The long awaited baby is now here and screaming its head off because it needs milk. But the nursing parent is clueless and beset with pain while nursing. Is this a scenario that hits close home?
Nursing isn’t always easy. I know, I know - the movies and photos online make it look so easy, so it should be no rocket science right? While this may be true for some, nursing your child is a road strewn with so many hurdles for so many parents.
Let us quickly see a few frequent nursing problems and their solutions, shall we?
- Latch issues? – Latching is the way your baby positions their mouth to drink milk from your breast. Try skin-to-skin. Get baby minimally dressed, keep your upper part of the body bare and recline with baby. The baby will move to latch on to your nipples. If latching problems continue, your baby might need an expert to check for tongue or lip tie, which lead to poor latch.
- Baby falling asleep while nursing? – Try touching the baby’s chin, or ears to restart sucking. Compressing your breast gently can also restart sucking.
- Painful latches? – Your baby needs to have a big mouthful of your breast in her mouth for your latch to be painless. Her nose needs to be away from your breast, her chin pressed to your breast and her head tipped back while feeding to have a good latch. For the best latch, bring baby to breast and allow baby to latch instead of pushing your breast into their mouth.
- Shooting pains in your breast, pink nipples and pain between feeds? – These are symptoms of thrush. Thrush may get passed on to the baby too – symptoms present as white spots (check that it isn’t just milk residue) on the baby’s mouth - so contact your doctor immediately for treatment for both baby and you.
- Baby continuously feeding? – Continuous feeding by the baby called cluster feeding usually does NOT mean that your supply of milk has dwindled, if your baby’s weight gain has been fine, and pee and poo diapers have been sufficient. Baby could be going through a growth spurt, may be hungry because breast milk digests faster, or could be your baby trying to build your supply. The only thing that matters is pee count and activity levels here.
- Fussy baby at breast, gulping and choking always? – You might be having an overactive letdown, where too much milk is coming out. Try positions like cradle hold, football hold, side lying, laid back feeding which work against gravity. Try switching sides every three minutes to make the flow even. Or try block feeding by feeding only one side for four hours and then switching sides. The block feeding will result in your breast producing lesser milk, resulting in a slower let down.
- Engorged breasts? – Try feeding your baby more often, and hand express to relieve the pain.
- Cracked nipples? – Cracked nipples are not normal while breastfeeding! Use lanolin and try correcting the latch. If this doesn’t improve the cracked nipples, consult a medical professional for assistance.
- Painful tender area on your breast? – It could be a blocked or plugged milk duct. Massage that area gently while feeding the baby. Use warm water to unblock the duct. If nothing works, try pumping after a hot shower.
- Painful red spot on your breast? – This usually means mastitis, which is an infection, and is accompanied by the onset of fever. Please consult a medical professional immediately for treatment and ask for breastfeeding safe antibiotics. If left untreated, mastitis can become an abscess that requires draining.
- White sore dot on the end of your nipple? – This could be a milk blister or bleb which is formed by layers of skin forming over a duct and trapping milk behind it. It could be as small as a grain of sand and hurt really bad. Keep nursing and massaging to get rid of the bleb. If this doesn’t work, it might need a medical professional’s help to remove the bleb by piercing it with a sterilized needle.
- White nipples? – This is a vasospasm that is caused due to change in temperature between the warm mouth of the baby and the cold air outside. This might cause mild bleeding and needs to be treated with a warm damp cloth to the nipple. If bleeding is frequent, see a medical professional.
- Baby spitting up? – This can happen even if baby is otherwise fine. If baby’s weight gain is fine and baby seems happy otherwise, disregard. If spit ups happen regularly, baby weight gain is less, or in case of projectile vomiting, consults a medical professional immediately.
- Breasts feeling empty? – Congratulations! Your body has self regulated its supply and your breasts now make just enough milk to feed your baby. This does NOT mean low supply so do not plunge into the depression of self doubt.
- Child biting the nipple? – Your baby might be teething or just trying out a new trick, one that shouldn’t be encouraged. Do not make any sudden noises or expressions. Put your finger in the corner of their mouth to break suction. Or calmly pull baby into your breast so that it blocks his nose for a moment. That will be enough to release the hold on your nipple and discourage them from trying this again. Set boundaries as early as possible to prevent frequent biting.
If these problems don’t resolve with these tips, it is time to speak to a lactation expert in your community! Do not hesitate to seek professional help because nursing shouldn’t be painful AT ALL.
Do let us know about your early breastfeeding journey and any major hitches you faced along the way, in the comments below.