After two weeks of trying to nurse my son, I gave up, and pumped milk for the next two months, supplementing his formula. After that, he was on formula exclusively, which I hope to NEVER have to do again. All those bottles were such a pain, and I know that formula was not the best thing for my son and that was very hard.
Breastfeeding SupportThe most important thing I can tell new parents about breastfeeding a high needs baby, or any baby having difficulties nursing, is that it requires LOTS of support. If a new mommy is struggling, the last thing she wants to hear is that, "formula isn't so bad," or, "if it's easier, let's just give him a bottle..." She needs encouragement, sleep, meals cooked for her, sleep, foot rubs, sleep, and lots of love, not to mention sleep. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I told my husband, "No matter what happens, I am relying on you to help me nurse this baby. Don't let me use formula if it's easier. Do everything else that possibly needs to be done in the house so that I can work on my nursing relationship with our baby. I am depending on you to encourage me no matter how much I may want to quit." Luckily, it was much easier with my daughter, but I felt very comfortable that I would have the support I needed if we had problems. It still wasn't easy, but once the first four weeks or so went by, it got easier and easier, especially because she was sleeping so well and I was getting more rest.
Breastfeeding Is NOT Always EasyThat is the second thing I like to tell new mommies. It isn't always easy. With my son, I kept thinking I was doing it wrong, because the class I had taken made it seem natural, easy, and painless. I didn't learn until after I had weaned him that it CAN be painful, and usually is, to an extent. It is not excruciating, but it can be uncomfortable until your body gets used to having somebody sucking on it 8 hours a day!
If you do feel excruciating pain, there could be something wrong. There are a number of places to call or contact if you have problems. If it is during normal office hours you can try your midwife or doctor, or even your local La Leche League. They will be able to tell you what the problem might be, and remedies to fix it.
Blocked Ducts and Mastitis
EngorgementOne thing almost every nursing mom experiences is engorgement. This is where either the milk supply has finally come in, or baby has slept a long stretch and a feeding was skipped. Engorgement is characterized by hard, plump breasts that are somewhat painful. They can be relieved by taking a warm shower and hand expressing a little milk. Cabbage leaves also help. Try applying chilled cabbage leaves for 15 minutes, but be very aware that relying on this or using this technique too often will lead to diminished milk supply. You can also pump a little bit before the baby nurses. It is harder for the baby to latch on to an engorged breast. By following some of these steps, not only will you be more comfortable, your baby will not become frustrated and will be able to latch on like she normally would.
ThrushSomething I was terrified to get was thrush, which is a yeast infection. It is very difficult to get rid of and painful as well. It can be easily diagnosed by a phone consult, and your doctor or midwife can give you something to help it go away. Symptoms include cracked, swollen or red nipples and possibly itching, flaking, or a burning sensation of the nipples. The baby's mouth may have white patches on the tongue, cheeks, insides of the lips, or gums.
Cracked NipplesSomething that lots of breastfeeding moms suffer is cracked nipples. Breastfeeding properly will help prevent cracked nipples, but just one improper feeding can lead to an awful disaster. Once they are cracked, you have to pamper them in order for them to heal. The best thing to do is rub in some expressed milk after baby nurses, and let as much air to your breasts as possible. If you are wearing a button down shirt, leave it open. Wear cotton shirts or night clothes. Naked is best, especially once you realize that a shirt rubbing on cracked nipples can be excruciating. My solution to this was wearing my bra, but unhooking the shells so that they were open, but covering my nipples and protecting them from a shirt rubbing back and forth on them. If they don't seem to heal, try lanolin by Lansinoh. It goes a long way, and can be used later for diaper rashes if necessary.
Baby AllergiesSometimes, babies don't respond very well to our breast milk and you may see reactions such as general fussiness, eczema, runny nose, and even bloody diapers. All of these are signs of allergies. BUT, don't worry! Your baby is not allergic to your breast milk, but to something that you are eating. The usual culprit is dairy, but it really can be anything. Cybele Pascal, author of The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook, was not sure what was wrong with her baby, but after trial and error, soon found out that he was allergic to a LOT of stuff. Her second son, Montgomery, faired no better. But lucky for them, their Mama was an expert at cooking and proved to do just as well with limited allowable foods! She shares her recipes with the world in her book, including 200 recipes which eliminates the top eight food allergens as identified by the FDA. These include milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. If you suspect that your baby has similar allergies, you should definitely get her book. We love the recipes and it has something for everyone, no matter what cuisine you prefer!
- Colostrum is the yellowish breast milk that is produced in the first few days after baby's birth and before normal lactation begins. Colostrum is especially rich in nutrients and antibodies, and is the perfect food for a newborn baby. Even if you have decided to use formula rather than breast milk, you may wish to breastfeed your newborn for at least a few days after birth, so that he or she can receive the antibody protection and nutritional benefits offered by colostrum.
- Foremilk is the milk which is first drawn during a feeding. It is generally thin and lower in fat content, satisfying the baby's thirst and liquid needs.
- Hindmilk is the milk which follows foremilk during a feeding. It is richer in fat content and is high in calories. The high fat and calorie content of this milk is important for your baby's health and continuing growth. Make sure to let your baby drain one breast before moving on to the other, to ensure that she receives all the benefits of both foremilk and hindmilk. The hindmilk is important not only for weight gain, but for brain development as well. Babies need fat for so many bodily functions, but especially for the brain.