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How to Overcome the Barriers to Breastfeeding

written by: Nichole Bolton • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/15/2011

Breastfeeding has many health and emotional benefits to both a new mother and her baby. While most women are able to breastfeed successfully, there are some problems that can arise that make it difficult. Overcoming the barriers in breastfeeding helps to ensure that moms nurse as long as possible.

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    Difficulty Latching

    First-time moms often encounter latching difficulties with their new baby. IThis is often due to the baby not taking enough breast in her mouth. The mother should try to fit as much of her areola into the baby's mouth as possible. This can be accomplished by holding the breast and compressing it as the baby latches.

    The infant's lips should be curled outwards while nursing to allow as much breast into the mouth as possible. It should be possible to see the baby's tongue thrust outwards below the nipple with each suck. A clicking sound or pain can be signs of a poor latch.

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    Low Milk Supply

    Some mother encounter low milk supply while nursing a baby. The best way to avoid supply issues is to establish a strong milk supply in the early weeks. This can be done by nursing on demand any time the baby is hungry or just needs comfort. Nursing for comfort can take up a lot of time, but it serves to signal the breasts to make more milk. Pumping in between feeds also signals for the breasts to produce more milk. Certain herbs can be used as supplements to increase breast milk.

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    Discomfort or Pain

    Discomfort is very common in the early weeks of breastfeeding, and should not be cause for concern unless it is accompanied by severe bleeding and pain. Discomfort usually ends by four to six weeks of breastfeeding, after the nipples adapt to nursing. A helpful way to soothe sore nipples in the early weeks is to rub breast milk onto the nipples and allow them to air dry after each feeding. Once dry, lanolin cream can be applied to the nipples to aid in healing. Breast pain is common while the milk comes in, but nipple pain is a sign of something else like a poor latch. Severe breast pain accompanied by redness, swelling and fever is a sign of mastitis. A doctor should be contacted immediately if mastitis is suspected, but the best form of treatment is to nurse the baby as often as possible on the infected side.

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    Lack of Support

    Many women experience a lack of support when they begin breastfeeding a new baby. Having a support system is very important in the success of breastfeeding. If a woman experiences a lack of support when nursing, she should seek support from new people. La Leche League meeting are centered around nursing, and can be a great place to meet new friends who also breastfeed. It can be helpful to seek out a lactation consultant in the area to discuss common breastfeeding problems and solutions.

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    Returning to Work

    Some women feel that they cannot breastfeed once they return to work. This is simply not true. Mothers can successfully work while maintaining a breastfeeding relationship. It helps to take as much time off after giving birth as possible, at least six to eight weeks to establish a strong milk supply. Then, the mother can take a pump to work and pump in privacy throughout the day and allow the baby's caregiver to bottle feed the infant while she works. Once she returns home each evening, she can breastfeed her infant.

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    When breastfeeding a new baby, support is essential for success. A lactation consultant or La Leche League group can be the most helpful method of overcoming the barriers in breastfeeding. If problems arise during the nursing period, having someone to call for quick answers is the best way to ensure that problems are solved quickly and both mother and baby are happy.

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    References

    KellyMom: Common Breastfeeding Concerns - http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/index.html

    La Leche League International: Breastfeeding Answers - http://www.llli.org/nb.html