Let’s face it, breastfeeding is no picnic. At least, not right away. As rewarding as the experience of nursing may be, finding the most comfortable way to breastfeed is a challenge for any mother starting out. Often, the only solution to discomfort is some good old-fashioned practice.
While many factors can contribute to a mother’s breastfeeding experience, some of them are very much within your control. Follow these tips to help you be more comfortable while nursing.
Breastfeeding requires lengthy spells in a stationary position, so ordinarily minor support problems can exact a heavy toll over time. The best way to maintain your comfort during breastfeeding is to ensure that everything is properly supported: you, your breast, and your baby. Before you begin, find a sustainable position with equal parts posture and comfort. A slouched back might feel fine when you begin, but it could be agonising by the time you’ve finished. Because your breasts are heavier when lactating, cupping your breast with the C-hold – palm and four fingers underneath, thumb above the nipple – or a nursing support bra could help you avoid tension.
Making sure your baby and you are better supported will encourage your baby to latch. With a comfortable hold, bring your baby to the nipple and not the other way around. Leaning over to meet your baby will sacrifice your posture. Align your baby’s nose with the nipple. This forces the baby to lift their head, making feeding easier and faster.
Different holds work better for different mothers, owing to differences in breast size, baby size, stomach size, and sometimes, whether the mother has had a C-section. Experiment with some proven holds to see which one works best for you. Perhaps a conventional cradle works best for you, or maybe you find you can settle in more easily with a side lying hold. You may even consider rotating your hold, as each different hold results in different pressure points on your back, breast, and nipple.
One of the most important things a mother can do while breastfeeding is chill out! Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Mothers have a remarkable ability to convey their state of wellbeing to their child. If you’re relaxed, those vibes might just flow through to your baby, and help them relax as well.
Plenty of mothers can tell you that mid-way through nursing is a notoriously common time to find yourself parched. Sure, you’re literally being de-hydrated by the little one, but that’s not why you’re thirsty—some people think watching someone else drinking is what does it! Bring a glass of water with you and keep it within reach when you’re nursing, just in case.
If you find your nipples are sore or cracking, lanolin and hydrogel pads are practical, non-toxic solutions to moisturise, but consider a lactation consultant to be more confident that you’re correctly assessing any problems. If back soreness sets in, stretch regularly between nursing. Motherhood is tiring business in these first weeks, so taking care of yourself will be as important as ever. If you’ve got a partner available, make sure they’re helping out, perhaps a backrub wouldn’t go amiss?