So breastfeeding is the one of the most natural things in the world, it should just happen, the baby should just latch on and your body should just product the liquid gold that is breastmilk, right? Not always.
There is a magnitude of things that can occur both to baby and Mom that can interfere with a happy, easy breastfeeding experience.
In a perfect world, a baby should latch on with a wide mouth encompassing as much areola (the brown skin around the nipple) as possible. If the latch isn’t wide enough then the baby will end up nipple feeding rather than breastfeeding. This can cause pain for the Mom, and also can result in the breast not being fully emptied and causing blocked milk ducts or even mastitis. If the baby isn’t correctly latched they need to work much harder to get the milk out, getting tired and only managing a small feed before needing a rest but then requiring another feed soon after.
You can correct a latch by pulling baby off (do this by placing your finger between the breast and baby’s mouth to release the latch) and guiding baby back on. To do this try to position your nipple towards baby’s nose so they really have to open wide to reach it. Click the link to watch the video below at the end of this article to see how)
Once a baby is correctly latched they will be massaging the breast with their tongue to withdraw the milk from the ducts in to the nipple. It can take a little while before the ‘letdown’ (where the breasts are stimulated enough and start the milk ducts release the milk, some women experience a tingle or sensation just before or as this is happening, others feel nothing) to occur. You should be able to clearly hear and see the rhythmic swallowing.
Another thing to look out for if the baby is still not latching well is to check if there is a tongue tie. This is where a small piece of skin is under the tongue and attached to the bottom of the mouth, restricting tongue movement. Having good tongue movement is very important for the latch and to draw the milk out of the breast. A tongue tie can easily and quickly be snipped by a doctor.
In the first weeks and months, babies need frequent feedings, every 1-4 hours. There are no rules as to exactly how often and it will depend on a few factors.
Some moms have bigger milk storage capacity and others have smaller. This has nothing to do with the breast cup size, rather the internal ducts and storage. Your baby may be getting a smaller amount of milk at each feed than a baby feeding off a mother with a large storage so try not to compare to other moms too much. If your baby is happy and satisfied at the end of each feed and are putting on consistent weight gains then you’re feeding well, albeit more frequently.
If your baby is not happy and cries after a feed, and you feel that your breast has been emptied then you may need help to produce more milk. There are herbal remedies such as fenugreek tablets that are very effective, as well as prescription medications, it is best to consult a lactation consultant or doctor in this instance.
Babies regularly go through growth spurts. At these times they will want to feed more frequently than usual. This is because they are hungrier and also it is to let your body know to start producing more milk as they are growing. The more they feed, the more milk your body will make.
While breastfeeding can be slightly at the start, it shouldn’t be continuously painful. If you are having pain or concerns for your baby it is best to ask for further help from your doctor or lactation consultant.
And while breastmilk is an amazing compound – ‘liquid gold’, not everyone is physically able to breastfeed. It is certainly worth persisting through some hard times to get it right, but remember that formula is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
Breastfeeding is 90% determination & 10% milk production