The moment a mother delivers a new person into the world, her next amazing feat begins: producing and delivering the perfect food for that baby.
Hormonal changes at delivery trigger the lactation process. Breast milk is the ideal combination of protein, fat, immunity boosting factors and key nutrients to help a baby's body and brain grow strong. The act of nursing also seems to lower mothers' risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For the most part, breastfeeding requires just mom, baby and a comfortable chair or bed. No dishes, no groceries, no bottles! However, this natural process is not without its rough spots. Nipple soreness, anxiety and exhaustion strike most nursing moms at some point. The most important advice to new moms: Don't give up. Make sure to line up expert help from maternity nurses or a lactation consultant.
A summary of some common challenges during breastfeeding, along with solutions and tips can be found below. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing a newborn exclusively for at least six months and preferably continuing, after the baby begins eating solid foods, for a full year or more. Nearly every mom and baby can do it. They just have to learn to dance together.
Mom and baby just can't get comfortable.
Closeness is key. Whether you cradle the baby, hold her football-style at your side or let her lie beside you, bring her face close to your breast so she can latch on securely. Don't strain your back by leaning forward.
The baby is not gaining weight.
It is common for babies to lose a little weight after birth, then settle into a pattern of gaining a pound a month or more. Consult your pediatrician. If your baby has six to eight very wet diapers a day, and is nursing at least every two or three hours, there is likely no cause for alarm.
The mother's breasts are heavy and sore.
Engorgement is the signal to feed the baby. If your breasts remain engorged between feedings, try pumping the milk and freezing it to alleviate soreness.
The mother feels she has too little milk.
Nursing is a positive feedback system. Breastfeeding signals the brain that the body needs to keep up the baby's food supply. When mothers stop nursing for a bit out of frustration or exhaustion, the body reads it as a sign that baby has had enough, and cuts production. Try to keep breastfeeding or pumping milk even when the going gets tough.
The baby seems to nurse nonstop!
Breastfeeding on demand is a round-the-clock job. Newborns often nurse every 90 minutes to two and a half hours, because breast milk is quickly digested and these tiny people have a lot of growing to do! Plan to spend many hours bonding with and feeding your infant in the first few weeks. As the baby grows, both of your bodies become more efficient at breastfeeding and it begins to take less time.
The mother has nipple discomfort.
First, make sure the baby is securely latched on, taking in the nipple and most of the areola for maximum comfort and efficient feeding. If nipples become cracked and sore, apply a 100 percent lanolin cream. Watch for signs of infection, and consult your lactation consultant or physician if soreness persists or worsens.
Did any of you resolve a breastfeeding challenge? Share your story in the comments!
Learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding:
TheVisualMD.com: Mother's Milk