactation specialists are trained health care professionals helping new mothers overcome the hurdles they encounter when first learning to nurse. The most highly trained are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) certified by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Your consultant will examine you and your baby to rule out obvious physical problems that may hinder breastfeeding. Next, she will talk to you about how to position your body, how to hold your baby, and how to place him on the breast and help him latch on. Then, she will ask you to nurse while she observes your process. She can advise you on how long to nurse and how often. She will support you by confirming what works, coach you on alternative approaches, and may provide a written plan for you to follow when she leaves.
How to Find One
Some hospitals have lactation centers that will work with you and your baby before you are discharged and provide service for up to 10 days after the birth. Ask your obstetrician, pediatrician, or contact your local La Leche League for referrals. Also, The International Lactation Consultant Association lists certified consultants at www.ilca.org.
What’s the Cost?
Lactation consultants are trained healthcare specialists, and costs are based on your location, the consultant’s experience, etc. Check with your insurance provider, as some lactation services under covered under obstetric or first-year pediatric care.
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