The Realities of Breastfeeding

The Challenges

Breastfeeding can take time, dedication and effort. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's easy. From latching issues to workplace demands, nursing mothers need to know what to expect in the first few months.

Not all babies (and moms) take to nursing immediately. It can be frustrating if the baby doesn't latch on, or if he or she latches on and falls asleep without taking in much milk. In those cases, mothers should find a lactation consultant immediately. Most hospitals have them on staff, or doctors can recommend one. If a new mom waits, her milk supply could diminish and exacerbate the problem.

Keeping up with supply and demand. "Use it or lose it," the phrase goes, and it's no different with breastfeeding. The body makes milk in relation to how much is removed, whether it's the baby, a breast pump or the mother's hand that removes it. If demand dwindles, so does supply. It's a good idea to pump when you can and build up a supply of milk in your freezer.

Soreness and pain. Mild nipple soreness is common with breastfeeding and it typically begins on the second day, peaks on the third and is dramatically better at the end of week one. Soothe sore nipples using medical-grade lanolin. If the soreness goes beyond discomfort to the level of pain, get help immediately. Your baby could be latching ineffectively or you could have mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue that nearly 1 in 10 mothers experience.

Leaking. You're not always in control of when (and where) your milk comes in. While "let down" can be a bit messy and embarrassing, it's also a good thing -- it usually means you have a solid supply of milk. La Leche League teaches thumb tricks to block the ducts, or you can sew your own breast pads or buy them at the store. The leaking tends to peak around six to eight weeks.

Return to work. Health care reform requires that (most) employers supply a place for nursing mothers to pump. Mothers shouldn't feel guilty or apologize for the time it takes to pump at work. It's a short period in your life and your baby is entitled to eat. If you're worried about the time it takes, consider a double breast pump, which will allow you to pump more quickly.

Breastfeeding in public. Mothers need to be empowered to breastfeed in public and feel confident about it. Again, your baby is entitled to eat. It helps to practice in front of a mirror until you're comfortable with the routine. There are a variety of accessories -- slings, "Hooter Hiders" and more -- that can help mothers be discrete.

Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.

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