During the last month of my maternity leave, I would go to the local mall just to get out of the house. I rarely left my apartment during the first two months of my son’s life, so by the time I was venturing out with him, we had a pretty solid breastfeeding routine.
Breastfeeding is, undeniably, one of nature’s most natural, instinctive and beautiful acts, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its fair share of challenges and questions. Here’s some confidence-building information that can keep you going when things get tough.
Q: Should I avoid gassy or spicy foods to help prevent gassiness in my baby?
Honest women will tell you that breastfeeding can be challenging, especially at first. While 3 out of 4 new moms begin nursing after giving birth, about 67 percent are no longer exclusively breastfeeding at three months, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help keep you on the good end of those statistics, here are some of the more common difficulties you might encounter, along with ways to overcome them.
After Audra Murray’s twins were born at 30 weeks, her breast milk took its time coming in. A hormonal condition, coupled with the fact that the babies were too weak to nurse, wreaked havoc on her supply. “My milk took about two weeks to show up,” says Murray, 37, who lives in Newton, Mass. “I was pumping every two hours every day, but my milk didn’t come in until I took Reglan [a drug that increases the milk-making hormone prolactin].”
When I had my first child 11 years ago, I was confident I wouldn’t have a problem breastfeeding. Not only had my three older sisters proved that the Anderson girls were lactation mavens, but the books and experts told me so: All women are made to breastfeed, they assured me, and all breasts are up to the task. And, sure enough, Dylan latched on like a champ and never let go.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue breastfeeding (while introducing solid foods) for a full year. Hands down, breastfeeding provides the best nutrition and immunity support for babies and endless health benefits for mothers. Breast is best and most women start out strongly committed to doing their best. And yet, the majority won’t make it to six months.
The vomit bug hit us all—hard. Charlie and Will got it so bad that they both puked for a good solid day and night. After watching Julia, then Charlie, and then Will go through it, I knew what was coming when I felt the first pangs in my own stomach. My first thought was: what if I get so dehydrated that I can’t nurse Jack? (OK, that was my second thought, after: “Dear God, WHY?!”)
For many men, breasts represent their young male desires and turn-ons. For women, too, breasts epitomize our sexuality and sensuality. However, as we approach motherhood, many of us begin to feel differently about our breasts. They now serve an evolving, biological purpose. So it’s no surprise that both men and women can have an ambivalent response to breastfeeding.
Painful, cracked nipples are most often caused by an incorrect latch, Morton says. So when you breastfeed, make sure your baby is positioned properly: on her side, with your bellies touching. Also ensure that she takes your entire nipple and a good portion of the areola in her mouth. If adjusting your nursing style doesn’t help, consult a lactation expert ASAP; visit the International Lactation Consultant Association at ilca.org for a referral.
Frequent nursing is the best way to ease engorgement, which typically occurs 72 hours after giving birth and can last up to a week, or until your milk production system adjusts to the job at hand. Meantime, aim to breastfeed eight to 12 times a day, or about every two to three hours, for the first several weeks.
As soon as your babe makes her entrance, you’ll put her to your breast, she’ll suckle contentedly and all will be good with the world, right? That’s the hope—but not always the reality. Alas, while nursing may be the most natural act, it isn’t always easy.