Last week we learned about all the nutrients and immune factors in breast milk. We also learned why breastfeeding is good for your baby and why breastfeeding is good for you too! But nursing doesn’t always come easy to mom or baby. Here we will discuss why nursing is so hard and give some tips as to how to help you through these problems.
If breastfeeding is natural why is it so hard?
Breastfeeding can be a big challenge for first time mothers or mothers who have previously nursed a baby. We often start nursing our baby feeling like we are unprepared. There is no life experience that teaches you how to breastfeed your baby. We often feel like we do not know what we are doing or that nursing doesn’t come naturally. We can feel clumsy and awkward trying to position your baby, manage your baby’s arms and legs and make your new postpartum body comfortable! And that’s all before the feed even starts!
As nursing moms, we also worry about if the baby is eating enough. We don’t have ounces to count but have to rely on vague signs such as wet diapers and how often your baby stools.
At first, it can feel like you are feeding all the time with feeds sometimes occurring every hour. This can feel overwhelming and can feel as if you are bearing a large load of parenting early on. It can also make you feel like your life is all of a sudden very strictly scheduled.
Additionally, nursing can be uncomfortable at first with nipple pain and uterine contractions. If your baby is having trouble latching this can cause more nipple pain. Also, poor nursing mechanics can cause back and neck pain.
Help is on the way!
The first thing you need to do as a new nursing mom is be patient with yourself! You wouldn’t expect your partner, family or friends to be perfect a new skill immediately.
Before your baby is born, it is important to spend time learning about breastfeeding. There are hospitals that offer breastfeeding classes before delivery or often in the hospital right after you deliver. You can also find a number of online resources that are helpful for preparing to nurse your baby. On these sites, you can find tips about breastfeeding, nursing positions, and troubleshooting feeding problems.
These sites also can help you identify items that may be helpful to make nursing successful. Nursing pillows can help you position the baby so that your hands and arms are free to adjust your baby’s head and body as well as your breast. It also helps position you so you aren’t leaning forward which can cause back and neck discomfort. Nipple creams can help sooth sore nipples during the first few weeks of nursing. It is also worth looking into breast pumps. Insurance can cover pumps, but you may also privately purchase one. There are many options, see which is best for your circumstances.
Also be willing to reach out for help and support. We are lucky to have great Lactation Consultants through Anna Jaques Hospital. This team is available to you even if you delivered your baby at a different hospital. A Lactation Consultant is someone who has been certified through classwork and many hours of clinical experience to help nursing moms. If you are having trouble with your latch or your milk supply, they can be a great hands-on resource. The Lactation Consultants at AJH also have a weekly meeting for nursing moms. This is great time to meet other moms and discussed nursing. As your baby changes, breastfeeding also changes. It is a great opportunity to troubleshoot nursing problems. Other moms may have great ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of and you may have great ideas to contribute too! It is also nice to meet other new moms to have as an emotional support during this time in your life when things are changing quickly.
When you start nursing it can also be helpful to set your own goals. You may hope to breastfeed for 1 month or 12 months or 2 years. In addition to these big goals, it sometimes is helpful to set a small, achievable goal. Meeting these small goals can encourage you and set you up for success. Also remember, breastfeeding is not 100% or 0%. Any combination of feeds that help your baby grow and develop is what is best for your baby. You may choose to nurse during the day, but bottle feed expressed breastmilk or formula at night. You may choose to exclusively pump and feed your baby breastmilk in a bottle. You may decide to do one bottle of formula a day so dad can feed that baby and you can rest. It is important to remember that your family is unique. Your needs and your baby’s needs are different than other families. A fed baby is a happy baby. You must also remember that as a new mom, you count as an important person in your family and your needs also have to be taken into account when deciding on a feeding plan for your baby.
In addition to the previous advice, there are steps that ANY new mom can take when adjusting to life with a new baby:
• Stay flexible
• Acknowledge your progress
• Don’t compare yourself, your baby, or your feeding choices
• Believe in yourself
• Take it one feed, one day at a time
PARTNERS CAN HELP TOO!
Partners can take an active role in helping mom with breastfeeding!
Food and Drink
Nursing requires a lot of calories and fluids. Offer mom a snack, meal or drink during every feeding.
If your feeding plan includes bottles of expressed milk or formula, dad can be responsible for these feeds.
Burping the baby
Partners can wash bottles and breast pump parts for mom and prepare them for the next feed.
Partners can bathe the baby and change diaper This is a great opportunity to bond with your baby.
Partners can offer mom support. Partners should be encouraging and help mom celebrate feeds and progress.
Nursing is a full-time job. Partners can help mom adjust by taken on the full burden of household chores such as laundry and cleaning.
Partners can offer support by being present. Be available for appointments with the baby’s health care provider or with lactation consultants.
Breastfeeding provides so many benefits to you and your baby, but it can be challenging! Don’t be discouraged! We are here to help as well as the Lactation Consultant team at Anna Jaques Hospital. We want to help you meet all your feeding goals and, most importantly, raise a healthy, happy baby!
Children’s Health Care of Newburyport, Massachusetts and Haverhill, Massachusetts is a pediatric healthcare practice providing care for families across the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, southern New Hampshire, and the Seacoast regions. The Children’s Health Care team includes pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive pediatric health care for children, including newborns, toddlers, school aged children, adolescents, and young adults. Our child-centered and family-focused approach covers preventative and urgent care, immunizations, and specialist referrals. Our services include an on-site pediatric nutritionist, special needs care coordinator, and social workers. We also have walk-in appointments available at all of our locations for acute sick visits. Please visit chcmass.com where you will find information about our pediatric doctors, nurse practitioners, as well as our hours and services.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.