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[Q] I’m six months pregnant and plan to breastfeed, but I keep hearing how hard it is. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it. Any words of wisdom?
[A] It’s true that breastfeeding can be difficult for some women in the first few weeks, though it does get easier and more natural with time. It’s helpful to be prepared: Take a breastfeeding class so you learn the proper techniques, as well as the pitfalls. Also, in case you do have problems, find out where to get support, whether it’s from a friend who has breastfed successfully, a doctor you trust, a certified lactation consultant or a La Leche League support group. Finally, keep in mind that the vast majority of women do nurse their babies successfully.
[Q] I’ve been breastfeeding for two weeks, and my nipples are cracked and bleeding. I’m ready to give up. What can I do?
[A] Cracked or bleeding nipples usually indicate
an improper latch, so the first step is to make sure your baby is latching on correctly. First, you need to position her correctly: Before putting her on your breast, position her on her side so she is directly facing you, with her belly touching yours. Next, prop up the baby with a pillow, if necessary, and hold her up to your breast; don’t lean over toward her. Now you’re ready to latch her on (see photos):
1) Place your thumb and fingers around the areola.
2) Tilt your baby’s head back slightly and tickle her lips with your nipple until she opens her mouth wide.
3) Help her “scoop” the breast into her mouth by placing her lower jaw on first, well below the nipple.
4) Tilt her head forward, placing her upper jaw deeply on the breast. Make sure she takes the entire nipple and at least 1 1/2 inches of the areola in her mouth. Congratulations! She’s latched on.
To help with the discomfort, nurse on your least-sore breast first. When the baby is finished nursing, break the suction by placing your finger in the corner of her mouth before removing her from your breast. After each feeding, soothe and moisturize your nipples by massaging a small amount of breast milk onto your nipples, followed by pure lanolin or nipple cream. Don’t wash your breasts with soap, as it is drying; water is sufficient.
If you still have difficulties, call La Leche League for advice at 800-525-3243. Or see a lactation consultant; call 800-835-5968 to find one in your area. Also visit www.pumpstation.com to download a streaming video that shows the deep latch-on technique.
[Q] Some of my friends say that I shouldn’t bother breastfeeding since I will be going back to work shortly after the baby’s birth. What do you think?
[A] Even if you breastfeed for just six weeks (and you should take a minimum of six weeks maternity leave after the birth), that’s a huge advantage for your baby. But it’s important to realize that you can continue to breastfeed your baby even after you return to work: It’s a simple matter of nursing in the morning and evening, and pumping your milk while you’re at work (your baby’s caregiver can give the baby your breast milk from a bottle). At least give it a shot; start off breastfeeding and if it isn’t working for you to pump at work, you can slowly wean.