There is a misconception that early breastfeeding should hurt and cause cracked and bleeding nipples. IT IS A MISCONCEPTION! A good latch should cause this to never happen. Now one time latching wrong can cause a bit of soreness- but once it is corrected it will diminish greatly. Engorgement is not the same thing.
Engorgement is not only a huge supply of milk- after all your breasts do not know if you have had twins or triplets… but the blood supply increase and the swelling of tissues also adds to the engorgement issues. So for engorgement I encourage nurse often and on demand- but also massage your breasts before nursing- get out any spots that may be considering getting clogged. And fill a large mixing bowl- a metal one is perfect- fill it with very warm water… pour in a handful of salt- table salt, epson or sea salt- mix it with your hand. If the water is too hot for your hand it is too hot- but it needs to be very, very warm. Lean over the counter and put one breast in the water. Massage in a downward motion and soon the water is filled with milk.
This will help with not only engorgement but if you did have a poor latch- it helps heal any sore spots. You can do this several times a day- each breast. And the swollen tissues will appreciate an ice pack on them between nursings.
Okay now latch… I have an acronym BREASTS that I devised to help you with this:
B…bring the baby to the breast– make sure you are not leaning over- but instead you are leaning back and getting comfy and then you are bringing the baby to you… what came first the baby or the breasts? Never lean over to latch the baby on!
R…remember to velcro the baby on– belly button toward your belly. You should wear the baby like a bra- feet and legs are tucked into you as well. If you can see the baby’s belly button you are not turning her into you enough.
E…eat a big mac! Point the nipple of the the breast toward the baby’s nose intially. You can stroke the nipple between the nose and the upper lip or across the lip to initially get the baby interested- but for latch purposes have the baby climb up the mountain- like you do when you are eating a big mac sandwich. The baby climbs up the nipple with the bottom lip flanged out- this puts the nipple in the safe spot of the roof of the baby’s mouth- and puts it in deeply so it does not rock back and forth thus creating a blister.
A…allow the baby to open wide… don’t try to finagle the nipple into a small mouth. Babies are imitators- so open your mouth wide- say “open” and then allow the baby to imitate you with a wide open mouth. Then bring them in quickly to latch.
S…support the neck not the head. When you hold onto the baby’s head you are not allowing the head to tilt back- and thus causing the nipple to be driven into the tongue rather than in the safe spot of the roof of the mouth. Create a little neck brace for the baby with either the crook of your arm or with your hand- do not touch the head at all.
T…too late if the baby is crying! It is so much harder to latch a baby on when they are distressed. The first sign they want to nurse is mouthing like a little bird- smacking their lips. Then they begin to mouth their hands. Lastly they cry- so watch for the early signs so as to not have to calm them down before you can nurse them. If they wake with a poopie diaper- nurse one side- then change them and then top them off on the second breast.
S…see the nose not the chin. If the baby is tucked in close- then you should have their head tilted up- tucking the chin in tightly to the breast but allowing the nose to have access to breathing easily. Keep the head tilted back and the body tucked in tightly. Some soreness comes from a baby sliding off to only the nipple and then beginning to vigorously nurse again but this time the nipple is not in the safe spot.
So enjoy the early weeks with your baby while you both learn how to nurse properly. It is well worth the time spent to get the latch correct every time. Plan to spend the first several weeks doing little more than rocking, cuddling, soothing and nursing your new baby. It is well worth if for a lifetime!