I’ve written before about the less-spoken-about challenges of breastfeeding. It really can be painful and anxiety-inducing, especially for first-time moms. But there are ways to avoid discomfort, deal with pain, and increase a mother’s enjoyment of the breastfeeding experience. Here are some of the tips that I’ve used myself:
PAIN RELIEF When you’re nursing and your nipples are tender, nothing feels better than a hot shower with the water flowing down over your chest (perhaps I should be writing a novela rosa?). If you have sore nipples, express a bit of milk after your shower, dab it onto the surface that ails you, and let it air dry (coincidentally, you can also do this with scratches, pink eye, and rashes that your child might suffer from). Breast milk is what modern day medicine wants to be when it grows up. Use it as you would an antibiotic cream!
Beyond the easy, natural remedies, there are lots of good nipple creams on the market to help us mamis. Lanolin is readily available at any drug store but more animal-friendly products include nipple whips made from coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil, or other natural (potentially organic) moisturizers.
Read Related: What No One Tells You About Breastfeeding
REMEDY FOR ENGORGEMENT What’s wrong with having too much of such a wonderful thing? Well, engorgement seems constant and your baby is often fussy and gassy. As much as you would like to, don’t do anything to increase your supply further. This means no pumping to get a freezer stash and no expressing to relieve the pressure from carrying what seem like bowling balls on your chest. Try a cool compress instead. No need to buy anything fancy and expensive. A damp washcloth put in the refrigerator for a bit feels lovely when your breasts are engorged.
Another remedy that takes a while but is very effective in solving the oversupply issue is block-nursing. With both my girls, I nurse on one side only instead of the hospital recommended both sides at each feed. I have so much milk that my babies are full after just a few minutes on one side. At first this increases engorgement and discomfort but, after a few days, things start to self-regulate. Then, nursing becomes easier for everyone, especially for the baby who no longer has to deal with a forceful letdown.
BOREDOM BASHERS If your babe takes a long time to finish up her meals, you’re going to get bored while nursing. Sorry, but staring lovingly into my baby Annabelle’s eyes is only entertaining for the first seven minutes or so. Here’s the deal, it’s totally fine to occasionally watch television or use your smart phone while you’re nursing. It is best, however, to just relax, breathe deeply, and bond with your baby. Both you and your baby need the Oxytocin release as well as the time to rest and recharge in each other’s arms. Use the time to meditate or daydream about your family’s future as often as you can.
Breastfeeding truly is an incredible journey for a mother and baby to experience together. While it has its challenges, the reward is worth the effort and most struggles can be overcome with these easy remedies or support from a lactation consultant. Above all, remember that nursing is a wonderful gift to give to your child. Aside from boosting his or her immune system, you are creating a bond that you will both cherish forever.