Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4 Common Nursing Problems, Plus Solutions

Nursing a newborn is not as simple as it may seem. Veteran moms are usually able to make it look easy by the time they get to their third or fourth child, but for new mothers, the simple fact is that breastfeeding can be challenging in numerous ways. Remember, it is not just the mother who is learning this new feeding method; it is also new to the baby, who of course cannot read books or take instructions from lactation consultants. This makes learning doubly difficult. But it is important to remember that most new mothers experience difficulties initially, and most soon get the hang of it.

Fortunately, many of the common nursing problems that new mothers face have simple solutions. Let us look at a few of them.

1. Poor latch
The most important aspect of breastfeeding is how your baby latches on to the nipple. For a proper latch, the baby should open her mouth widely to encompass both the nipple and the areola. While the milk mostly comes from the nipple itself, it is important for the baby’s latch to be wider so she can get proper suction and stimulate the flow of milk.

There are several methods for getting a baby to form a proper latch, but the most common one involves these steps: (1) Hold the baby in a feeding position. (2) Compress the end of the breast to give it a more bottle-like shape. (3) Tickle the baby’s cheek with the nipple. She most likely will instinctively turn her head and latch on. (4) If the baby’s nose and chin are touching the skin of the breast, it is a good latch. Another sign of a good latch is that only very little milk runs down the baby’s cheek as she drinks.

2. Slow milk supply
Milk production starts out slow, but the good news is that babies do not get very hungry during the first couple days of life. The colostrum (the clear, milk-like substance new mothers produce until the milk comes in) is usually enough to satisfy all the baby’s nutritional needs for three to four days. After that, milk supply depends on demand. If the baby feeds often and the breasts are frequently drained, more milk will come.

You will know your milk supply is good if the baby creates wet and soiled diapers several times a day and is able to sleep long stretches without waking and becoming fussy. If you suspect your supply is low, there are a few tricks, including:

  • encourage a proper latch;
  • drain both breasts at each feeding;
  • feed whenever the baby shows signs of hunger (it is not possible to spoil her at this age);
  • if she falls asleep while feeding, move her around frequently;
  • avoid formula, pacifiers, and bottles, which can interrupt the baby’s learning process;
  • try pumping after and between feedings to stimulate abundant milk production;
  • eat well (400 to 500 more calories per day than before you were pregnant), sleep as much as possible, and drink plenty of water.

3. Sore and engorged breasts
There is no way around it: New mothers’ breasts become large, hard, and often sore. This is a necessary part of the process. The good news is that your body will adjust. While engorgement will continue until you are no longer breastfeeding, it will become less painful (and the milk leakage, another common issue for breastfeeding mothers, will more or less come under control).

To deal with engorgement, the best solution is to breastfeed as often as your baby asks to be fed. And if engorgement becomes an issue while the baby is sleeping or just not hungry, use a breast pump to express the excess milk. For soreness, make sure the baby is getting a proper latch, and use ice packs and warm compresses between feedings to ease any swelling.

4. Plugged ducts
Milk is produced not in one location, but in numerous ducts located in the nipple. When one of these ducts gets clogged, it causes a soft lump and can lead to backup in the milk supply. Untreated, these clogs can lead to infection, but they are usually relatively easy to clear. The key is to drain the breast as much as possible, massage it and apply warm compresses, and wear loose clothing (or no clothing) around the breast as much as possible. Continue breastfeeding even if the clog is a little painful, and call your doctor if it does not go away after a couple of days.

Eirian Hallinan has written numerous articles in the baby care field. She believes in healing naturally, first, especially when it comes to infant colic.

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