I knew all about epidurals and breathing techniques before I went into labor with my first child, but I was unprepared for what came once she arrived—breastfeeding. While I had no firsthand experience, I figured my daughter would know exactly what to do. Little did I know that she was in intense training, too. According to Madonna Fasimpaur, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for over 20 years, nursing requires a baby to use and coordinate over 30 muscles in her head.
While some women experience no problems with nursing, others, like me, find it difficult to get their babies to latch on properly. Without milk flowing from mother to baby, problems may arise such as engorged breasts, where the breasts are full of fluid and become hard. Other conditions like clogged milk ducts or mastitis (breast infections) may require careful examination by your healthcare provider and possibly even medication.
When I asked lactation experts to share secrets for avoiding breastfeeding pain, the first response was, "There should be no pain!" By making sure that your baby is correctly latched onto the breast, through working with a certified lactation consultant, you can forego some of the problems I encountered.
Yet many women experience discomfort in these early days of breastfeeding. While your baby is learning how to suck and you get used to nursing, you may experience a feeling of fullness as your breasts increase milk production to meet your baby's needs. This fullness (not true engorgement) may be uncomfortable. To help you alleviate some of that discomfort, try these soothing strategies from IBCLC experts.
Breast Massage with Reverse Pressure Softening
When the breast becomes full to the point of becoming hard, it may be difficult to put the breast in the baby's mouth for her to latch on properly. Reverse pressure softening (RPS) helps get the milk flowing and softens the breast in preparation for feeding, explains Karen Kerhoff Gromada, RN, IBCLC and the author of Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More!