Re-Learning to Breastfeed

Nipple confusion, when to start a bottle, and getting baby back to breast

We have been told umpteen times that “breast is best” and “everyone can breastfeed,” breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby.” However, it is a skill like any other!  Even if you were raised around breastfeeding families, it is still so new to you!  Even with each new birth, each new baby, the experience is often quite different.

It hurts me so much to hear that “breastfeeding just didn’t work for us.” There are so many tools that IBCLCs have to offer the families we get to work with. That’s another thing I often hear: “Where were you when I needed you???”

Newborn babies belong at their mother’s breast.  How can things go so wrong? When breastfeeding has a rough start, and supplementation is called for, sometimes it’s tough to get baby back to the breast. Maybe she’s had some negative association where Mommy was in pain when she nursed, or perhaps she wasn’t nursing well because she had a tongue tie or other difficulty at the breast, so she felt hungry nursing.  However, there is hope to return to the breast.  We can re-learn the skills we once possessed but have forgotten.

One thing about using a bottle to get baby back to birth weight, to help jaundice clear, or whatever reason you had to use a bottle, bottles are easy!  Baby has to do little more than swallow. And swallow she must, as most bottles just empty into her mouth. Breastfeeding takes work. She has to get those breasts to release milk into her mouth.  It doesn’t just pour into her! So while Mommy tastes and feels better, her hunger is taken care of much easier.  We have to teach her that no matter how she gets her milk, she is going to have to work for it.

One way is an at-breast supplementor, also called an SNS.  To use a bottle as a supplement, a method called paced bottle feeding can be used. Another way is cup feeding.  My favorite, though, is finger feeding. This teaches three things babies have to know to breastfeed efficiently: Milk comes from the skin, how the tongue forms around the breast and that baby must suckle to elicit a milk flow.

Whatever the issue, a qualified IBCLC has the information you want to get your baby back to breast, pain-free!

Read here about motor skills and breastfeeding.