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Breastfeeding: Get the Support You Need

By Constance Matthiessen
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

Nursing not coming naturally? You're not alone. It seems like breastfeeding should be instinctive -- women have been nursing babies for ages, after all. But for many new mothers (and their babies), breastfeeding can be awkward, uncomfortable, and unproductive in the beginning. With the right advice and support, though, you can avoid the frustration.

Common Breastfeeding Problems and Issues

Women tend to have questions or need support mainly in four areas of breastfeeding.

  • Breastfeeding position. This is one of the most common mistakes and one of the easiest to fix. Once you have the baby properly positioned, many other aspects fall right into place. If you hold your baby incorrectly or your baby doesn't latch on properly, it can lead to nipple soreness and abrasion.
  • Breast pain or infection. It's normal for new mothers to have some breast tenderness when they first begin breastfeeding. But lasting or severe soreness with flu-like symptoms could point to a plugged duct or a breast infection. It is important to seek medical help if you're concerned. 
  • Nipple confusion. Sometimes a baby is given a bottle too soon after birth and then refuses the breast. (To avoid nipple confusion, many lactation experts recommend that parents wait 3 to 4 weeks before giving their baby a bottle.) 
  • Using a Breast Pump. Many women have questions about what kind of breast pump they should use, how often to pump, how to store breast milk, and other issues.

Plenty of support is available, though -- from nursing hotlines to in-home consultations with lactation specialists. Here are the most common sources for help with your questions about best breastfeeding positions, breast pumps, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, breast tenderness or pain, and more.  

Breastfeeding Classes: Support Before Baby Is Born

To get a sense of breastfeeding before your baby arrives, consider taking a breastfeeding class. These classes provide basic information on what to expect, basic breastfeeding positions, and how to handle breastfeeding problems. Many hospitals and pregnancy resource centers offer them. Ask your obstetrician or midwife about resources in your area.

"A lot of expectant parents have never seen anyone breastfeed," says Cara Vidano, owner of Natural Resources, a parenting resource center in San Francisco. "Taking a class helps demystify the process, and gives you tips about what to do if you run into problems."

Birth Team Advice: On-the-Spot Breastfeeding Support

Whether you have a home or hospital birth, you'll receive free nursing advice from your obstetrician, midwife, doula, and/or nurses at the hospital immediately after your baby is born. Your newborn's pediatrician will also be able to offer guidance. Laila Weir, who lives in Portland, Ore., says she found nursing challenging at first -- but the nurses at the hospital where her son Luca was born gave her lots of support and reassurance.

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