They must learn how to overcome these problems.
Although breastfeeding is highly recommended, many new mothers still opt to use baby formula to feed their babies. The three most common problems breastfeeding women encounter is a low breastfeeding milk supply, sore nipples and engorgement.
Sophie Reyneke, a South African midwife and breastfeeding expert, said these problems can be overcome by:
- Gaining lots of information from a reliable source
- Having the will to persevere despite problems that may occur
- Seeking the company and positive support from friends who've enjoyed breastfeeding
Sophie said reliable information, as well as the help and support of a caring husband can contribute a lot to a new mom's confidence when breastfeeding. Also make use of a postnatal support group for expert advice and support. On the other hand, ignorance and negative influences from women who did not manage to breastfeed successfully can discourage a new mom from breastfeeding.
Overcoming Sore or Cracked Nipples
Sore or cracked nipples are some of the most common problems faced by new nursing mothers. According to Sophie, with regards to sore or cracked nipples, prevention is always better than cure. Sore or cracked nipples are usually caused by incorrect latching of the baby's mouth onto the nipple. For a perfect latch, try this method:
- Sit in a comfortable position with good support for arms and back.
- Place a pillow on the lap if needed. Hold the baby with his head in the curve of the elbow. He must lie on his side, with his whole body in line, with his tummy facing the mother's tummy.
- Use the four fingers of the free hand to support the breast. With the thumb on the top of the breast you can now accomplish the "hamburger hold" to present the nipple to the baby.
- By touching the lips of the baby with the nipple, it will stimulate the rooting reflex whereby the baby will turn towards the nipple and attempt to suckle.
- The moment the baby opens his mouth slightly, draw him closer in Mom's arm so that his mouth opens wide over the breast, allowing him to "grasp" the whole areola in his mouth.
- Correct latching is not painful and allows the baby to empty the breast by stimulating the milk ducts and not just the front part of the nipple.
- If the baby's head is slightly extended so that her chin touches Mom's breast and her nose is free for breathing, relax the shoulders and enjoy the special closeness of breastfeeding.The same principles apply for feeding while lying in bed, which is an excellent position to rest or nap while feeding.
Breastfeeding mothers should also expose their nipples to direct sunlight for a few minutes every day to strengthen the tender skin. Lightly massage a few drops of colostrum onto nipples after feeds as a nipple cream.
Engorgement often occurs about five to seven days after giving birth. The breasts will feel full from the fourth day when the volume of milk increases significantly. If, however, they feel painfully firm or hard and lumpy, there may be over-production of milk. The baby may struggle to latch well on the over extended nipple. This can cause her to be unable to empty the breast well, which aggravates engorgement.
Sophie recommends the following steps for engorged breasts:
- Feed baby more frequently to empty the breasts. Hand express a little milk around the nipple area to make latching easier before feeds.
- Use a warm shower of hot water bottle to soothe the painful area. At the same time, massage the breast in circles towards the nipple for at least 15 minutes to get the milk flowing before attempting to express.
- Use a breast pump to express milk until there is some relief. Be careful not to empty the breasts completely as this will stimulate even more milk production.
- When the breasts feel softer and lumps (caused by overfull milk ducts) have been expressed, cover the breasts with cold cabbage leaves worn under a tight-fitting bra. Repeat the process at every feed until the breasts feel soft and comfortable after a feed.
- It may take 24 hours for the problem to resolve but it is worth all the effort. Don't just leave it and think it will disappear. It may lead to mastitis or a breast abscess if not treated promptly.
Low Milk Supply
For a new breastfeeding mother struggling with a low milk supply, Sophie recommends staying in bed for a day with baby in skin contact.
- Keep the baby close feed on demand – even if that means feeding every hour.
- Make sure the baby latches correctly.
- Drink up to three litres of Jungle Juice (1 Litre Apple Juice, 2 Litre Water, 1 Sachet Rehidrat, 50 Ml Weleda Schlehen Blackthorn Berry Exilir. Drink as needed during the day. Add 10 Drops Rescue Remedy per glass as needed).
- Do not skip meals.
- Accept help with household chores so that Mom can rest.
- Remove all forms of stress from life.
- If all else fails, ask the doctor to prescribe something to increase the milk supply.
- Phone someone who has had a positive breastfeeding experience for support and motivation. Try to avoid giving formula. The baby will fill himself with the formula and not drink from your breast. This will make Mom's milk supply even less due to the lack of the stimulation needed to make more milk.
New mothers having a hard time breastfeeding should try Sophie's suggestions to overcome common problems such as cracked or sore nipples, engorgement and low milk supply. Remember, the baby has been trough the traumatizing experience of birth and needs to adjust to life outside the womb. Take time out to get to know the baby and enjoy the bonding experience of breastfeeding.
*Jana Engelbrecht is a magazine editor, freelance writer and owner of www.moomie.co.za.