All my life I’ve heard so many breastfeeding horror stories of cracked and bleeding nipples, babies that won’t latch, babies that bite (yikes!), and heartbreak due to inability to breastfeed. I know many of those stories represent real women and real challenges, and my heart goes out to them. Having difficulties with feeding my baby would have been the one thing that really could have gotten to me as a new mom. I want you to know that there are positive stories about breastfeeding too though. What if we started telling those stories to expectant moms instead? What if we shared our accounts filled with the precious moments and real physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding to encourage them to at least try to nurse their babies instead of giving up before they even begin?
So let me be the first to start. I have been so blessed to have one such story. No, it hasn’t always been easy. The first two weeks were a challenge as baby and I learned. I was hopeless at unhooking my bra clasp with one hand fast enough to prevent him from starting to scream and getting all worked up. It was awkward to figure out how to balance that baby and his floppy little head to help him stay latched. I was sensitive and sore. Then after the magical two week mark, the soreness went away. After six weeks we had it figured out. No, it wasn’t always easy, but it has been an incredibly positive experience.
I received a few simple pieces of advice that helped me to get started which I want to pass along. While I was pregnant, I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. This is the “bible” of breastfeeding published by La Leche League. It has countless tips and tricks along with troubleshooting and advice to address the whole range of a new mom’s concerns. Immediately after BabyE was born, my dear midwife helped us to get started with breastfeeding. Even though he didn’t latch at that time, after he woke up from a nice long nap, he suckled for a whole hour the first time! Here are the tips that gave us a firm foundation for a positive breastfeeding experience:
#1 Be Supportive. The baby’s mouth will instinctively open wide to nurse. Many babies can scoot to find mama’s breast just minutes after a natural birth, though their necks aren’t always strong enough to get and maintain a good deep latch. When they open wide, they may need you to help them support their heads as they move toward the breast. If it weren’t for my midwife demonstrating to me how to do this, I never would have been confident enough to firmly guide Baby’s head. Don’t worry though, it won’t hurt them, but it will help to get a good latch that doesn’t cause you pain. It was wonderful that even DH could help with this part of breastfeeding when I felt like I needed three hands. The cross-cradle hold is also helps.
|BabyE asleep after a feed.|
#2 Make a “Big Fat Sandwich” and a fishy face. Baby needs to get a big bite of breast tissue in his mouth for a good latch. You may need to flatten out the breast like a sandwich to help him do this, especially in the early days when breasts can be very full. He shouldn’t be sucking only on the nipple. This was something that never occurred to me before reading it. The whole areola should be in his mouth to allow him access to all the milk available. If at the end of the feeding he is relaxed and begins hanging on the nipple only, refer to tip #3. The baby should make a fishy face with mouth wide open and lips turned out. Looking for this helped me make sure that Baby had a good latch. When he latched correctly, I could really feel it. “It’ll curl your toes,” as my midwife told me.
#3 If the latch isn’t right, detach the baby and start again. When BabyE was brand new, I was so relieved, happy, and proud when he latched at all. The idea of purposefully detaching him seemed crazy to me. Wouldn’t it be better just to let him be? Even though it was difficult, I’m thankful for my midwife’s advice to never put up with a bad latch. I believe, making sure that baby has a good latch is the reason I didn’t have problems with breastfeeding pain or raw cracked nipples.
I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. These are what worked for me. If you’re having trouble, be sure to contact a La Leche League leader or a lactation consultant and get help. You can do it!