Common Problems, Tested Solutions
1. Problem: You’ve got pain.
You may feel discomfort when your baby starts to nurse, but it should be mild and short-lived. “Feeling tenderness when the baby latches on is normal,” says Corky Harvey, M.S., R.N., a lactation consultant and co-owner of The Pump Station in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif. “But it shouldn’t last for more than 20 seconds.”
Your breasts aren’t the only place you may be uncomfortable: After the baby is born, your uterus starts contracting back to its normal size. These contractions can be painful, and breastfeeding can intensify them: The baby’s sucking stimulates the release of oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract.
Solution: Be proactive.
If you experience pain that is severe or lasts longer than 20 seconds, make sure your baby is latched on correctly (see “How to Get the Right Latch”); if she’s not, gently remove her from the breast and start over. Still having problems? Call a lactation consultant.
If your breasts become engorged, nursing or pumping frequently should help relieve the discomfort. Also, apply cool compresses or an ice pack.
To help with uterine pain, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen—both are safe while nursing. If you had a C-section, be sure to take your painkillers. Minimizing pain will make for an easier time breastfeeding.
2. Problem: Your baby nurses all the time.
Because breast milk is digested more easily than formula, breastfed newborns do need to refuel more often than their formula-fed peers. “Breast milk comes prepackaged with its own digestive enzymes,” explains Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Executive Committee on Breastfeeding, “so the proteins and other nutrients are more readily absorbed by the infant’s intestines.” This translates to an average of 10 to 12 feedings in 24 hours.
Solution: Go with the flow.
Let your baby set her own meal schedule, and try not to stress about it. “We are a society devoted to efficiency,” Feldman-Winter says. “Bottle-feeding may be more efficient, but if you accept that having a baby will change every single thing about your life, you might not worry so much about how often your breastfed baby wants to eat.”
If you’re wondering whether your baby is nursing for hunger or comfort, don’t. “Sucking triggers milk production,” Harvey explains, “so it’s important to let your baby suckle as often as she wants, regardless of the reason.”
3. Problem: Is she getting enough milk?
When a baby feeds from a bottle, it’s easy to tell exactly how much she’s eating. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is with the breast.
Solution: Count wet diapers.
Once your milk comes in, usually three days after delivery, your baby should have at least six to eight wet diapers a day. Most breastfed babies will also have at least two yellow, seedy bowel movements every 24 hours. If you have any concerns, call your pediatrician.