Tips on adjusting to nursing
October 7, 2009 9:13 PM   Subscribe

My daughter just had my grand daughter. The entire process was amazing and I haven't fallen in love this hard in nearly 20 years. (when my daughter was born) She has decided for the health and benefits of the baby to nurse. I nursed and I remember how hard it is the first 2 weeks. A great deal has changed and I was wondering if anyone had any practical advice on how to get through the rough beginning of nursing an infant with a barracuda grip. Are there any products, herbal remedies etc...
posted by gypseefire to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I bought my sister one of these pillows. By all reports, it makes a lot of difference because she doesn't have to sit awkwardly to have the baby in the right position. It holds him right where he needs to be, so he is able to reach and feed easily, and she doesn't get such sore neck, shoulder and leg muscles from sitting in odd ways to keep him there.
posted by AnnaRat at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2009


Lanisinoh, a lanolin-based cream helped me enormously. Also, when the going got rough, nipple shields (available, inexpensively at pharmacies) were also my saviour.
posted by lottie at 9:42 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of good lanolin creams out there (Medela, etc.) The hospital will probably give her samples. What works more than anything is to go directly to a lactation consultant if it starts to hurt more than a little bit. They helped me get the latching on right and everything stopped hurting very quickly after that. (But, I kept putting off going because I thought it would get better on its own. Should have gone in earlier.)

The lactation consultant also gave me samples of some weird product that I can't remember the name of - like a stick on gel bandage that you put in the refrigerator to get cold. (If you google "Breastfeeding gel pads" a bunch of pads come up, but I don't recognize a specific one. The ones I had were disposable - the online ones seem better because they can be reused.)
posted by artychoke at 9:47 PM on October 7, 2009

Keep a cabbage in the fridge and tear off a leaf for after nursing cold pack. Very soothing I am told, cheap, hygienic, the right shape, all that. Seriously -- it sounds weird, but a cabbage is like a buck and if it doesn't help you can make coleslaw.

I don't think there is any magic solution to this, though, and it has been around long enough that the durable folk remedies may well be the ones to look at.
posted by Rumple at 9:53 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

A breastfeeding woman ingesting unknown, unproven compounds sold without clinical trials for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of "alternative medical practitioners" is one of the least safe and least sensible ideas I've ever heard.
And there is a big difference between a woman asking for herbal remedies (such as, for example, hot water with honey will soothe a sore throat) and "lining the pockets of "alternative medical practitioners"". There is absolutely no indication from the OP's question that this is what she wants to do.
posted by peacheater at 10:15 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please don't use cabbage leaves, they are used to decrease milk supply! Great for weaning, terrible for someone trying to build up their supply at the beginning.

I'll just second the lactation consultant. If she's still in hospital, then get one of the hospital LCs to stop by before she leaves and see if everything looks good. If she's already home then perhaps offer to buy her some sessions with an LC if it starts to hurt. Lanolin is great, especially this early, to keep soreness at bay. I like the Medela Lanolin over the Lansinoh because its thinner and easier to apply.

The only herbal remedies I know to suggest are for increasing milk supply if she is having trouble keeping up with baby's demands. I'm assuming this is not currently a problem. If it is, look into fenugreek supplements, or you can buy Motherlove More Milk Plus tablets which combine several galactogogues in one handy capsule. Another option is one of the various herbal teas for nursing mothers. If things get really bad, then Shatavari, but I haven't tried that personally.
posted by Joh at 11:55 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

More Milk Special Blend Vegetarian Capsules: (goat's rue, fenugreek seed, blessed thistle, nettle leaf, fennel seed), non-GMO soy lecithin, vegetable cellulose, coconut oil) All herbs are certified organic. Not for use during pregnancy. (emphasis their's)

All that for only $25 for fifteen days's supply, but be warned "More Milk - This blend does not contain fenugreek for those who may be sensitive to its potential side effects. This sensitivity, usually gastric upset, may occur in either mother or baby. Not for use during pregnancy."

Who determines the safety and efficacy of this product? The Motherlove herbal sales company: why doubt them? Unless mom spent her pregnancy dining on all natural peach pits and all natural coca leaves, I'd be hard pressed to think that indirectly drugging an infant with plant toxins is a good idea.
posted by fydfyd at 4:34 AM on October 8, 2009

Lasinoh (or some other lanolin-based cream). Before and after every feed. My son was born in August and I also got the girls out to get sun and air in the back garden whenever possible. Sun and air kill a lot of nasties.

Be sure and check baby's positioning and latch. There are lots of pics and videos out there that show proper latch and positioning. is a great resource for everything nursing-related. I've include the link to the basics section below.

Getting Started

Good luck to your daughter and congratulations to you as well!
posted by marmot at 6:11 AM on October 8, 2009

Well, I crashed and burned at nursing. And it is a failure that will wound me for the rest of my life. But here's everything I did to just try to build a supply:

*Met with a Lactation Consultant multiple times --- like, twice to three times a week for almost six weeks.
*Fenugreek capsules four times a day. (Whole Foods is your friend)
*Blessed Thistle four times a day. (Whole Foods again)
*A Lact-Aid blend capsule four times a day that had goat's rue in it. (On your way to Whole Foods yet?)
*Oatmeal for breakfast and sometimes lunch and dinner.
*A Lactation smoothie mix --- I can give you the recipe if you MeMail me, but it's in the Dr. Sears's The Breastfeeding Book.
*Oh, yeah. I read Dr. Sears's The Breastfeeding Book.
*Lactation cookies --- recipe found in My Mother Wears Combat Boots.
*Drank tons of water.
*Went to a breastfeeding support group --- NOT La Leche League. I would suggest finding one independent of LLL that has an LC in charge instead of some random women who'll criticize you for not trying hard enough when you call them with a baby screaming because you've spent three hours trying to latch him and he's starving and he will not latch and you're in tears and you know you're failing at this horrendously and what an awful mother you are that you can't even feed your baby
*Pumping after every.single.feeding.for.three.months and giving back what I pumped to the babe --- not necessary if your daughter has a full supply instead of offering support, advice, or a visit.
*And then in the end I took Reglan, one of two prescription drugs which has an off-label use for increasing milk supply. The other is domperidone, also known as Motillium. Available in Canada by prescription and other places over the counter. It's not available in the US.

Absolutely nothing worked for me, though. I'm an example of how everything that could go wrong with nursing does go wrong. So, if your daughter ends up in a situation where she needs to increase supply and doesn't know what else to try, I have info. on the last resort stuff.

If you happen to be in Toronto, taking a trip to Jack Newman's Breastfeeding Clinic would be worthwhile, and the website is worth a look if you're not.

But for regular, run-of-the-mill, successful, full-supply nursing, I defer to mothers who have actually succeeded.
posted by zizzle at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2009

Find a La Leche League group near you. Your daughter may not agree with some of their ideas (e.g., how long one should nurse), but they provide a great deal of practical help to new mothers.
posted by Shoggoth at 7:00 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shoggoth, my experience has been that they, in fact, provide no practical help to new mothers and instead use guilt and shaming tactics.

The OP's daughter really should avoid them like the plague.
posted by zizzle at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2009

Jack Newman is awesome. They'll answer all e-mail questions personally too.

Lansinoh did nothing for me. If your daughter actually has cracked/bleeding nipples (as I did), it's best to use a very small amount of Polysporin cream (and wipe it off prior to feeding). I think you just have to soldier through the pain to some extent. Just watch out for infections (hence the Polysporin) and blocked ducts. For me, it was a question of gritting my teeth and believing the pain would eventually go away. After a few weeks, it did. Miracle!

I also struggled somewhat with supply, and didn't really find the herbal remedies helpful. The best way to produce more milk is to have baby spend more time on the boob. Feed often, and switch sides regularly.

Breastfeeding is now something I adore, and I'm so happy I persevered. I wouldn't trade this wonderful feeling of closeness and teamwork with my daughter for anything. Tell your daughter she can do it!
posted by Go Banana at 7:39 AM on October 8, 2009

Perseverence sometimes is the key - you just have to get through the first week or two while the nipples toughen up. Lansinoh cream helped me with that. Cabbage leaves were very helpful about 4-5 days after birth when I was sooo engorged, boobs were rock hard - cabbage leaves worn in the bra for short periods of time was awesome. A lactation consultant can be very helpful if your daughter is having trouble getting a latch right. I found that a "football hold" was the most effective in those early days. Congrats and good luck to your daughter.
posted by waterfall at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2009

It doesn't sound to me like she's asking about building a supply, more about the comfort facor. I also crashed and burned in the nursing department like zizzle (though I also tried Reglan AND domperidone!), but getting the latch right in the beginning really seems key. Hopefully your daughter can see a LC in the hospital or at a clinic nearby. I saw a couple and though they did give me some tips, in the end, my supply never got up to where it was viable. The gel inserts (Playtex makes ones I liked) helped with the pain in the beginning.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:26 AM on October 8, 2009

Call a lactation consultant. Chances are that her insurance or HR department or someone has an LC.
posted by k8t at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2009

Amen to a lot of the stuff upthread--call an LC, apply lanoline cream liberally.

My pediatrician gave me a recipe for a smoothie to help my production. I only choked it down a couple of times but it really did work--oranges, prunes, oatmeal, beets...I think that's it. Sounds delicious, doesn't it? (Oatmeal is supposed to be really good--my favorite way is cookies!)
posted by wallaby at 11:44 AM on October 8, 2009

Best answer: Keep a cabbage in the fridge and tear off a leaf for after nursing cold pack. Very soothing I am told, cheap, hygienic, the right shape, all that. Seriously -- it sounds weird, but a cabbage is like a buck and if it doesn't help you can make coleslaw.

Don't do that. It's what you do to decrease the milk supply.

My daughter used fenugreek (If I recall correctly ) and it helped with supply. Also exposing your nipples to air, washing bras frequently, wearing the nursing bras with flaps down as much as you can to start with, that sort of thing helps.

Make sure the baby is latched correctly. That's a major thing.

And tell her that the first few weeks are a beast but by the fourth week it should be a lot easier.

One other thing-it sometimes is helpful in the first week or so to give one feeding as formula to allow the breasts to catch up production-hungry babies tend to go over board and that's hard on the nipples. I did this myself at my pediatrician's suggestion with my own first baby and it really helped. My daughter did it with my first grandson with equally helpful results. The "boob nazis" may squawk but honestly, sometimes a little assistance gets you over the hump so to speak.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:48 PM on October 8, 2009

(let me elaborate-one or two extra formula feedings total, not every day...)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:48 PM on October 8, 2009

Uh, I know two nursing mothers right now who use cabbage leaves to soothe their nipples and not to decrease their milk supply and their milk supply is not decreasing and nor does it need to decrease, and seriously anyway how the hell does cabbage decrease milk? It's a mysterious world I guess.
posted by Rumple at 1:45 PM on October 8, 2009

I used a nipple shield (provided my my non LLL but rather board certified lactation consultant) for about the first six weeks I nursed my son. It made all the difference both in getting him to latch correctly and also in decreasing the pain factor.
posted by anastasiav at 7:18 PM on October 8, 2009

Nthing don't use cabbage leaves.

If La Leche isn't her thing (I loved it, but then again I nursed until my son was nearly 3, and I have nursed other babies, too), many hospitals have a "nursing mom's group" often run by the on-site Lactation Consultant. I didn't love the local group at our hospital because I was a bit more of an activist, but it was certainly a great resource not only for nursing, but to meet other new mothers.
posted by Lullen at 8:42 PM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: The pain has passed, she stuck it out we used the cream given by the hospital and also warm chamomile tea bags to reduce inflammation and redness (rinsing nipples after use so baby didn't have any). Thank you for suggestions. Now it is a matter of production, the baby feeds about every 3-4 hours how long does it typically take for the Mother to produce enough for baby and extraction for when she goes back to work?
posted by gypseefire at 2:21 AM on October 15, 2009

Do you mean she isnt making enough for the baby, or do you mean when will she have enough for the baby AND to build up a freezer stash ready for work? If its the former, she should have enough by 2 weeks pp. If she's needing to supplement then I suggest seeking help from her OB, an LC or a LLL leader. If its the latter, then her body will only provide extra if she demands extra, by using a breastpump a few times a day to ask it to make more.

Is she planning to pump at work? If so, I strongly recommend she joins PumpMoms, a yahoo group for pump users. Its an awesome support group and an absolutely amazing source of information on milk production and breastpump usage.
posted by Joh at 11:49 PM on October 15, 2009

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