I recently encouraged a new mom who was having difficulties breastfeeding and thought it might be beneficial to others to post some tips for making things easier. There are many different struggles that a new mom and baby can have. After all, baby has just been through a traumatic experience being born and now we are expecting her to work for her food! Sometimes this comes easy for mom and baby, but sometimes it does not.
For those who are struggling (or know someone who is) I would love to give you some tips on how to help baby latch on properly and make this transition easier for both mom and baby. My qualifications are that I have had 5 babies :) and each one has nursed differently. Also I was a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for WIC (Women Infants and Children) when our 4th baby was a baby/toddler.
Breastfeeding is hard work for the baby. There is quite a bit more involvement than with bottle feeding. This is simply because there is not much sucking involved when using a bottle as the liquid inside tends to drip out easily. You may notice this as you turn a full bottle upside down. You can turn natural feeding any way you wish, but it rarely drips out! So baby has to suck vigorously to stimulate milk flow and then continue almost a rhythmic pattern to keep things going smoothly. Some babies are born with natural sucking instincts and don't have any trouble breastfeeding. Others have to be taught. If you have one that needs a little coaxing, don't despair. It will all work out. Just don't give up.
One of the first things I like to encourage a new mom to do is to
try lying down to nurse the baby.
Since mom is so exhausted from delivery and stressed from lack of sleep and probably too many visitors, etc. it is a good idea for her to lie down any chance she gets. Mom needs to lie on her side and use lots of pillows; one behind her back, one between her knees, and one or two under her head. Then have a blanket rolled to put behind baby (in a minute). Before mom gets all comfortable though, she should remove her shirt so she will have less to worry about.
After mom is comfortable and taken a few sips of cold water, have dad or grandma to bring baby to her. Baby should be undressed down to her diaper so that mom and baby can have that skin-to-skin contact. Position baby on her side facing mom and place blanket roll behind baby. You do not want baby to lie on her back and try turning her head to mommy. This is very uncomfortable to baby and is harder for her to swallow. Have you ever tried to swallow while having your head turned to the side? It is nearly impossible.
Now just tickle baby's mouth with the nipple to let her begin "rooting". Then when she opens her mouth wide, gently, but quickly push the back of her head to help her latch on. You may have to try this a few times to get it to work, but things should begin to go smoothly soon.
Some of the advantages of nursing while lying down is that mom is not having to worry about holding baby, fighting with clothes, blankets or anything else that might get in the way. In the comfort of your own bed, just baby and you, breastfeeding will become relaxing instead of a chore.
Another tip for helping mom to be able to relax is to apply heat to those tired achy muscles. Put uncooked rice in an old sock with just a hint of lavender/chamomille. Heat in microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (do not overheat). The lavender/chamomille is a relaxing herb. The combination of the herbs and heat will provide relaxation to a tired mommy.
Remember what your goal is.
Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for you and baby. I'd love to help you walk through this process. Let me know if this was helpful or if I could be of any other assistance. Hang in there and you will be glad for the end rewards!