Sometimes breastfeeding a newborn sucks…yup, it’s true.
For more than one reason. We constantly question our own instincts, we don’t know who to listen to (ourselves or our mothers and friends?), we read every bit of information we can get our hands on and are still confused. Different doctors, midwives, lactation consultants and breastfeeding volunteers contradict each other. We are tired, confused and tired. And tired. Oh yes, and tired.
After I had my baby I was told MANY different things…
“He needs to learn how to fall asleep on his own”
“Don’t EVER let him in your bed at night”
“Try a pacifier”
“Are you sure you have enough milk? He looks skinny and hungry”
“How long are you going to breastfeed him? He is eating food now right?”
and the list goes on!
Besides muddling through the different advice, many of us experience; sore nipples, engorgement, cranky babies, babies with allergies, obsessions with our babies poop and pee schedules, obsessions with our breastfeeding schedules, lack of sleep, lack of sleep and lack of sleep! So why do we keep on breastfeeding? Does it every get easier? Why yes it does, you are in luck!
Here are some of the more common reasons for breastfeeding totally sucking in the the early months
and what you can do about them…
1. Sore nipples!
I am sure you have heard this before but I’ll say it again…breastfeeding should not hurt! If it was supposed to hurt then none of us would do it! The most obvious and common reason for sore nipples is due to how your baby is latching on. Seek help if you are in need of some support getting your baby to latch on without pain. The good news is that once your baby is latched on correctly, the pain will go away! Other common causes of pain include; thrush (yes, a yeast infection on your poor nipples!), mastitis, dermatitis and Raynaud’s Syndrome. If you know the latch is great then something else might be going on. The faster you can get on top of it, the easier it is to fix.
Ah, the huge rock hard boulder boobs. When I had my first baby I was amazed at how perky and huge my boobs were when my milk came in. Then I had massive oversupply so I had boobs like a fire hose and was frequently engorged!! Some things that mums find helpful for relieving engorgement…
- Breastfeed like there is no tomorrow! Allow your baby to feed as often and for as long as she would like!
- Get into bed with your baby and breastfeed, rest, drink HEAPS of water and have your partner, mother or friend wait on your hand and foot.
- Warm washcloths, warm showers and swishing your boob in a warm bowl (yes, seriously. Try it, it’s fun!).
- Massage, massage, massage! Before, during and after a feed.
3. Not enough milk!
Are you concerned about your supply? I have written an article about this, please head here to find out more about low supply…
4. Too much milk
I’ve been there, with each of my babies. Over supply or an “over active letdown” can make breastfeeding very challenging. You can try, “block feeding” where you breastfeed off of one side for a few hours until it is well drained before switching to the other side. You can also hand express some of the fast flow (which is the formilk) at the beginning of the feed and then pop your baby on when your boob is less fire hose like. You might find lying back a bit will help too, as gravity will slow down the flow. Head to this article for more information on oversupply and puking babies…
5. Not enough sleep
Sleep, oh sleep… where did you go?! It is the biological norm for breastfed babies and toddlers to NOT sleep through the night. I know, it is a sad fact but true! Once your baby comes closer to the 18th month mark then there are many ways to gently encourage them to night wean without tears from you (or your toddler)! They will then be at an age where they can understand and you can negotiate. I am completely anti-cry-it-out and you can read why here.
If you don’t like the idea of cry it out or sleeping training either, please check out my book on some gentle alternatives and what is normal for breasteed children.
6. Too much sleep (ha!) yeah right! If you have this problem, I hate you!
7. Cranky baby
Sometimes newborns are cranky. For no reason! Do they enjoy torturing us? What is going on?! The reality is that in many circumstances you might not find out what was actually wrong. The awesome thing is that if you offer the breast and then go through “The Circuit”, then you will know that even though they cried for an hour straight, at least you were holding them, rocking them, offering the breast and trying to entertain them.
Signs that your baby has an allergy to something you are eating include; blood in their stool, eczema, frequent spitting up (please have a read of my article on this topic to know what is normal), rash on your baby’s cheeks or bum. If you suspect your baby is having an allergic reaction to something seek some help to figure out what your baby might be having a reaction to.
9. Baby weight and growth chart obsessions
So often I hear from women who are told, “your baby is too skinny” or “your baby is in the bottom 10th percentile and something is wrong…” or “your baby is not gaining quickly enough” etc. etc. etc. Here is the deal though, weight gain is of course important and relevant but it is not the ONLY thing and it is not as black and white as, “here is the chart and it will tell you if you baby is doing OK”. Is your baby gaining weight? Is your baby generally content after he feeds? Does your baby have about six wet nappies per twenty four hours and at least three poops? Do you feel as though your baby is happy most of the time and growing? If you have answered yes to these questions then great! Your baby is most likely getting enough. If you feel unsure or your doctor is telling you that your baby needs supplements but you don’t feel as though that is the answer then get a second opinion or contact an IBCLC.
10. Schedules and Routines…
When my husband and I had our first baby we were so happy that our baby did not have a routine! We could go anywhere, do anything and he would happily breastfeed and fall asleep. Once he started to get into his own routine we thought, “oh no! Now we have to be home at a certain time at night! AAAAHHHH!” Don’t stress about routines. Your baby will start to develop patterns on their own and will let you know when they would like to fall asleep each night. Once that happens you can start some rituals around bed time. Bath, story, breastfeeding to sleep. Collapse on the couch while you get some much needed down time! 🙂
I would not have breastfeed all three of my boys and continue to feed my youngest if it always sucked. Most of the time it is awesome. 😀 Breastfeeding has been one of the most amazing, wonderful things I have experienced in raising my children. This is because I have seen how they have thrived on it. They were comforted, nourished and happy throughout their breastfeeding years and continue to *knock on wood* be healthy, active kids. If you are feeling frustrated, sad and exhausted KEEP GOING! You can do it! Seek some support if you need it. After these early months it get easier and does starts to NOT suck! Which is awesome.