You’ve heard all about how breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. You've got all the pads and other things you need to make the job easy.
But now your baby is here, and breastfeeding isn't going as smoothly as you expected. Don’t worry. Lots of moms run into problems now and then. Here are some of the most common questions we hear—and some answers to help you deal with them.
Hint: One of the answers is . . . cabbage leaves. Read on to find out why.
#1: What if I have to stop breastfeeding after a few weeks?
Even if you can only breastfeed your baby for the first few weeks, you have given your child a fantastic start in life. That early colostrum you provided was full of white blood cells and infection-fighting proteins. Then your milk continued feeding him vitamins, minerals, and iron in forms he could easily absorb, strengthening his brain and body.
In addition, you have bonded with your baby by spending time skin-to-skin. That alone is priceless. Without realizing it, you have become more aware of your baby and his ways than you would have without breastfeeding.
So good job, Mom. Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed babies at least their first twelve months, you have given your baby a big boost into healthy life.
#2: I’m not sure I’m breastfeeding right. How can I tell?
There’s no substitute for talking with a lactation consultant or other trained breastfeeding helper. If you’re near us in Redwood County, Minnesota, you can contact the Redwood County WIC Program at 507-637-4041 for names and numbers of peer counselors to call 24/7. Or click on the image below for a pdf with that information:
#3: I want to leave some breast milk with my babysitter when I go to work. What do I need to do?
Here are some key steps to storing breast milk:
- Start clean. Wash your hands and your pump with soap and warm water.
- Sterilize to freeze. To store milk in the freezer for over two weeks, sterilize the container in boiling water. Otherwise, washing with soap and hot water is enough.
- Pump early. Most women’s milk supply is greatest early in the day and lessens around 6:00pm.
- Chill and fill. If you can only collect a little milk at a time, chill it in the refrigerator and then add it to a bottle in the freezer. (Differences of color from day to day are normal.)
- Label containers. Write the date on each container. Some experts recommend keeping frozen milk up to 3-4 months and refrigerated milk for up to 48 hours.
- Warm milk under running water. Hold the bottle under water that you slowly change from lukewarm to hot. Gently shake the milk to mix it. This works for both frozen and refrigerated milk.
- Don’t microwave. Microwaves can destroy some of the vitamins and other components in the milk. They can also heat milk unevenly, causing hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth and throat.
#4: Why are my nipples sore?
The first things to check are how your baby is latching on and your nursing position.
Keep your baby snug against you, tummy to tummy, with his head cradled inside your elbow. Make sure he is opening his mouth wide enough to take the whole nipple plus one inch of your breast into his mouth. If not, release the suction by slipping your pinky into the corner of his mouth. Then try again.
Other causes of sore nipples can be breasts that are too wet or too dry. Prevent wetness by gently blotting your nipples after you finish nursing and placing a dry pad inside your bra. On the other hand, prevent drying out your nipples by washing them without soap. Soap washes away the natural moisturizers secreted by the little bumps around your nipples. You can supplement this moisture with pure lanolin nipple cream.
*Note: Participants in Choices Pregnancy Center’s Earn While You Learn program can get nursing pads, pure lanolin nipple cream and other nursing supplies from our Baby Buck Boutique at no cost.
#5: Do I have a breast infection?
Most breast infections (called “mastitis”) occur between two and six weeks, but may happen any time. Watch for symptoms like these: achy flu-like feelings, a red blotch or streak on your breast, breasts that feel hot and tender or intensely painful.
If you suspect a breast infection, here’s what to do:
- Call your doctor right away. He will probably prescribe antibiotics, which are safe to take while nursing.
- Apply warm heat to your infected breast.
- Get bed rest.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Nurse your baby often from the infected breast. This is safe for your baby, and will help you heal faster.
#6: What if I’m not making enough milk?
Talk to your doctor and lactation specialist. They can make specific suggestions for you. In general, you and your doctor will want to monitor your baby’s weight carefully.
You can also try boosting your milk-producing system by spending more time with Baby skin-to-skin, massaging your breasts before and during feedings, and by relaxing.
It may also be helpful to try feeding your baby more frequently.
#7: My breasts feel hard and full. What should I do?
If your breasts are engorged (too full), you will need to express (squeeze out) some milk until your breast is soft enough for your baby to latch on properly. Once he is latched on well, make sure you give him plenty of time to drain your breast completely.
Another way to relieve painfully engorged breasts is by placing clean, fresh cabbage leaves on them for ten to twenty minutes. Caution: Don’t leave the leaves in place longer, as they can actually dry up your milk supply.
La Leche League has these suggestions for dealing with engorgement. Or ask a lactation specialist for additional advice for your specific situation.
Breastfeeding is so worth it
No method of feeding your baby is without its challenges. So it only makes sense to pick the method that offers the most benefit to you and your baby. Most moms find their breastfeeding challenges go away with a little help, and persisting is worth it in the long run.
We hope you will find the same to be true for you.
At Choices Pregnancy Center, we are here to answer questions and to walk alongside you during your parenting journey. So please feel free to text or call us or stop in to chat about how we can help you.