Among the endless concerns that come with new parenting and first-time pregnancy is the decision of whether or not to breastfeed. Many new moms want to breastfeed but are honestly afraid to do so after hearing stories about the pain and anguish associated with it.
Susan Bennington of Bay Ridge was one of them. When her son, Jamie, was born two years ago, Bennington admits that she almost didn’t even try to breastfeed, because she thought it would hurt too much.
“My sister had given birth to my niece a year before I got pregnant, and she had such a hard time with it, she eventually gave up. Ever since then, she talks about how she should have just bottle-fed from the beginning and saved herself the torment,” she says.
Bennington cites sore nipples and difficulty in latching on as the top two causes of why her sister stopped.
“While I was naturally concerned seeing what my sister went through, I still felt in my heart that breastfeeding was best, and wanted to give my child every chance at the best health possible,” says Bennington. “So, I started reading up on it in my sixth month almost daily. When my son was born, amazingly enough, he latched on right away. It gave me the confidence to continue, and I’m so glad I did.”
Sara Chana, a breast-feeding expert and certified lactation consultant, says that when breastfeeding is working properly, it shouldn’t hurt.
Here are her best tips for pain-free breastfeeding:
• Don’t believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt and that sore nipples are to be expected. If the baby is latched on to the breast properly, breastfeeding should not hurt!
• Do teach your baby to latch onto the breast, not the nipple! Most women that come into my office are letting the baby latch onto the nipple and not the breast itself. (Remember, it is called “breastfeeding,” not “nipple feeding.”)
• Don’t worry about getting your whole areola into the baby’s mouth. Most women are taught to get the whole areola into the baby’s mouth, but all women have different size areolas, so this is really not the judge of a good latch. With a good latch, there usually is some areola showing, and often times, lots of areola is showing.
• Do hold your breast steady and compress it into a pointy shape with your hand, because a pointy breast can fit deeper into a baby’s mouth. Be sure to bring the baby to you deeply (not trying to stuff your nipple into the baby’s mouth). Your goal is to get your breast deeply into the baby’s mouth with the nipple touching the S spot (between the baby’s hard and soft palate). Your nipple actually needs to point back into the baby’s throat.
• 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 get help from a professional lactation consultant if you are in pain, not getting enough soiled diapers, or feel unsure or discouraged. Birth hurts — breastfeeding is not supposed to!
Danielle Sullivan, a Brooklyn-born mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blog, Just Write Mom.
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