The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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If you have a Cesarean section, ask the nurses to bring your baby to you as soon as possible after delivery. They or your partner may need to help you hold the baby due to the effects of your anesthesia, but there is no reason you can't nurse. Also request that your baby be allowed to "room in" with you throughout your hospital stay so you are able to nurse as often as she wants. (This also applies if you had a vaginal delivery.)
Common problems, tested solutions
Just because nursing is natural doesn't mean it's without challenges. Here are three of the most common problems breastfeeding moms face--and simple, proven solutions.
The 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 stores in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif. "But it shouldn't last for more than 20 seconds."
Your breasts aren't the only area where you may feel discomfort: After your baby is born, your uterus starts shrinking back to its prepregnancy size. The accompanying uterine contractions can be painful--and breastfeeding can intensify them. "The baby's sucking stimulates the release of oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract," explains Lebbing, "but contractions help it return to its normal size more quickly."
The solution: Remember that a few seconds of discomfort is normal, but shooting pain means something is wrong. If you experience such pain, make sure your baby is latched on correctly (see "How to Get the Right Latch" on pg. 105); if she's not, gently remove her from the breast and start over.
If your breasts become engorged--they're painful and hard to the touch--nursing or pumping frequently should help relieve the discomfort. Also, apply cool compresses or an ice pack. Since engorgement can result from a poor latch, you may need to meet with a lactation consultant to learn the proper technique.
To help reduce uterine pain, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, Lebbing says--both are safe for breastfeeding moms. If you had a C-section, your doctor will give you prescription painkillers. Take them. They won't harm your baby, and if you're in less pain, you'll likely have an easier time breastfeeding.