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Pain is Not Normal
Breastfeeding and dreading every feed? You’re not alone!

by Kalpna Solanki


The World Health Organization describes breastfeeding as “an unequaled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants.” So it’s wonderful that many women begin nursing soon after their babies are born. The reports indicate that 85 percent of women who had a baby in the previous ten years attempted to breastfeed their infants. This is a significant shift since the mid-1960s when the comparable percentage was around 25 percent. But, before we pat ourselves on the back for doing such a splendid job, note that the key word here is “attempted.” Although 85 percent of the women had attempted to breastfeed their infants, 22 percent had stopped within the first month and only 47 percent had breastfed for six months or more. Why, when all the research and advice says that breastfeeding is the best way to go?

Although the research cites the most common reasons for stopping as “not enough milk” or “child weaned itself,” some experts believe there are other reasons. Dr. Jack Newman, a renowned expert on breastfeeding based in Toronto, is convinced that the reasons for stopping are often due to poor support and that the advice mothers get in hospitals is appallingly bad. Many mothers I know speak of the discomfort, severe pain and infections associated with feeding and the frustration of not being able to get good advice.

I personally thought breastfeeding would be a breeze; after all, nature has equipped us for this! My daughter started off fine, or seemed to, but within a few weeks we ran into problems. I was determined to breastfeed and felt guilty about even contemplating formula, yet I began to dread every feed. The pain was excruciating during feeding and the discomfort persisted throughout the day. We talked to a nurse, a midwife and my family physician, but to no avail. Family and friends were unable to provide much guidance: I had lost my mother several years earlier, my mother-in-law had not breastfed her children, my sister had not encountered any problems, my cousin had to just tolerate the pain because she was unable to get proper help and our friends had not started families yet. I was about to give up when I heard about La Leche League. I looked up the organization online and went to my first LLL meeting with my husband and daughter. I found out quickly that I wasn’t alone in having problems with breastfeeding and was relieved, yet anxious, to learn that I should be able to breastfeed without discomfort. I also found out that Dr. Newman states: “There is no reason 99 percent of women shouldn’t be able to breastfeed exclusively to six months.”

Through LLL, I found a lactation consultant with whom I was comfortable and who understood what I was going through. The $35 I spent on this private consultation has to be the best investment I’ve ever made. Within a few minutes, Marriane solved the problem: a poor latch. We tested out various nursing positions and less than an hour later we were on our way. Within a day or two, the pain was gone and my daughter was feeding and sleeping better. I had planned on breastfeeding for around two years but my daughter weaned herself at around 20 months. We loved the time we spent together and I am convinced that the special relationship we share is, in part, due to our time together while she was nursing.

So to all of you out there who are dreading the next feed: The pain and discomfort is not normal. You may need to get help, and get it sooner rather than later. Contact a support group such as La Leche League, visit the website or find a lactation consultant through a site such as Breastfeeding should and can be a great experience for you and for your infant!

Avoiding Breastfeeding Problems

Get an early start: Nursing should begin within an hour after delivery, if possible, when your baby is awake and the sucking instinct is strong. Babies only minutes old will often crawl up to the breast from the mother’s abdomen and start breastfeeding all by themselves. Babies who self-attach tend to have fewer breastfeeding problems later on.

Position your baby properly: Hold the baby close to you, at nipple height, with her hips flexed, so that she does not have to turn her head to reach your breast, but has her mouth and nose facing your nipple. Support your breast so it is not pressing on your baby’s chin; support your baby’s back so that her chin pushes into your breast. To minimize nipple soreness, the baby’s mouth should be wide open, with the nipple as far back into her mouth as possible.

Nurse on demand: Newborns need to nurse frequently, at least every two hours and not on any strict schedule. This will stimulate your breasts to produce plenty of milk. Let your baby determine the length of the feeding.

Co-sleep: If you sleep with your baby, you will learn each other’s rhythms. When your baby starts to get hungry, you will also start to wake up naturally.

Avoid supplemental feedings: Nursing babies don’t need sugar water or formula supplements. Artificial nipples require a different, less energetic sucking action than real ones. And supplements may interfere with the appetite for nursing.

Air dry your nipples: In the early postpartum period or until your nipples toughen, air dry them after each nursing to prevent them from cracking, which can lead to infection.

Expect engorgement: A new mother often produces lots of milk, making her breasts big, hard and painful for a few days. To relieve this engorgement, feed the baby frequently and on demand until your body adjusts and produces only what she needs.

When she wrote this article, Kalpna Solanki had a four-year-old daughter who was exclusively breastfed for six months. When she became a mother, Kalpna used her environmental and public health background and her dedication to organics to create age-appropriate, frozen, kosher, organic, free of the top nine allergens, delicious meals for her daughter. She then put her MBA to work and created Bobobaby, an award-winning B.C. company that manufactures frozen organic baby food and markets it across Canada and the U.S.


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