Breastfeeding may be more difficult than you expect. The right help can make all the difference.
* Got problems? Get help The most common reasons women give up on nursing in the early weeks are nipple pain and the often false belief that the baby isn’t getting enough milk, says Sallie Page-Goertz of Overland Park, Kan., immediate past president of the International Lactation Consultant Association.
To prevent and relieve nipple pain, women need to make sure their babies are latching on properly, taking the entire nipple and some of the areola in their mouths. Applying a lanolin-based nipple cream and wearing breast shells can help ease discomfort.
As for the second obstacle, women usually need a shot of confidence, along with knowledge of what to look for to ensure that the baby is getting enough milk. The general rule is that beginning four to five days after birth, an infant should have six to eight wet diapers and three or more bowel movements a day. The baby also should want to feed eight to 12 or more times in 24 hours and seem content after nursing.
Other problems, Page-Goertz says, include new-mother anxiety and fatigue (which can inhibit milk production), a return to work (although many terrific pumps are available), engorgement (prevented by frequent feeding and relieved by frequent feeding or pumping and placing cold compresses on the breast between feedings), and lack of family support.
To help counteract such obstacles, experts offer these tips:
* Don’t expect breastfeeding to come naturally. Most nursing mothers need some kind of support.
* Reach out. Many problems can be solved by talking to a friend or relative who has successfully breastfed a baby.
* Group support can really help. Contact La Leche League International (847-519-7730, www.lalecheleague.org).
* Call your insurance company to see if it covers lactation support. Even if it’s not covered, consider paying the cost yourself; one or two visits with a lactation consultant will usually resolve any problems or concerns.
* If you do experience problems, call a lactation consultant immediately. The earlier you seek help, the better.
Chudacoff admits that she can see why even determined women give up on breastfeeding. “It was a mistake to think I could learn it from a book,” she says. “If it hadn’t been for my family’s support and the lactation consultants, I would have said, ‘Forget this.’”