Breastfeeding seems like a simple process, but it isn’t always. A significant number of women report difficulty getting their newborns to nurse properly. If this happens to you, you don’t need to abandon breastfeeding entirely; there are techniques you can use to help ensure your baby nurses properly.
Prevention is generally the best solution. There are prenatal classes available that can help give you the tools to help you and your baby understand and overcome breastfeeding difficulties. Not only will you be prepared if problems do arise, but you will be better able to nurse successfully even if nothing goes wrong.
If you do run into trouble, do not wait to get help. Remember, nursing problems do not mean that you are a failure as a mother. Usually it’s something that can be fixed—if you ask a professional. Medical personnel can point you towards a certified lactation consultant who can give you the help you may need.
One common problem is low supply. The body usually produces as much breast milk as it thinks is needed; frequent nursing or pumping will let it know it needs to keep making more. In fact, often what seems to be a low supply is simply both mother and baby adjusting to baby’s specific needs. If there is a problem—for instance, if the baby is losing weight—that’s when it’s time to talk to a doctor.
Pain is a clear sign of a problem, though a little soreness is normal. It may be something simple, such as dry skin, which can usually be soothed with lanolin. Another possibility is a positioning problem. The baby’s mouth should cover the bottom of the areola. You can also try to encourage gentler suckling by feeding for shorter periods less often. A hungry baby will nurse more aggressively, and potentially more painfully.
Not all mothers choose to breastfeed, or even to pump, but if you do, this can help you do it right.