The American Academy of Pediatrics has been urging mothers to breastfeed their baby for a minimum of 6 months, but there has been a lot of press recently with woman complaining that 6 months is way too difficult.
Some say that they are feeling “pressured” to breastfeed and consequently not enjoying the breastfeeding experience. Or they feel “guilty” if they decide to stop breastfeeding before the sixth month mark.
What is going on here? Isn’t breastfeeding a ‘normal’ response after giving birth? Don’t babies want to feed and mothers want to feed them? Why is it so hard for new moms to feel good about breastfeeding their babies?
After having worked with over 5000 breastfeeding mothers and babies, I have observed that the reason it is so “difficult” is that woman believe that breastfeeding is supposed to just come naturally.
The truth is that although after birth most moms and babes have a desire to breastfeed, breastfeeding is a “learned behavior” and not a “natural behavior.” When the mother and baby are taught properly, they can be breastfeeding easily and successfully for 6 months (or longer).
When it comes to breastfeeding, it has been my experience that moms need clear directions and guidelines, rather than just being sent home from the hospital and told to ‘let it happen naturally.’
Each mother has different shaped nipples, each baby has a different size mouth and every baby has a different style of breastfeeding. Therefore, each nursing dyad needs to have an individualized plan.
Babies need to be taught how to breastfeed and women need a specific plan of action with: clear directions, specific guidelines, goals, and a resource to go to for support when problems arise.
Here are a few essential points to keep in mind that should set you on the path to successful breastfeeding:
- Don’t believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt and that sore nipples are the norm, or perhaps even a badge of courage for toughing-it-out. If the baby is latched on to the breast properly and draining it, breastfeeding should not hurt!
- Do teach your baby to “breastfeed” and not “nipple feed.” To do so, start by holding your breast steady and compress it into a pointy shape with your hand. Next, bring the baby to you, trying to have your nipple go deep into the baby’s mouth into the S spot (between the baby’s hard and soft palate).
- Don’t stuff your breast into the baby’s mouth. Instead, bring your baby “to you.” To accomplish this, support the baby well, holding him along his spine and at the base of his head.
- Do use RAM (rapid arm movement), and bring your baby (or RAM him) onto the breast in a quick-swift motion, allowing the baby to take the breast as deeply into his throat as he can.
- Don’t get discouraged. If your latch hurts try again. If you allow the baby to nurse in a way that hurts you, your baby will not get the message that he needs to nurse deeper. When a mom and her baby share the experience of being on the breast deeply, with practice, mom will be able to nurse pain free.
- Do feed your baby 8-10 times in a 24 hour period and look for dirty diapers to know if your baby is getting enough milk daily. What goes in must come out. You need to see 6-8 wet and or dirty diapers in a 24 hour period for the first 8 weeks of life.
- Don’t allow you or your baby to feel unhappy and dissatisfied. If you are in pain, not getting enough soiled diapers, feel unsure or discouraged, find a qualified Lactation Consultant to help guide and support you in the process.