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Breastfeeding Problem: It’s a Strike!

Posted: Breastfeeding » Problems | October 1st, 2004



By Anna Stewart

He lay on my belly, wet and squirming. My just-born baby snorted and lay quietly. Then he started to scoot up my belly. His mouth was open and his head bobbed back and forth. He was not thinking, he was doing. My baby was looking for my breast. For the first time in his life, he was hungry. I had never nursed before and neither had he. It is a natural process, but most of us need a little help the first time. With a healthy, alert baby and a motivated mom, breastfeeding is usually very successful.

But what do you do if your baby decides to stop nursing? What if your baby goes on strike?

Start right
Most hospitals offer a lactation consultant to help get you and you baby started right. It’s helpful to remember that both you and your baby have to learn how to nurse together. Practice as much as you can before you leave the hospital. If you have your baby at home, most midwives can help you get started, but if you have any difficulties don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant. Registered lactation consultations can be found through www.ilca.org or www.iblce.org.

Darcy Kamin, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, encourages new mothers to plan to nest the first two weeks. “I tell them to NEST: nurse, eat, sleep and talk,” she says. “Take cues from your baby and your nipples about how things are going. If you suspect something is wrong, get help sooner rather than later.”

It will reduce your anxiety if you have some help the first few postpartum weeks. But you don’t need people to come and hold the baby while you go do things; you need to develop your relationship with your baby. Instead, you need people to shop and cook, pick up older kids, walk the dog, water the plants or put a fresh bouquet of flowers next to your bed. It’s not a sign of weakness or an indicator that you are failing at motherhood to ask for help. We all need help sometimes — and just remember, you’d be glad to bring a meal to one of your friends. Allow them the same courtesy.

Nursing is natural but not always easy
Most of us have heard about the benefits of breastfeeding. It provides optimal, easily digestible nutrition. Breastfed babies have fewer illness the first year as well as fewer problems with allergies or constipation. Breastfeeding is safe, economical and convenient. For mothers, it can help burn off the extra pregnancy weight, decrease the incidence of breast cancer and encourage rest periods during the day. Best of all, nursing brings a mother and her baby together often, encouraging nurturing and intimacy.

Breastfeeding takes dedication, commitment and energy — but then, so does parenting. Nursing is natural, but it’s not always easy. Some babies have difficulty learning how to properly latch on. Others may have low muscle tone or be too weak or tired to get a good latch. Some mothers tense up and become anxious or uncomfortable which the baby can sense. Give yourself and your baby time to learn, to practice and to grow. After the first three weeks, it gets easier for both of you!

Cry if you want to
Not being able to feed your baby makes mothers feel like failures. It’s horrible to feel that you can’t feed your infant. The first thing Kamin tells moms whose babies are on strike is to have a good cry. You need the release. The second thing she tells them is that they are not bad mothers. She shows them how they are being good mothers: they are holding their babies, trying hard to nurse them, talking to them and calling for help.

There are some specific strategies you can try for a baby who’s staging a nursing strike.

Express some milk and give your baby the milk in a bottle. Give him just enough to get him interested, then quickly switch to your breast. It works best if you hold the baby in a nursing position while giving him the bottle (you may need an extra set of hands to do this).

Be more forceful about how you put your nipple into your baby’s mouth. Make it hard for her to reject it by filling her mouth with the nipple. Hold her firmly against your body and take a few deep breaths so your baby doesn’t feel you worry.

Call for professional help if you can’t get your baby to latch back on. Your baby can’t tell you what the problem is, but a good lactation consultant can help you solve it.

© Anna Stewart

Anna Stewart, B.A., C.M.T., C.H.T., mothers three young children, one with special needs. In her classes, workshops and services, she weaves her expertise as a professional writer, creative artist and student of rhythm dance. Anna offers a number of classes in the Boulder, Colorado, area. She can be reached at (303) 499-7681, [email protected] or see her web site at www.motherhands.com.

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