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Breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural way for a mother to feed her child, but that doesn’t mean breastfeeding is easy or will “come naturally” to a new mother.
Babies may be small, but they are human. Each one is different and equally as complex as the grown adults who take care of them. As a result, a mother who had an easy time nursing a first child might find breastfeeding a little (or a lot) more difficult for the second.
Whether you’re a first-time mom, a first-time breastfeeder, or a veteran on both counts, here are some things you should be aware of:
Feeding is a natural instinct for babies, but natural and easy aren’t the same things. If you’re finding breastfeeding difficult, don’t panic.
Try to relax and enjoy peaceful skin-to-skin contact before feeding, and let your baby take the lead. Too much interference and anxiety can make the process hard for both of you. If breastfeeding is always difficult, however, you should seek help.
Sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out because of physiology or isn’t feasible because of your work schedule. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
If you want to start pumping and bottle feeding or supplementing breast milk with formula, talk to your pediatrician and lactation consultant to ensure the best outcome possible for your baby. Plus, bottles have a perk: they give dad and other family members a chance to bond with baby during feeding time.
Lactation consultants are professionals with a ton of experience in, you guessed it, breastfeeding. Some Utah Valley Pediatrics offices have a lactation consultant on staff and all offices can refer you to one.
If you’re experiencing a problem, you can also call a free hotline for nursing mothers. What may seem like a bizarre problem is probably something an expert has seen dozens of times, so don’t hesitate—ask.
A balanced diet is crucial for healthy milk production. Moms tend to produce best when they eat around 1800-2200 calories per day, which can feel like a lot.
Online calorie counters can help you keep track of your calorie consumption and nutrients. Also, quiet time away from stress and distractions is as valuable to you as it is to your baby, and quality sleep at night should be a priority.
Don’t be afraid to accept help from family or friends so you can take better care of your baby by taking care of yourself.
New motherhood and breastfeeding aren’t easy. If you’re dealing with fatigue and soreness coupled with intense pain in one or both of your breasts, you might have mastitis—a breast infection. This can become quite serious. Prolonged nipple discomfort or shooting pain might be a plugged duct or thrush.
The government provides a wealth of breastfeeding resources with medically sound information about what’s normal and what’s not. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your OBGYN, pediatrician, or lactation consultant if you feel like something is wrong. They can point you to the help you need.
If your baby’s cheeks are dimpled and she sucks loudly at the breast or makes a clicking noise, this may be a sign of a poor latch. This means she’s straining to get milk, so hook a pinky into her mouth to break her contact with your breast and let her try again. You’ll know when the latch is successful when you hear the sound of a baby happily eating. This sound comes from baby swallowing and exhaling and has been compared to grunting, snuffling, or a “k-ah” sound.
That adorable picture of your baby on your phone is more than just something to proudly show coworkers. It can help trigger your let-down reflex when pumping away from your child. Looking at an image of your baby, listening to recorded sounds of crying or feeding, and thinking about nursing can all trigger let-down, so keep snapping those sweet pictures and making videos of baby’s special moments.
Premature babies and babies born with serious health issues may be kept apart from their mothers for weeks. It can be difficult, or even impossible, for these mothers to produce enough milk to feed them.
NICU babies who receive breast milk tend to have better outcomes and shorter hospital stays, so rather than throwing out extra milk that you’ve pumped, consider donating to mothers and babies who need help.
In the Utah Valley area, mothers can donate milk at the Utah Valley Mother’s Milk Depot or the Utah Valley Hospital NICU. Both are affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation. Mothers are verbally screened for initial eligibility and must take a blood test to determine whether or not they can donate.