Nursing a newborn is both beautiful and exhausting. This is the third child that I have breastfed and nursing still finds ways to surprise me. “Littlest” is now into his second week of life, and while I do seem to have a bountiful and well established milk supply (it came in much faster with this baby than with my previous two births), we are having latch issues that have caused pain and bleeding.
The Almighty Latch
A poor latch can make your nursing journey a nightmare. Reasons that might be causing this dilemma are numerous, ranging from Tongue or Lip Ties to simple positioning error. For my Littlest and I, it’s anatomy. He has a very small mouth and a very short tongue, which seems to flick up on top of my nipple instead of under it. These factors have resulted in a very shallow latch and his tendency to keep his jaw closed and pinched down on the end of my nipple.
As you can imagine the after effects of this are very sore and cracked nipples. In fact, this latch was so terrible that it was causing bleeding and clotting to the point where my tiny human gave his mama a heart attack when he spit up (my) blood!
Enter the Lactation Consultant
My midwives did follow our issues early on, and provided some suggestions, however I am blessed to be friends with a very talented nurse who happens to be a Lactation Pro. I called in the big guns the day after he spit up my blood.
She arrived Sunday afternoon (day 8 of breastfeeding) and immediately went to work inspecting babe’s mouth. By letting him suck on her pinky she quickly realized our issues. as I suspected, the latch was too shallow and he was not positioning his tongue right. she did this trick where she made small circles with her pinky finger on the roof of his mouth. His sucking changed. Then she had us try to latch, hoping he would remember this new sucking method once on my breast.
Football Hold was the recommended position. She put the pillow on my side right up to the back of the chair. His little bum was much farther back towards the chair than I had been doing. she had him come at the breast more from the side. Tilt his head back, she said, so his jaw opens more and his nose is away from the breast. Tease his mouth to get him to open wide. Boom, he latched. Aside from a split second of pain from my still injured nipple, the latch was incredibly comfortable. I couldn’t believe it.
She continued to offer tips and tricks while Littlest happily nursed his fill. By the time she left, I felt so much more empowered and at ease about nursing. That was two days ago and things have been infinitely better since.
Recognizing the Problem and Asking for Help
I think as moms, new or old, we tend to belittle ourselves quickly when something isn’t going right. We are quick to blame ourselves. After all, we are the mom. We should just know how to meet our babies every need, right? But sometimes it’s not that simple. And that’s okay.
If nursing is something you really want to succeed at, but you are struggling, I’m officially giving you permission to ask for help. Call your local public health program or contact La Leche League, and have a lactation consultant come out to help you establish a good latch and good position practice. Even if you have to pay out of pocket, which you probably won’t if your area offers this service for free, it is worth it. If you live in or near Calgary, just call the Public Health Link at 8-1-1.
Now, if you will excuse me, baby is hungry and I must acquiesce. Good luck, mamas. And remember to just breath. We can get through this mom-thing, I promise.