Breastfeeding can be one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences of motherhood, but it can also be very challenging for many new mums. Learning to breastfeed is exciting but like anything it takes time to learn. It may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.
While women are learning how to breastfeed, it is common to run in to problems. This three-parts series will look at the most common problems in those early stages.
This affects many new mums regardless of whether it’s you’re a first time Mum or not. Studies have shown that nipple soreness tends to peak three to five days after birth, but should ease after day seven. Nipples can get sore and tired with a newborn, especially with 10-12 breastfeeding sessions every 24 hours, combined with practising new feeding techniques.
Most nipple damage and soreness comes from baby not being attached to the breast correctly. It’s really important to seek help from your midwife, maternal child health nurse or lactation consultant. They can examine, with a professional eye, how your baby is feeding and attaching. They will be able to give you advice on improving your attachment to help address damage or soreness that continues after the first week.
Trying different positions can help you get a better feeding attachment with your baby. A good position to try is where you lay back and place baby in between your breasts. This feeding position lets baby use their natural instincts to find your breast and self-attach. With a little trial and error, you’ll find the positions that put the least amount of pressure on your breast, while being comfortable for your baby.
Breastmilk is full of natural healing elements that help your baby’s immune system so try rubbing a few drops of breastmilk on your nipples and letting it dry before putting your bra back on. Because breastmilk has anti-pathogenic and healing properties, it might help your sore or cracked nipples heal faster, especially if you use it along with moisturising lanolin cream or a compress.
Where nipples are very sore, you may be advised by your midwife to stop breastfeeding and express milk until the nipples have healed. Nipple shields can also help to protect the nipples during feeding. They fit directly over the nipple and form a seal around the areola (the darkened part of the breast). They can be a great way to help mums continue feeding with sore nipples that are worn between feedings and provide protection from friction until nipples heal.