Secrets of Success
The first six weeks are crucial to long-term breastfeeding. Here are the skills you need to stick with it.
7. Catch Problems Early. If you do have problems, it’s important to correct them early on. Here are some of the most common ones:
Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples Mild tenderness is normal in the beginning, but severe pain or rawness usually indicates an improper latch. Review your book or video, contact your breastfeeding buddy or call a lactation consultant. In the meantime:
- Latch your baby on more deeply following the steps above.
- Nurse on your least-sore breast first.
- To remove the baby from your breast, break the suction by placing your finger in the corner of her mouth before moving her.
- Breast milk itself is soothing and moisturizing: Massage a small amount onto your nipples after each feeding and allow to air dry. Follow with pure lanolin. Don’t wash your breasts with soap; water is sufficient.
Engorgement Swelling of the breasts between the third and fifth day postpartum is normal—it’s a sign that your body is producing milk. As uncomfortable as it may be, any engorgement should subside in a day or two with frequent nursing. In the meantime:
- Apply a warm compress to the breast before nursing to stimulate milk flow.
- If the breast is extremely swollen, pump or hand-express your milk for a minute or two until the breast softens; otherwise, your baby may not be able to latch on.
- As you nurse, gently massage the breast toward the nipple.
- If pain or swelling is particularly bad, apply cold packs (try a cloth-covered bag of frozen peas) after nursing.
Leaking breasts This is a normal effect of your body adapting to nursing. Your supply should stabilize between the second and fourth month postpartum; until then, use nursing pads. If you leak on one side while nursing on the other, use a clean towel to catch the flow.
Slow letdown For some women, it takes a few minutes for the milk to start flowing after the baby latches on. If this happens, apply a warm compress to your breast or take a warm shower before nursing. You can also massage your breast or hand-express to stimulate milk flow. Relax, listen to music or light a candle while you nurse.
Fast letdown If forceful jets of milk overwhelm your baby, take her off your breast to let her catch her breath until the spraying subsides. Also try offering only one breast per feeding. “Your baby may fuss on the second breast if she wants to suck but can’t deal with Niagara Falls,” Harvey says.
Your investment in breastfeeding will pay off for you and your baby. At first, I holed up in my house, nursing only in the rocker with the pillow positioned just so, nursing pads and lanolin close at hand. Now all I need is Cobi, and all he needs is me.