The expectation of breastfeeding can be very far from reality. For starters, new mums are rarely prepared for the sensations that feeding their baby can spark. They also might not anticipate that breastfeeding can cause discomfort and even pain.
Breastfeeding can hurt, but there are ways you can get around it. There’s a perception that breastfeeding comes naturally, but for most women, that’s just not the case.
Breastfeeding is a learned thing. For some people, it does happen pretty quickly but that is actually a very small percentage of women. Mothers and babies have to learn how to breastfeed. They need to find their rhythm and sometimes that takes a little bit of time. Painful breastfeeding can be a part of this steep learning curve.
It can be the result of a number of things. You have sensitive nipples and you’ve got this baby on them all the time. Your skin gets a bit sore – and that’s a pretty normal thing when you first start breastfeeding – but it can also hurt if you’re not actually in the right position. If the baby’s not positioned properly on the nipple, sometimes that can push the nipple up against the roof of their mouth or they can suck on it in a way that’s uncomfortable. So there are numerous things that might be going on.
Babies seriously suck
When babies feed, they suck very strongly. They suck your nipple all the way back to the back of their palate. For some women, it takes a little bit of time to get used to this. The nipples have to toughen up a little bit.Breastfeeding will hopefully become easier and less uncomfortable in time.
You just have to kind of get through it and hopefully it doesn’t take too long, however remember that constant pain requires expert support. If breastfeeding is painful and it’s going on and on and on, then something might be wrong. The attachment might be wrong, the way the baby’s sucking might be the issue, they may have a tongue tie, or there might be something else going on.
So where should women turn if breastfeeding is causing them pain?
The first port of call would be the breastfeeding clinic at Mater Dei hospital. They’re often really good sources of information and they can just check that everything is okay in terms of latching and that sort of thing.
When is enough, enough?
If you’re trying to breastfeed and it’s not working, you’re in a really vulnerable place. You’ve got a new baby, you’re sleep deprived and it’s going to make your mental health worse. If it’s a constant battle and baby is hungry and mum is exhausted – and expert advice is simply not helping, it’s important to balance everyone’s well being. Sometimes formula can be the best alternative.
The best thing is for the mother to look after herself so that she can be there for her baby, and not sobbing every time she puts him on the boob. Your baby needs to be fed. You know that’s the bottom line.