The home remedies and techniques that follow can help you solve your nursing difficulties so that breast-feeding can truly become that beautiful bonding experience you always hoped it would be.
Make sure the baby latches on correctly. It bears repeating that incorrect positioning of the breast in the baby's mouth is by far the most common cause of nipple pain and damage in breast-feeding women. You DO NOT want your baby to clamp onto the nipple itself. Rather, the nipple should be at the back of the baby's mouth, near the throat, so her lips and gums close around the areola (the circle of skin surrounding the nipple that is a different color than the fleshy part of the breast). Otherwise, you are likely to experience pain or pinching as soon as the baby latches on, and over time, the tender nipple skin is likely to crack and bleed, opening the door to infection.
To help ensure proper form, hold your baby in one arm so that the front of her whole body, not just her head, is facing yours. Using your other hand, place two fingers above the areola and three below to support the breast and "steer" the nipple. Be sure your fingers are behind the areola, so they won't get in the way as your baby latches onto it. Brush the baby's lower lip with the tip of your breast to get her to open her mouth wide. Then quickly pull her in close and slide your nipple into the back of her mouth before she can close her mouth around it. If you feel a general tenderness or a sharp, pinching pain when the baby first latches on, chances are you were not quick enough, and she latched on to the nipple rather than the areola. If so, simply remove her from your breast and try again until her mouth closes around your areola and her sucking no longer causes you pain.
Ease the release. If you need to remove the baby from your breast, don't just pull the two apart. First break the suction that's holding them together. Do this by gently sliding one of your fingers between the corner of the baby's mouth and the breast. Otherwise, it can feel like you're trying to pull a working vacuum cleaner off your nipple.
Use a prop. Try putting a pillow on your lap to help you hold the baby near your breast, so that his mouth is level with your nipple. If you hold him too low, he will tug downward on your breast, and will likely end up with your nipple between his gums as he nurses.
Nurse, nurse, nurse. There was a time when new mothers were encouraged to nurse their babies only at set intervals spaced several hours apart. But this approach often left the babies hungry and cranky and left their mothers' breasts painfully full between feedings. Thankfully, most baby doctors now believe that during the first weeks after birth, the baby should be offered the breast whenever she shows the early signs of hunger and should be allowed to continue each feeding until she is satisfied. (Early hunger signals in a newborn include an increase in alertness or activity, rooting, or mouthing; crying is actually a fairly late sign of hunger.) That generally translates into a minimum of 8 to 12 feedings in every 24-hour period (try for a feeding at least every two hours, except perhaps during the night, when you may be able to feed slightly less often), with each feeding lasting at least 10 to 15 minutes. Even a sleeping infant should be woken up to feed if it's been four hours since the start of her last feeding. Having the baby's crib in the same room that the mother is sleeping in during these first few days or weeks can make such frequent feeding a little easier.
Many doctors say that by letting the baby nurse almost continuously, especially during the first 12 to 24 hours after your milk comes in, you may be able to avoid the initial engorgement that normally occurs when the milk comes in; your baby will slowly but steadily siphon off milk, preventing the fullness from reaching the point of pain. But even if you can't completely head off engorgement, frequent feeding will help ease your discomfort during the week or so after birth that the body may need to adjust its milk production to suit your baby's needs.
If you instead trap yourself into feeding the baby on a preset schedule, only offering the breast every three to four hours during the day and letting her sleep as long as she wants, your milk will come in and make your breasts look and feel as if they're going to explode.
Try the "burp and switch" strategy. Always begin feeding the baby on the sorest breast or the one that seems to be the fullest. After five minutes, burp him and switch breasts. Keep switching and burping every five minutes until he is through feeding. This "burp and switch" method ensures that the baby drains both breasts sufficiently, rather than tanking up on one and leaving the other one painfully overfull.
Some more handy home remedies to take the pain out of breast-feeding are discussed in the next section.
For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To understand the process, read How Breast Feeding Works.
- Breast-feeding is all part of knowing How to Care for a Newborn.
- Bringing home a new baby from the hospital can be quite a shock. Learn how to cope in How to Adjust to a Newborn.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.