With a beautiful new life brought into the world, you want to give them every possible chance to grow and thrive at their absolute best. Breastfeeding is the greatest, most natural, normal way to give your baby proper nutrients, immunity, and love in the first part of their lives. However, there may be some complications that happen along the way that may not allow this process to be as easy and beautiful as you had hoped. In reading this, my goal is to deliver some helpful information in order for you to avoid some of these possible issues so you and your baby can breastfeed like a champ!
Firstly, some of the issues can arise from a hospital delivery and the interventions that may come along with that. Interventions such as a vacuum or forceps delivery, C-section, or even a vaginal delivery can put a large amount of stress on the neck of your new born. During these types of hospital deliveries, the baby is pulled and twisted by the head and neck to release them from the birth canal. This differs from a more natural or home birth where the baby is delivered just by pushing with little stress put on the neck. The pulling and twisting on the neck can cause some irritation and damage to some of the nerves in the neck which control function in the face. In some cases, difficult deliveries can cause torticollis (sustained muscle spasm in the neck causing it to remain twisted or turned to one side). Due to this irritation, the baby may experience discomfort on one side of their neck which may make them favor one breast over the other, or may not latch properly.
Another common issue is called a “tongue tie.” This is present at birth and happens in up to 2% of babies. A tongue tie is when your baby is born with a short or tight frenulum (the band of skin that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth). Due to this, the tongue is restricted. It may not reach the palate at the top of the baby’s mouth which can lead to incomplete latching, poor suction, and mouth breathing. This can be very frustrating for baby and mom, as baby may not be able to suck enough milk from the breast.
Because your baby can be sensitive to the foods you are eating, this can also have an effect on breastfeeding. If your baby is sensitive to some of the foods you are eating or drinking, you may notice they are “spitting up” more frequently. Spitting up is normal and can happen when baby gets too much milk too fast or too much air. When this happens, it doesn’t necessarily cause them discomfort, and it just happens. However, if the spitting up happens and they appear uncomfortable and irritable, it may be due to something in your diet. Most commonly, this is dairy products, gluten, or nuts in the mother’s diet. By monitoring and eliminating these kinds of foods, your baby’s digestion will be happier as well. More frequent spitting up can also be a side effect from a difficult delivery, which may have caused some irritations to the nerves that control the throat and esophagus. This is something that a pediatric Chiropractor sees often, and can help.
Trouble with breastfeeding may also happen because you or the baby is in an uncomfortable position. There are a few different positions that you can try to help make this comfortable for both of you.
- The classic cradle position is great for full term babies delivered vaginally. In this position, hold them in your lap (or on a pillow on your lap) so they are lying on their side with face, stomach, and knees directly facing you. Tuck their lower arm under your own. If nursing on the right breast, rest their head in the crook of your right arm. Extend your forearm and hand down her back to support their neck, spine, and bottom. Secure their knees against your body, across or just below your left breast. Baby should lie horizontally, or at a slight angle. Sometimes you might feel that this may be a little difficult to guide the baby’s mouth to the nipple, so this may work best after 1 month when the baby can hold their neck a bit better by themselves.
- The cross over or cross cradle hold may be helpful for babies who have trouble latching on. In this position, if you’re nursing from your right breast, use your left hand and arm to hold your baby. Rotate their body so their chest and tummy are directly facing you. With your thumb and fingers behind their head and below his ears, guide their mouth to your breast.
- The football hold may be a good choice for those who have had a C-section. First, position your baby at your side, under your arm. Baby should be facing you with their nose level with your nipple and their feet pointing toward your back. Rest your arm on a pillow in your lap or right beside you, and support your baby’s shoulders, neck, and head with your hand. Using a C-hold, guide him or her to your nipple, chin first. Use your forearm to support her upper back. Also, if your baby is small or has trouble latching on, the hold allows you to guide their head to your nipple. It also works well for women who have large breasts or flat nipples, and for mothers of twins.
- Another position that can work if you’ve had a C-section is the reclining position. This is also great if you are nursing at night with your baby in bed with you. Place several pillows behind your back for support. The goal is to keep your back and hips in a straight line. With your baby facing you, draw them close and cradle their head with the hand of your bottom arm. If your baby needs to be higher and closer to your breast, place a small pillow or folded receiving blanket under their head. You may need to lift your breast, with your fingers underneath, so they can reach comfortably (babycenter.com).
If breastfeeding has become difficult, or you would like some help or more information, contact a lactation consultant. Locally, Michelle Farfel, Linda Carrol, and Tara Murphy work with at Jersey Shore Medical Center/Meridian Health. Seek out breastfeeding classes by birth practitioners and other lactation consultants, and prepare yourself before your baby is born. The International Lactation Consultant Association (www.ilca.org) is also a great resource with extensive information regarding breastfeeding practices.
Doulas and midwives also can be of service, and often have great natural recipes for better breast milk production such as:
Nursing Formula for Milk Production
1/2 oz. Blessed Thistle
1/2 oz. Borage
1/2 oz. Red Raspberry Leaf
1/2 oz. Nettle
(1 tsp. Fennel Seed on the side — Do Not Add to Blend)
Place herbs in a 1/2 gallon jar, fill to top with boiling water. Cap tightly and let steep overnight. Strain and refrigerate.
At each nursing session pour 6 oz. into a pan and bring to a boil. Pour hot tea into a cup over 1 tsp. of fennel seeds. Let steep for 5 minutes, then drink.