If you’re anything like me, you thought that breastfeeding was going to come naturally to you and baby. You thought that instincts would kick in and everything would just mesh and work perfectly. But, like me, you probably got a bit of a surprise as soon as you actually began the breastfeeding journey.
Although it is the most natural way to feed your new baby, it doesn’t exactly come naturally to either of you at first. Your newborn will have the suckling instinct, but what she tries to suckle will vary from your cheek to your shoulder to dad’s chest. You’ll have questions like “is my baby eating enough?” and “am I doing this right?” pretty much on a daily basis.
Friends might give you all kinds of advice on how things worked or didn’t work for them, but in reality, you’re going to need to find what works best for you and bub. Taking a nursing class and getting advice from a lactation expert will help ease some of your worries and give you a better chance of being able to succeed in breastfeeding challenges. But if you’re still not sure if the whole process is working right, check out this list of problems that point to a mom who isn’t breastfeeding the best way and learn the solutions to ensure you and baby have the smoothest feeding relationship possible!
15 Are Your Nips Sore?
Real talk? Your nips are going to be very, very sore at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Your little one has a strong latch, and once you couple that with feeding every couple hours around the clock.. well, you can imagine that you’re going to feel raw and maybe even get some cracks and bleeding.
BUT that should only happen in the first week or so. If you continually have soreness, you’re not positioning the baby correctly. Try using the the crossover hold which uses your opposite hand to cradle the baby’s head, allowing your newborn to get in nice and close for optimal latch, and giving you more control over baby’s position. And don’t forget to use a bit of lanolin cream after each session until you get used to feedings.
14 Are You Feeding The Baby Less Than 12 Times A Day?
If you’re a routine driven person, a baby can really upset anything you’ve set into place. Some moms try to establish some order back into their lives by putting their newborn on a feeding schedule, but doctors will tell you that for the first couple months, baby gets to call the shots on when he wants to eat.
Most newborns will feed every 1-2 hours around the clock, meaning that they need a breastfeeding session at least 12 times a day. If you’re not feeding on demand, your little one will cry more due to hunger and won’t grow at the rate he should. This puts him at risk of falling behind with developmental milestones, so it’s not worth the risk just to have routine back in your life. Hold on for a few months and you’ll see that baby starts to develop a routine naturally at his own pace.
13 Is The Baby Losing Weight?
Your newborn is going to lose a bit of weight right after birth, and that’s totally normal. But once your milk comes in around day 4, baby should start to put those pounds (or ounces) back on. Your doctor will be weighing your little one at every visit to ensure that he’s gaining the right amount. For the first few months, baby will gain around 5-7 ounces every week, most likely doubling his weight around the 3-4 month mark.
If your newest bundle of joy isn’t gaining as expected, you may have a feeding problem. Make sure that he’s feeding at least 10-12 times a day. Check his latch, ensuring that there are no clicking or sucking noises which signal a bad latch or incorrect positioning. And don’t be afraid to go to a lactation consultant or midwife to help you with any breastfeeding problems.
12 Is Your Neck Sore?
You’re probably not thinking of yourself right after giving birth, since every part of you is focused on that brand new baby you just brought into the world. But your body is worth listening to in the breastfeeding journey, as it may be telling you that you’re not doing things the best way possible.
Many women experience neck and back pain while nursing because they hunch over the baby during each session. While this does allow the baby to latch on easier, it does more harm than good for you. The best technique is to sit up straight in a supportive chair, bring the baby to your breast (rather than the other way around), and use a nursing pillow to maintain proper positioning. If you struggle to get your baby to latch well, try hunching over just long enough for baby to attach, then lean back.
11 Is The Baby Attaching Only To The Nip?
Your baby’s latch is the single most important part of breastfeeding. It’s the way that she draws milk out, so if she’s not latching properly, she’s not feeding properly which leads to a whole slew of issues. One of the biggest issues with latch is baby attaching to only the nip. This causes extreme soreness for you, and very little milk for her.
How can you tell if baby’s latch isn’t what it should be? Have a look at her mouth- it should be covering up a good chunk of your areola (that’s the colored part around your nips). If it’s not, you’ll need to reposition her. Your little one will naturally clamp down once she feels something touch her mouth, so you have to be quick. As soon as she open her mouth, use the “C hold” or “U hold” to guide her mouth to you and get maximum latching.
10 Is The Baby's Neck Twisted?
If you’ve ever tried to eat or drink something while on your back, you understand that it’s uncomfortable and can cause choking. The same goes for your baby. It may seem normal to have her on her back with her neck twisted towards you while feeding, but in reality, you’re making it that much more difficult for her to feed properly. The ideal position for baby is to be belly to belly with you. Some consultants encourage moms to feed in a reclined position with baby vertically against your belly and chest, because it relaxes you, is comfortable and allows gravity to help support the baby rather than you doing all the work.
Whatever position you choose and find most comfortable, make sure that your kiddo isn’t twisted awkwardly.
9 Is Baby Cluster Feeding?
Cluster feeding happens when a baby has breastfeeding sessions that are close together or combined for a few hours every day. For instance, your little one might feed every 2-3 hours throughout the day, but for a few hours every evening will either want to feed every hour or will feed constantly over that time frame.
While cluster feeding is normal and actually helps to increase your milk supply for your growing baby, it becomes a sign of a breastfeeding problem when it happens more frequently than before and doesn’t coincide with a growth spurt. If your baby is suddenly feeding every hour all day long, you may want to check that she has a strong enough latch, is positioned well and is gaining weight. Otherwise head to your doctor to make sure all is well in breastfeeding land.
8 Is The Baby Falling Asleep Before The End?
You may have noticed that your newborn is tired for pretty much most of the day. This can be particularly frustrating when you’re trying to feed your kiddo, especially if he’s falling asleep before the end of the feeding session. A baby who falls asleep at the beginning of breastfeeding may indicate a shallow latch, which means that milk flow is too slow and causes him to lose interest.
If latch isn’t the issue, you may just have a tired little one who needs some extra encouragement to stay awake. Try feeding him skin on skin, tickling his cute feet or taking him off the breast once he starts nodding off. Give him a burp or a little belly rub, and then reattach him until he’s fed for at least 10 minutes consecutively.
7 Are You Using A Bottle?
This one is a little controversial, so take the info with a grain of salt. Some experts will tell you that you shouldn’t use a bottle or pacifier for the first month of baby’s life because it can cause confusion for your kiddo on how to feed. A bottle and a real life nip have very different flow- bottles flow easily while the nip makes baby work for it. As with most adult humans, babies will choose the easier option, and may stop breastfeeding altogether because of a preference for the faster flow.
In saying that, every baby is a unique person, and there are many kiddos who can go back and forth between bottle and breastfeeding with no issues. However, if you are having trouble with latch or other breastfeeding issues, you may just want to play it safe and save the bottles for a later time.
6 Are You Drinking Less Water?
Your baby gets his water intake through your breastmilk. What does this mean for you? You’re losing water at every feeding, which can quickly lead to dehydration. And dehydration can seriously affect your milk supply, so you want to make sure you’re getting enough water in at all times. La Leche League reports that many women feel thirsty while feeding, especially in those first weeks. Combat this by keeping a water bottle or glass of water next to you for every feeding. Bring water in the car and carry a bottle with you when shopping.
But experts also warn that you shouldn't be filling up on water alone because you need precious calories while feeding. Make sure you’re not going overboard with the aqua, but balance it with healthy food choices.
5 Are You Nursing In A Noisy Place?
Have you ever eaten a meal in a crowded room with lots of people talking and laughing, only to realize you don’t even remember eating? Babies can be even more distracted than us, so if you’re trying to feed your kiddo in a loud, stimulating environment, you may find she’s more interested in what’s going on around her than actually eating.
Your little one is discovering the world for the very first time, so even the light from your tv can be the most interesting thing she’s ever seen, taking her attention away from the process of having a meal. Try to feed her in a quiet spot, with as little visual stimulation as possible. This way you ensure that she is focused on the task at hand, and you know that she’s getting enough to eat.
4 Are You Giving Short Feeding Sessions?
Patience is everything in those first weeks of breastfeeding. Your newborn should be eating for 20-45 minutes each session, according to Sutter Health, but factors like sleepiness, distractions and bad latching can mean that your little one seems done after only 5-10 minutes or so. Don’t give up though! Try waking your little one by sitting her up and giving her a tickle or pat on the back before switching to the other side to finish off feeding.
Although she seems like she’s had enough, by giving these short feeding sessions, you will end up feeding your baby more often, meaning that you won’t get those precious couple of hours between feedings to actually eat for yourself. And maybe even shower, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
3 Doing It Alone?
As I said earlier, breastfeeding is a natural process, but it doesn’t come naturally to anyone. If you think you’ll just magically know what to do once you have that baby in your arms, think again. It can be a confusing and frustrating process made worse by sleepless nights, heaps of mommy hormones and the anxiety that comes with suddenly being responsible for another human life.
Trust me- asking for a bit of help will go far in the breastfeeding journey and it’s well worth the hour long class or lactation consultation in hospital to make sure that you and baby are given the best chance at succeeding as a team. Most classes are free or very low cost, and if you have a midwife during delivery, she will assist you during your hospital stay, so ask questions and get hands on help!
2 Are You Waiting Until Baby Is Crying?
It would seem logical that if your baby starts crying, you feed him. While this is a good way to know that your baby is hungry, it can lead to a lot of frustration on both sides because it means that your kiddo is VERY hungry and not interested in trying to latch on the correct way. The more frustrated baby becomes, the harder it will be to get him to latch on, plus he ingests a lot more air which causes gassiness and pain.
A better rule of thumb is to watch your baby for signs of hunger before he gets to the point of crying. In the first weeks, things like sucking on fingers and bringing his hands to his mouth are indicators that he is beginning to feel those hunger pangs.
1 Is Baby Wetting Fewer Diapers?
This is the telltale sign of whether your baby is eating enough or not. Generally speaking, your newborn should be wetting at least one diaper for every day of birth, until your milk comes in. That means that on day one, baby should have one wet diaper; on day two, baby should have two wet diapers, and so on until baby reaches five to six wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
If your little one isn’t wetting the right amount of diapers, double check that all important latch, have a look at your breastfeeding position, and make sure that your milk has come in by doing a test squeeze. You should see a small amount of milk come out.
No matter what, if you’re not sure your kiddo is getting enough to eat, talk to your doctor straight away.
Sources: HealthyWomen.org, WhatToExpect.com, AmericanPregnancy.com, Livestrong.com, Parents.com, TheBump.com, LaLecheLeague, SutterHealth, BabyMed