Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Breastfeeding is NOT suppose to hurt - Part 2

During childbirth, the pains we feel from contractions do hurt and yet this is pain with a purpose. The work of labor is to cause the uterine muscle to go through changes that create the stretching of the uterine muscles... all to help bring your baby down and out into your arms. This labor period is a relatively short period of time and we can help ourselves tremendously to get through this period. Learning and practicing relaxation techniques, trusting birth and choosing the right careproviders are all part of the ingredients to help you have a safe birth as planned.

So, while pain during childbirth is expected and we can work through it, pain during breastfeeding signals us that something is wrong and we should not have to use techniques to help us get through the pain each and every time you breastfeed. So, what do we do as new mothers when there are people around us who say that newborn breastfeeding pain is normal? My first thought is: Normal for who? And why? And for how long? And just because that was there experience, does not mean it has to be your experience also.

So, here's the thing. My peer lactation consultants and I are pretty intense about teaching mothers that this should not be hurting. Why? Because frequently this means breastfeeding failure. You just discontinue offering your milk altogether, whether it be from the direct breast or from a bottle. Or you decide to exclusively pump and bottlefeed.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, it does not matter so much what I or someone else wants. What is wrong with this picture is that this is not what you had wanted.
You looked forward to the experience of holding your baby against your body, having them latch on and seeing them drink your milk,, directly from you. I strongly encourage mothers who are in this position to seek help from an experienced IBCLC. At least until you can get help, be sure to keep up your milk production with regular pumping and be sure to feed your baby as frequently as he/she desires, which is usually 8 - 10 feedings a day.

If the pump you are using is anything less than a hospital grade pump and you are finding that you are not making enough to keep up with your baby, I would encourage you to switch pumps, at least just temporarily, until you can get breastfeeding going well.

As lactation specialists, our mantra is:

1. Feed the baby ( even if it means temporarily with a bottle)
2. Protect the milk production ( regular and frequent milk removal)

As long as you are doing numbers 1 & 2, there is always lots of opportunity to work on your breastfeeding challenges, solve your issues and begin breastfeeding in comfort.

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