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Let's Talk Babies!

breastfeeding challenges

When I was breastfeeding my first daughter I had all the time in the world to give her when it was time to nurse. If she wanted to spend 20 or 30 minutes nursing it was fine because there was nothing else more important or that needed my attention more. We spent a lot of peaceful, uninterrupted time together while she nursed.

Before my second daughter was born I fretted over how breastfeeding would go given that I would now have a 4 year old who also needed my attention. Sitting down to quietly and calmly breastfeed seemed impossible to me when there was a rambunctious little girl running around who would need help going potty or help getting a snack or would want to play, etc. etc.

When Anna was born I was determined for our breastfeeding relationship to be as calm, peaceful and enjoyable as it was with Maya. It was important to me because I felt she deserved it even though she was our second and life was more chaotic now. I set my mind to it and did everything I could to make it so. A few things I did to make this possible were:

  • I set the precedent from the beginning that I would sit quietly and nurse her whenever possible.
  • I prepared Maya before I sat down to nurse Anna. I would ask her if she had to go potty or needed a snack because I was about to feed her sister and wouldn’t be able to help her for a little bit.
  • Whenever possible I nurse Anna in the quiet of her bedroom before naps and bedtime. Of course, that only works when my husband is home to watch Maya.
  • I try hard not to be distracted while nursing. I focus as much attention on Anna as I can just as I did with Maya when I had all the time in the world.
  • I talked to Maya before Anna was even born about breastfeeding and what it would entail.
  • I make sure Maya has something fun to do while I’m nursing Anna either something to play, or a show to watch.

12 months in and I’m happy to say I feel as though I’ve been able to give Anna pretty close to the same attention and quiet during our nursing sessions as I did when I nursed my first child. It wasn’t easy and it took dedication but I made it work.

It is so easy to get distracted in the day to day chaos of raising children. I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting down to cuddle my baby while she nurses and I’m glad I as able to make it happen even with so many other distractions around.

As the mom of a very lazy nurser I’m still amazed by the efficiency with which Anna eats. Maya was such a slow eater, like crazy slow. I had to spend half the time keeping her awake or waking her up so she would keep nursing. In the first months of her life our nursing sessions were definitely of the marathon variety. A quick middle of the night nursing session would be no less than an hour. She did eventually get a little more efficient but she was never what I would call an efficient eater. So, when Anna decided she preferred the fast food variety of breastmilk I was dumbfounded and didn’t really know what to do.

Seriously, this girl knows how to get it done. A long nursing session with Anna is 20 minutes. Usually she is done in 5-10 minutes. She just chugs it down until she is full. She never stops sucking until she is full and ready to be done. Even if she starts to fall asleep at the breast she is still efficiently sucking away. Not once has she tried to use me as a pacifier. If she is full she is done and will pull off and display her lovely milk drunk face. She is not about wasting time eating, she apparently has more important things to do with her time :)

It has taken me a while to get used to this new found breastfeeding efficiency. At first I was constantly worried that she hadn’t eaten enough, especially at night when she was ready to be laid back down in bed just a mere 10 minutes after she woke up to nurse. I’ve tried to offer her my breast again only to be screamed at because, “seriously, mom, I’m done.”  But, now that I’ve adjusted my thinking from that of a mom with a lazy nurser to that of a mom with an efficient nurser we are in a groove. I seriously love how easy it is to nurse her and how I can quickly sit down to feed her and be ready to head out the door 15 minutes later, it makes life so much easier. But, secretly I kind of miss the lengthy alone time so I find myself holding her on my shoulder just a few minutes longer so I can get my fill of cuddle time 😉

Of course, having an efficient nurser isn’t without its challenges. I’m sure her chugging down her meals in 5 minutes flat is a big contributing factor to the amount of spitting up she does. I always know when half her meal is going to come back up based on how loud and unsettled her chugging is. I’ve discovered that it is really best to feed her before she gets too hungry and too worked up because she will keep things a little slower and won’t go too crazy with her chugging, thus, less spit up. Even with the extra spit up and less nursing session snuggle time I’d pick the efficient nurser over the lazy nurser any day.

Nipple confusion, in basic terms, is when your baby forgets how to nurse or how to draw milk from a breast nipple.  It is caused when a baby is introduced too early to artificial nipples like pacifiers or bottle nipples.  Since artificial nipples are easier to use and require much less effort on the baby’s part to get the milk out the baby may become confused when then placed on the breast and be unable to draw milk out.

Babies are born with a natural ability to suck.   However, the type of sucking necessary to draw milk from an artificial nipple is different than the sucking technique for drawing milk out of a breast nipple.  A breast nipple is soft and requires the baby to open very wide and then engage many muscles in order to suckle properly and draw out the milk.  When nursing a baby uses 40 different facial muscles!  An artificial nipple is firmer and pre-formed and can be coaxed into the baby’s mouth without much effort on the part of the baby, the suckle required to draw milk out of a bottle nipple is very minimal.

When nipple confusion occurs you may notice the baby refuses to latch and if he or she does latch they get very frustrated and upset almost immediately.  This is caused by the fact the baby has forgotten how to draw milk from the breast nipple and is getting frustrated because he or she can’t get anything to come out.  You can imagine why the poor little thing is screaming so hard, all he wants to do is fill his hungry tummy with yummy milk but he can’t get anything to come out.

If you suspect your baby is suffering from nipple confusion you have your work cut out for you but you can get past this breastfeeding challenge and continue down the road of successful breastfeeding.   Just remember to be patient and avoid getting too frustrated.

  • Offer the breast at every feeding.
  • Begin to nurse your baby before he or she shows signs of being overly hungry or before he or she becomes fussy.
  • Avoid offering your baby artificial nipples until the nipple confusion has resolved, if possible.
  • Consider changing your nursing position to something more relaxing and comfortable for both you and the baby.
  • Contact a lactation consultant for some assistance.  They may be able to give you some advice over the phone, or better yet meet up with you and help you figure this out.
  • If you baby appears to be losing weight or shows other signs of not getting enough to eat like too few wet or soiled diapers than contact your child’s pediatrician.

Nipple confusion can lead to other problems as well such as engorgement, clogged milk ducts, an extended nursing strike, sore nipples (from improper latch) and possibly loss of weight by the baby if he or she is not getting enough to eat so it is important to back on track quickly.  Many moms who have babies who develop nipple confusion often give up on breastfeeding.  But, you can get past this challenge with a little effort, patience and persistence.

The best way to avoid nipple confusion to begin with is to put off introducing artificial nipples to your infant until breastfeeding is well established.  Once you and your baby have the hang of breastfeeding and are in a good routine nipple confusion is much less likely.