Question: I was very much looking forward to breastfeeding my baby, who is two weeks old. But I am desperate and about to give up. I don’t seem to have enough milk. My nipples are very sore and even bleed sometimes, and my baby just cries and cries. She seems to be hungry and isn’t picking up much weight. My mother said I should stop breastfeeding and give her a bottle. I am devastated because I really want to breastfeed.
Answer: The situation that you describe is a very common one if your baby is not latching properly at the breast. If she doesn’t take enough of the areola (dark part) of the breast into her mouth, and just sucks on the nipple itself it creates two problems (a) she is pressing your nipple against the roof of her mouth, which is very painful and can damage your nipples, (b) she is not milking the milk ducts in your breast under the areola, which means she is not able to get very much milk out of your breasts. Because she is not emptying your breasts, your body is not getting the signal “make more milk”, and your milk supply starts to drop off.
So the first and most important thing is to make sure that she latches on properly. Here is a video that shows how to help a baby latch on correctly:
Video excerpt from “Breast is Best” DVD by Gro Nylander and courtesy of Video Vital
If you are still having problems getting your baby to latch on correctly, contact your nearest La Leche League Leader or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for practical help. If you have a LLL Leader near you, ask her to tell you about having a “Babymoon” a weekend where someone feeds you, while you and your baby just cuddle up in bed or relax in a warm bath, with baby feeding as often as he or she wants to for the whole weekend.
The secret is to feed as often as you can to increase your milk supply. Night feeds are especially important as you make more prolactin (the milk-producing hormone) at night. So it’s a good idea to have your baby sleeping close to you so that you can feed easily at night. Unless baby has been losing lots of weight, and your paediatrician insists on supplements/top-ups, feeding more often will soon make plenty of milk for your baby. If supplementing is necessary, give some of your own milk, freshly expressed, from a teaspoon or small cup, which will also increase your supply. Since all sucking should take place at your breast, this also means not giving your baby a dummy (pacifier).
You will know when your baby is latching correctly because you shouldn’t feel any pain – breastfeeding is not painful unless the baby is not properly latched on (or if you have an infection). Once your baby is properly latching on and feeding as often as she will, your milk supply should catch up with her needs in a few days. You will know your baby is getting enough milk when she has six to eight wet nappies (diapers) per day, and starts gaining weight well.
(Checked by Dr Nan Jolly, LLL Leader and IBCLC)
For more information on increasing your milk supply, visit Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby.
Parenting questions answered by Pat Törngren © 2012