In the wondrous moments following birth, you gently nestle new baby to breast, where she contentedly suckles—and so begins your idyllic, bonding journey. That’s the movie version, anyway. In real life, that journey too often comes with a surprising amount of confusion, frustration, and pain. Here, three common breastfeeding challenges—plus their natural solutions—to help turn the breastfeeding scenario of your dreams into reality.
PROBLEM: Lackluster Latching
Baby isn’t gulping purposefully at breast. Or perhaps she is, and the accompanying searing nipple pain brings you to tears. “The latch should feel comfortable. Nipples don’t need to toughen up. That’s a myth,” says Meg Stalnaker, a doula, midwife, and board-certified lactation consultant at Natural Latch in Portland, Oregon. A misshapen nipple post-feeding is another red flag; a nice, deep latch should leave the nipple visually unchanged.
SOLUTION: Find the Right Approach
Positioning, both for mom and baby, is 90 percent of the game. Make sure you are comfortable and the baby is propped up with a pillow. Your baby should be positioned so that her tummy is touching your tummy. Don’t bring your body to the baby, but instead bring the baby to your breast and wait until she opens wide. If pain persists, contact the International Lactation Consultant Association (ilca.org) to find a board-certified lactation consultant in your area. Having an expert spend 45 minutes in your house with you is well worth the cost.
PROBLEM: Stingy Milk Supply
Your breasts don’t feel full. Pumping yields precious few ounces. Instead of gulping to her heart’s content, your newborn fusses at the breast. The most definitive, yet difficult sign to see: Your baby isn’t gaining weight.
SOLUTION: Nurse More Frequently
As much as you may be tempted to decrease the number of feedings, don’t—supply follows demand, says Joy Frazer, ND, a naturopathic doctor and lactation consultant in Durango, Colorado. If your supply drop is linked to time away from baby (for many moms, this means an inevitable return to work), try to nurse as often as possible when you’re able. When you’re not, pump, keeping in mind that frequency is more important than duration, Frazer says. If supply still lags, try fenugreek seed, which has been used for centuries to boost milk supply and can be found in capsule form at your local health food store. Frazer recommends doses of 1,200 to 1,800 mg daily.
PROBLEM: Plugged Ducts
You notice a tender lump in your breast’s milk-producing tissue, which can sometimes seem to shrink after you nurse or pump.
SOLUTION: Moist Heat
Common culprits for plugged ducts are too-tight bras and engorgement, says Arika Dortero, ND, a naturopathic doctor and certified lactation educator at West Seattle Natural Medicine in Seattle, Washington. To help: “Apply a warm compress, take a bath, or take a hot shower before nursing or pumping to increase blood flow,” Dortero says. She also recommends a duct-opening herb infusion. To make it, soak a ½ cup each of slippery elm and marshmallow root powders in a ½ gallon of cold water for six hours. (You can find them both at natural food stores.) Heat in a saucepan on the stove before adding a ¼ cup of calendula flowers. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add enough cool water so that you can tolerate it, and soak and massage breasts in the mixture until it’s cooled.
Here, a selection of soothing natural solutions that provide breastfeeding relief:
BARLEAN’S ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN COCONUT OIL provides a baby-safe way to lubricate sore nipples. The oil’s natural antibacterial and antifungal properties help heal irritated skin, too. ($16 for 16 ounces, kiwishoponline.com)
MOTHERLOVE MORE MILK PLUS combines organic herbs, including fenugreek seed and nettle herb. ($20 for 2-ounce tincture or $24 for 60 capsules, motherlove.com)
EARTH MAMA ANGEL BABY BOOBY TUBES use flaxseed-filled organic cotton (rather than synthetic gel packs) to provide relief to sore breasts. Use cool to ease engorgement pain or warm to encourage flow. ($18, kiwishoponline.com)
LANSINOH HPA LANOLIN is preservative-free and since it’s the purest form of lanolin, it does not need to be removed from the nipple before breastfeeding. It soothes and protects dry and cracked nipples. ($10, lansinoh.com)
Did you have problems breastfeeding? Tell us your story in the comments section below, or tweet us at @KiwiMagazine.