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Why Is Breastfeeding So Hard?

breastfeeding mother

Breastfeeding is probably the first most intimate bond a mother will ever create with her child, but sometimes it can take a little while to get it right—both for mother and baby. Much like picking up rice with chopsticks for the very first time, breastfeeding requires patience, practice, time and effort. Although babies are born with a natural instinct to suckle, and mothers usually produce the colostrum and milk they need immediately, sometimes getting the two natural occurrences to cooperate with each other can be difficult.

Apart from the time and discomfort needed to recover from childbirth, baby’s constant demands for food, cuddling, changing– not to mention possible colic- the first few days can be overwhelming on a new parent. Lack of sleep can also cause impatience, which in turn is something a baby can easily sense. No matter how many decibels you attempt to lower your voice after drowsily walking into walls during that three o’clock feeding, your baby will still pick up on your irritability and react accordingly with fussing, flailing or crying.

Compounding all this with a difficulty to breastfeed could easily leave the mother experiencing feelings of failure, shame and anxiety. Rapid hormonal changes on her part add to the melting pot of emotional stew.

Latching Problems
Breastfeeding can be a painful, uncomfortable experience during the first few postpartum weeks. Although hungry newborns may not have teeth, their gums can certainly clamp on well enough to make a new mother wince, even yelp at times. Until tender, engorged nipples become accustomed to the sensation, it can be highly unpleasant for the first little while.

If pain persists after this adjustment period, however, it may possibly be caused by a bad latch. A bad latch may occur for a number of reasons, such as cradling the baby’s head at an improper angle, positioning your breast incorrectly, flat or inverted nipples, or an infant who hasn’t quite yet grasped the intricacies of sucking and getting tasty results.

Learning to latch may take time. If you look down and see that your areole or nipple are visible, your baby may not be latching correctly. Both serve a purpose similar to a bull’s eye on a target. Baby needs to zone in and clamp on the center to achieve proper suction. The sensation of the nipple, and in some cases the tiny bumps surrounding it on the areole serve as a type of braille to baby’s sensitive mouth. Nursing pillows may facilitate finding the correct angle, thus gently coaxing your child to a better position.

If you can’t resolve the latching problems on your own, there is no need to get frustrated or to feel badly about it. At your next appointment, ask your obstetrician or certified nurse-midwife for information on overcoming breastfeeding problems. They are familiar with the problem and will gladly help to make breastfeeding a more enjoyable nurturing time for you and your infant.

Inverted or Flat Nipples
1 to 3% of all women have flat or inverted nipples which can create a challenge when breastfeeding. Speak to your obstetrician about breastfeeding with inverted nipples. Some methods he or she may recommend would be to pump before breastfeeding to stimulate milk flow, or using a silicone shield to help your baby latch.

Some women with flat or inverted nipples may require the help of their spouses to get a good latch going. In a way, this can also be a pleasant bonding time for their partners.

Breast milk provides babies with vital nutrients to help them grow and develop into healthy, strong little people. It is recommended that mothers try as much as possible to introduce their infants to not only this beneficial form of nourishment, but the resulting closeness and warmth both mother and baby can derive from it.

For more information on lactation, Northside Hospital-Cherokee has a center dedicated to lactation and their website offers lots of great tips.