Latching, or how the baby attaches to the breast, is a critical part of successful breastfeeding. A proper latch helps ensure the baby is getting enough breast milk to thrive. When proper latching isn’t achieved, feedings can be very painful for the mother, who may experience nipple pain.
If Andrea suspects a new mom is having trouble getting the baby to latch correctly, she refers her to a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help guide the mother through breastfeeding techniques and a number of different positions and holds so she can find one that works well for her and baby.
Some nipple tenderness is common for moms who are new to breastfeeding. However, if nipples are painful or sore, it’s a sign that something may be wrong, such as a shallow latch.
“In that case, latching needs to be corrected,” notes Andrea.
Sometimes sore nipples result when the baby is tongue tied, which means the tongue is connected too tightly to the bottom of the mouth, making it difficult to breastfeed. If Andrea suspects that is the case, she advises moms to see the pediatrician for an evaluation.
Breast conditions may also cause nipple pain, so if the pain persists, mom should pay a visit to her own doctor, too. Nipple damage can lead to breast conditions like mastitis or plugged ducts (a breast infection). Signs of a breast infection include a fever and breasts that are red and feel painful, and Andrea recommends that new moms contact their doctor.
There are many products available to breastfeeding moms with nipple pain. These include hydrogels—gel pads that are soothing—and ointments like lanolin. However, Andrea urges moms to talk to their doctors about prescription nipple ointment if nipples become cracked or damaged.
Normal feeding patterns
“Moms are told to breastfeed every three hours, and sometimes they take that literally,” notes Andrea. However, she explains that healthy, full-term babies often feed more or less frequently than that based on various factors, such as time of day or night and how much the baby weighs.
Instead of fretting about timing, new moms should instead pay attention to how many times a baby feeds during a 24-hour period. She encourages mothers to keep a feeding log to track this information. Download a printable feeding log.
“We need to look at the 24-hour picture,” she says. “You want to see eight breastfeeds in 24 hours—and more is OK.”
Isolation during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is also impacting new mothers. Due to restrictions, many are unable to attend breastfeeding classes prior to childbirth. When these moms go home with their newborns, often they encounter breastfeeding challenges that hadn’t come up yet while they were still in the hospital.
In addition, due to social distancing guidelines mothers can no longer share their birth experiences face-to-face with close family or friends. When they go home, they aren’t able to have family members help at home as they could before COVID-19, either.
According to Andrea, this adds up to one big issue: “Isolation for new moms when they go home,” she says. At the same time, she’s hearing that partners are more actively involved than what she’s observed in the past.
For her part, Andrea is happy to be able to help new mothers feel connected and confident as they adjust to life at home with a newborn.
“Patients are appreciative knowing someone is reaching out and they are not navigating this breastfeeding experience alone,” she says.