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A Beginners’ Guide to Breastfeeding: Part Two

April 24, 2012

While breastfeeding is completely natural and is the recommended way to feed your infant, many women find it difficult or experience trouble getting it to work for them. Like pregnancy, and childbirth, the fact that a process is normal and natural doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Following is a list of difficulties you may experience when you breastfeed your baby, including suggestions and resources that will help you cope and adjust.

Engorgement. It usually takes 5-7 days after birth for your milk supply to come in. And when it rains, it pours! Your brain says, “Hey, you want milk? You got it!” Your breasts suddenly become much larger, harder and a bit uncomfortable. The good news is that this engorgement process only lasts 1-2 days. Once your brain realizes just how much milk your baby needs, the discomfort and swelling resolve. To alleviate the pain and decrease the swelling you can use a heating pad or take a hot shower before feeding and continue taking ibuprofen. This will help vasodilate (or open) the milk ducts and allow the milk to easily travel out of the breast. And remember, after the swelling resolves, your breasts may look smaller, but this is not an indication that your milk supply has decreased.

Sore nipples. This is one of the most common complaints that new moms have in their first days of breastfeeding, and is often due to a problematic latch. Seeing a lactation consultant can correct your baby’s latch and result in greater comfort for you. Sometimes your baby may continue sucking as he is removed from your breast, which causes soreness. Inserting the tip of your finger into the side of his mouth as you remove him may alleviate this. You may also be experiencing irritation and chapped skin, which can be soothed with nipple cream applied throughout the day. (The APNO cream was my saving grace!)

Supply issues. It can be difficult to ascertain the amount of milk your baby is getting in those first few weeks, and many new moms become concerned that their supply is not enough for their baby’s health. Rest assured that only a small percentage of moms have difficulties with supply. Adequate nutrition, hydration, and rest, along with frequent feedings, should keep your milk supply up. If you are concerned about how much your baby is getting, keep a record of his feeds and diaper changes. If he is meeting the minimum criteria, you’re doing fine. And when you attend your pediatrician appointments and see him gaining weight, that will reassure you!

Thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that can affect your nipples and your baby’s mouth during breastfeeding, as yeast, or Candida albicans, is passed back and forth between you both. This yeast thrives in warm, wet places and is both relatively common and highly treatable. Symptoms include dark pink, tender nipples and white patches and redness inside your baby’s mouth. Call your doctor for prescription for an antifungal medication.

Mastitits. Sometimes, a milk duct can become clogged or plugged. If you feel tenderness, heat, and redness in a small area of your breast, or feel a small lump near the surface of your skin, try to massage the area with light pressure to remove the plug. Occasionally, a plug can lead to infection, or mastitis, which usually presents with pain and redness in one area of the breast that spreads, fever, and aches. See your doctor if you have these symptoms, so that you can begin a course of antibiotics that will have you feeling better quickly. Warm compresses, a comfortable nursing bra and ibuprofen will help alleviate your symptoms too.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the problems above, you’re not alone. Each of these problems can be managed with the help of lactation consultants, doctors, and in some cases, time and practice! While you may feel discouraged and uncomfortable from time to time, don’t hesitate to utilize the resources at your disposal to make breastfeeding an easier experience for you and your baby.

Photography courtesy of Flickr.

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