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Nursing Troubles

July 29, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Nursing Troubles | A baby nurses from his or her mother.

Before my son was born, I had his feeding regimen all planned out: I would nurse exclusively for the first few weeks and then introduce a bottle of pumped milk so my husband could participate in nighttime feedings.

Of course, nothing went according to plan.

Because I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy, my son had to drink a bottle of formula right after birth to regulate his blood sugar. A few hours later, he started having breathing problems and had to be rushed to the NICU where he was hooked up to all kinds of machinery.

In the meantime, I started pumping to build up my milk supply and tried to nurse during my visits to the NICU. Every time I tried to get my son to latch on, the poor little guy would get tangled up in wires and howl. Frustrated, I’d give up and feed him a bottle of pumped milk instead. I quickly realized that this most “natural” activity was a skill that both my son and I could not grasp.

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed do not meet their goal. Many, like me, encounter nursing difficulties in the hours and days immediately after delivery. Thankfully, there are resources available to help a mother who desires to nurse but is having trouble:

  • Postpartum Nurses. Many of the nurses who care for you in the hospital after labor and delivery have additional training in breastfeeding support. They can show you different nursing positions and provide an extra set of hands to guide your baby to a proper latch.
  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). If you need additional help, consider seeing a lactation consultant. These health care professionals have the highest level of training in breastfeeding support and can help with a wide variety of breastfeeding problems. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, their services may be covered under your insurance plan. Most hospitals and even some pediatricians’ offices have a lactation consultant on staff. Or, if you’d feel more comfortable in a private setting, you can find a lactation consultant who will come to your home. Check out the International Lactation Consultant Association to find a consultant in your area.
  • La Leche League. Founded by a group of Illinois women in 1956, this international nonprofit organization strives to help nursing mothers through support, encouragement, information, and education. Accredited La Leche League Leaders lead breastfeeding support groups all over the world and provide assistance via online forums.
  • Other Mothers. Don’t forget this valuable resource! Mothers who are currently nursing or have recently finished nursing are full of strategies and techniques that worked for them.

As for my son and me, we ended up having a lactation consultant come to our home so she could work with us in our own environment. She was wonderful and also included my husband in the nursing process. For a while, nursing was a three-person activity. My husband would help support my son while I focused on getting him to latch. Eventually, though, my son and I got the hang of it and it became second nature.



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.

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