Becoming a mother is no mean feat. The pain you endure while giving birth is one aspect that brings the nine months of pregnancy to a beautiful closure. Congratulations, you have aced the first milestone. But, as you know, motherhood is all about crossing several milestones through your lifetime and the first and one of the most significant one is - breastfeeding.
Most mothers dream of feeding their baby right from the beginning. That’s a healthy thought process too, as mothers’ milk can provide the kind of nourishment that nothing else can even come close to. More than the nourishment itself, breastfeeding helps the mother and her newborn bond in a unique way too. So, why are we calling this a milestone, and why would there be any challenges?
When Kirthana was pregnant with her son Dev*, she would often get scared of the delivery, but then she would also think about motherhood - tiny clothes, the smell of baby powder, and of course, breastfeeding. Unfortunately for her, while the tiny clothes and the smell of baby powder lingered all over the house, the breastfeeding was not what she expected it to be. It was painful - her nipples were sore, she could barely lift her arms and to top it off, her son always seemed to be hungry, crying away. As guilt consumed her, she consulted with her doctor at The Birthplace, and here’s a gist of what she learned.
This is perhaps one of the most common challenges that any new mother could face. One thing that needs to be understood is the fact that your baby is new to this and you might be too. So, it might take a bit of effort to get the latch right. Make sure that you settle down in a comfortable position and bring your baby to your breast and not the other way round. Tickle your baby’s cheek a bit so that the mouth is wide open. Your baby’s nose and chin should be resting on your breast. Don’t worry, you will figure this out.
You might find that you are producing less milk than what your baby needs. Milk gets produced as per demand, so in all possibility, this problem should take care of itself when a feeding pattern begins to develop. The best way to check if you are producing enough milk and consequently, your baby is full enough, is by checking for the number of wet diapers - 5-6 in a day should indicate that it’s all going well. Also, 3-4 poops a day should be indicative of the fact that your baby is well fed. If there’s still a problem, consult with your doctor to check what could stimulate milk production.
Considering you are not used to breastfeeding, it could be a bit tough. Your nipples might feel sore and sometimes might also be cracked causing you a lot of pain. A condition called thrush could also be responsible for this. While visiting a doctor is a must, some best practices would include keeping yourself hydrated and practicing good hygiene. In case your nipples are red or crusty/flaky, you might have thrush and you must consult your doctor for medication.
As you begin breastfeeding, your feeding cycles might not be very well established. That could lead to a breast full of milk and baby not consuming all of it. This could cause your breast to bulge and become very painful. It might also cause your breasts to become hard, making it difficult for your baby to latch. Make sure you are feeding your baby regularly and expressing milk before the feeding begins to soften the breast and get the flow going.
This could be an after effect of engorgement. When there’s unconsumed milk in your breast, it could cause clogged ducts which would be characterised by pain, fever and soreness of the breast. The best way to deal with this is to have your baby feed on the affected breast first so that some of the ducts can get unclogged. Also try to use a hot compress that can work two ways - unclogging your ducts as well as relieving the pain.
This is usually an infection that can happen because of any of the above listed problems. This is true especially when there is a cracked nipple through which bacteria moves into your breast. This could either happen because of external factors, or your baby passing it on to you through the feed. If you have fever and pain in your breast, it’s best to consult with your doctor as this condition can be very painful.
Other problems could include a leaky breast, nipple structure (flat or inverted), problems with the baby’s mouth like a cleft lip) or just the fact that the baby doesn't want to breastfeed. Whatever the case might be, you can always consult with a lactation specialist to understand the problem and solve it.
It’s essential to take care of hygiene as well. Remember, hygiene affects both you and your baby and therefore, make sure that your undergarments are clean, that you are keeping your breasts and nipples clean and using the right creams that doesn’t impact your breastfeeding routine.
In case you are wondering about Kirthana, she decided to consult a lactation specialist at the Birthplace and has now started feeding her son like a pro. If she can. So can you. Do not stress yourself out. We are here to help.
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