More women are deciding to breastfeed their babies in hopes of providing them with all the health benefits that come from breast milk, but also to form a special bond with their babies. Most women go into breastfeeding with a positive attitude and put an effort into doing things right. Still, with all the effort, breastfeeding doesn’t always go according to plan. If the breastfeeding relationship doesn’t get off to a good start, it can present challenges that are sometimes difficult to overcome. By being prepared and being aware of common breastfeeding mistakes, a woman can hopefully avoid these mistakes and get off to a good start with breastfeeding.
Here are some common breastfeeding mistakes:
Watching the clock when breastfeeding: When breastfeeding a new baby, women often try to schedule their feedings for every three to four hours or watch the clock when they feed their babies. Instead of watching the clock, follow your baby’s cues. If she is hungry feed her, even if you just nursed her. Try to nurse long enough to empty your breasts but don’t get obsessed with the clock. Some babies are very efficient nursers and can empty your breasts lickity-split while other babies are slow and take much longer to get the job done. Follow your baby’s lead. If she still seems hungry, keep nursing. If she pulls away from the breast before your clock says it is time for her to be done, she may be full. Try nursing her again a little later or wait until she gets a little fussy to try again.
Mistaking normal fussing for hunger: Babies fuss for different reasons. Just because your baby is crying doesn’t mean she is hungry. Watch her cues to see if she is indicating hunger or something else. If she is rooting around, she might be hungry. If she is not rooting or you just fed her, there could be another reason she is crying. Some babies cry a lot during certain times of the day. Crying doesn’t equal hunger. Try checking her diaper, swaddling, or rocking her to see if that helps. As long as your baby is having plenty of wet diapers (around 6-8 a day), she is most likely getting enough milk.
Offering baby formula too soon: Not all moms want to exclusively breastfeed. However, offering formula too quickly can sabotage your breastfeeding relationship. It is best to wait until your baby has gotten the hang of breastfeeding and until your milk supply is well established before offering formula or bottles to your baby. Sometimes a mom will give her baby formula because she thinks she is not getting enough milk. Babies will often suck down a bottle of formula – even if they just nursed – simply because they like sucking. Sucking feels good so babies may suck on a bottle whether they are hungry or not. If your baby takes a bottle of formula after breastfeeding, this does not necessarily indicate that she is hungry. It could be she just liked the soothing feeling she got from sucking on the bottle’s nipple.
Waiting too long to get help: If your baby is not gaining weight, is not latching on to your breast well, or if breastfeeding is constantly painful, you might want to talk to a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are trained professionals that can help you with your breastfeeding relationship. The first few weeks of breastfeeding are critical. If you are having problems talking to a lactation consultant may help. Another source of breastfeeding advice and support is the La Leche League.