Help! Breastfeeding is Painful! Is Something Wrong?
The early days and weeks of breastfeeding can be difficult as mom’s hormones are shifting dramatically and she is getting less sleep than she is used to. Sore nipples can make the adjustment even more stressful. Some well-meaning friends or family members might tell moms that they need to “toughen up” their nipples, or advise them to give up and just bottle-feed. If your nipples are hurting, it is important to find the cause of the pain and to make the necessary adjustments so you can continue breastfeeding.
Discomfort in the early days of breastfeeding is not uncommon and might be normal, as long as it is mild, it lasts only a few seconds at the beginning of a feeding, and the nipples look normal after feeding. Toe-curling pain that lasts throughout the feeding and/ or between feeds, and nipples that are misshapen, white, scabbed, or cracked are not normal. Moms who are experiencing these things are encouraged to seek help from an IBCLC right away.
Most of the time, sore nipples can be resolved by making some adjustments in how the baby is positioned at the breast. The vast majority of nipple pain is caused by positioning and latch errors. Sometimes, small adjustments can make a big difference in mom’s comfort!
Could My Baby Have Tongue-Tie?
If you are experiencing pain while breastfeeding, it is important to seek help from an IBCLC who can help you with positioning, evaluate your baby’s latch, and evaluate your baby for anatomical variances such as tongue or lip-tie. If your baby does have a tongue or lip-tie, and you are having breastfeeding difficulties, there are some very affective treatment options that your IBCLC can discuss with you. Sometimes a tongue-tie is hard to see. Sometimes, a baby might have an obvious-looking tongue-tie, but a full evaluation is necessary to make sure there are not other problems going on.
If it’s Not Tongue-Tie, What Could it Be?
Some other things that can cause severe nipple pain include Raynaud’s Syndrome, skin conditions, or infection. The baby may have difficulty with sucking and require suck training. Some babies have misalignment that causes sucking difficulties, and can be helped by a specialist in Cranio-sacral therapy.
If you are hurting, get help right away! There is no need to continue suffering, when an IBCLC can help you find out what the problem is and what to do about it.
Help! My Baby is Feeding All the Time! Is This Normal?
In the early days of your baby’s life, between the hormones, the visitors, the other children and pets, and the exhaustion, it’s easy for moms to feel overwhelmed! Add to this a baby who seems to want to breastfeed all the time, and moms can despair and lack confidence.
On your baby’s first day of life, he will take an average of 1 to 2 teaspoons of colostrum per feeding. Those tiny meals allow your baby to lose some of the extra fluids that are in his body at birth, empty his bowels, and practice lots of feedings without taking in too much.
Your baby might not have many meals in the first 24 hours, but by the second day of life, he will be eating 8 to 12 times or more per day! Most babies cluster feed in the evening and nighttime hours during the first few days of life. Cluster feeding simply means your baby wants to have several meals back to back. It’s important to understand that when your baby cluster feeds, this is perfectly normal and expected, and it does not mean that something is wrong or that your baby is starving.
If everything is fine, why is my baby sucking so much?
Each time your baby latches, even though he isn’t getting a large meal, he is doing a very important job: telling your body to make lots of milk for him. As he sucks at the breast, your breast is changed and milk production is triggered. The more he latches in the first few days, the more milk you will be making in the first weeks and months.
More sucking now = more milk later!
Your colostrum is all your baby needs, and it’s really important to not despair and give your baby formula during those few nights of cluster feeding! Continuing to offer him your breast when he is acting hungry, even if he just had a meal, will:
1. Give baby everything he needs and wants
2. Trigger your breasts to make lots of milk
3. Help prevent engorgement
4. Help calm you and increase your confidence.
Anytime you are not sure if things are going well, make sure to consult your pediatrician or an IBCLC. I can visit you in the comfort of your home to assess a feeding and make a customized feeding plan for you. I will weigh your baby with my hospital-grade baby scale before and after he eats, so we will see how much he's getting. I am available to come to your house to help you usually within 24 hours of your request! Contact me here.
Beth Sanders, BSN, RN, IBCLC