Every time I thought I was getting the hang of nursing, my son, Noah, would throw me a curveball. We got over each hurdle, but it took quite a bit of problem solving. Turns out, many new moms have difficulty breastfeeding at first -- or face new challenges later on. To help you stick with it, we asked the experts to troubleshoot common hiccups.
This may indicate that your baby isn't latched on properly. Try sitting semi-reclined on the bed, or lengthwise on a sofa, with pillows supporting your back. Then place your baby belly-down on top of you -- gravity will help him latch on deeply, says international board-certified lactation consultant Nancy Mohrbacher, author of Breastfeeding Solutions: Quick Tips for the Most Common Nursing Challenges. If all you have is an upright chair, scoot your hips forward and lean back. To help your baby take your nipple farther back in his mouth, squeeze your breast gently with your fingers and thumb parallel to his lips while he's latching on.
If your baby sputters at each feeding, your milk probably comes out very quickly -- also known as fast milk ejection reflex, says Sara Chana, an international board-certified lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York. To slow down the flow of milk, apply counter pressure to the opposite breast: Place your open palm over the nipple and push in toward your chest as you count to five. The key is to curb the milk before it starts gushing, so use this technique at the beginning of each feeding, and repeat two to five times. It may also help to nurse your baby on one side only at each feeding.
If your baby starts to snooze as soon as you put her on the breast, your nipple may not be deep enough in her mouth to trigger active sucking. Or it could be that your infant needs a steady flow of milk to keep eating. To help her stay alert, Chana suggests doing breast compressions as she eats: Hold your breast behind where your baby is latched on with your hand in the form of a C; then compress your breast for five counts and release for five counts.
Your breasts and nipples are not identical, so it's common for a baby to have a preference for one side or the other, says Mohrbacher. One solution is to position your baby for the breast he favors and, keeping his orientation to your body the same, slide him over to the other breast before he latches on.
If your baby is healthy but refuses to feed on one side, it's okay. "My youngest would only breastfeed on one breast after he turned 6 months," says Mohrbacher. You can pump the extra milk or let that side dry up (though, in some women, this may result in one breast being larger than the other until their baby stops nursing).
If your older baby is latched on correctly, her teeth shouldn't touch your nipple. If she manages to bite you, try your best not to react loudly or suddenly -- she may continue to bite to see what your response will be the next time. Instead, Chana suggests taking her off the breast, setting her on the floor in a safe spot and saying, "That hurts Mommy," with a neutral face. Leave the room for a second; then come back in, look her in the eyes, and say, "You can't bite." Then let her latch on again. If she's teething, try giving her something cool to chew on before you start nursing.
Your baby may latch on tighter as she starts to fall asleep at the end of a feeding. As soon as you notice her lids start to flutter, stick your pinky in the side of her mouth to break the seal and slide your nipple out.
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Parents magazine.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.