Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to provide your baby with the nutrition they need to have the best start at life. While your baby is born with some instincts as to feeding, this doesn’t mean the breastfeeding process is painless (far from it, usually) or without its own pitfalls and hang-ups. But if you’ve got breastfeeding problems, the good news is, there is often a solution out there.
The Problem: Your Baby Won’t Latch
The Solution: The right latch is vital to breastfeeding success, but it can sometimes feel as elusive as the perfect pair of jeans. The solution is most often to go skin-to-skin with your baby, which stimulates their natural pull toward the breast. Take off your clothing from the waist up and leave baby in just their diaper. While in a reclining position, place your baby on your chest or stomach. Your baby will likely start doing the “breast crawl” toward your breast. You can then offer your breast to your baby, gently squeezing the breast like holding a sandwich. This will make your nipple protrude and can also express some milk, which will further stimulate your baby toward your breast.
If you try these tips and your baby still will not successfully latch, you may need to consider other feeding issues, such as inverted nipples or tongue-tie that keeps your baby from achieving the desired latch effect.
The Problem: It Hurts When Baby Latches On
The Solution: New moms can expect that latching on may uncomfortable as you and baby adjust to breastfeeding. However, feelings like “sensitivity” or “tender’ are normal at first, but pain isn’t. First, consider if your baby is latching onto enough of the breast. Signs that your baby’s latch is enough around the breast include the head is leaned back, chin is tucked into the breast, and nose is away from the breast. You may also want to consider applying an ointment after each feeding to reduce breast tenderness. Doctors will often prescribe an ointment that can be made at a compounding pharmacy that has an anti-fungal component to prevent breast infections. However, if you experience shooting pain in your breasts or your nipples are cracked or bleeding, these could be infection signs and warrant a trip to your doctor.
The Problem: Your Breasts Are Engorged
The Solution: Breast engorgement occurs when there is an excess of milk in your breasts. It can cause feelings of tightness and discomfort. Usually, having your baby feed will help this. However, if your breasts are very full, it’s tough for baby to get a good latch because your breasts are hard. Also, engorgement can result in a forceful let-down that may cause baby to gag and resist the breast. One way to reduce these effects is to hand-express milk or use a breast pump briefly before you feed your baby. This can reduce that initial forceful experience. As time goes on, your breasts should start to match production to your baby’s demand.
If our solutions still don’t prove the answer to your breastfeeding difficulties, contact your doctor or lactation consultant. Scheduling an appointment to discuss feeding at any age can help your baby have a better breastfeeding time – no matter what age or stage your baby is at.
The neonatal intensive care uni,t or NICU, is a place where babies that need special medical attention. There are a number of reasons why a baby may need to stay in the NICU that range from being born very premature to experiencing an infection or complication during birth that requires extra attention.
Most often, babies are immediately transferred to the NICU after birth. As a new parent, this can be a scary and uncertain experience. However, the NICU is home to a variety of specialists who are well-trained in caring for your little one. In the NICU, your baby will be assigned to a nurse. This primary nurse will monitor your baby throughout their shift, checking vital signs, providing feedings when indicated, and administering medications. In addition to the nurses who care for your baby around the clock, there is a neonatologist, who is a doctor specializing in caring for newborns with medical needs. You may also see respiratory therapists, nutritionists, pharmacists, physical therapists, pharmacists, and social workers as part of the nenonatal care team.
Communication and Questions to Ask
Learning how to communicate and have your questions answered can be challenging as you likely haven’t ever had to navigate a healthcare environment like the NICU. Concern, stress, and lack of sleep can all play a role in the breakdown of communication. Therefore, it’s important to establish information early on and ask all the questions you need to ensure you know the exact plan of care for your baby.
If your baby is being transferred to the NICU, talk to the doctor who’s taking care of your baby. Ask questions, such as:
- What is my baby being treated for?
- What types of treatment does my baby require?
- How long of a stay in the NICU does this typically entail?
- What can my family and I do to support my baby?
- How often can I expect updates and information from you and your staff?
If your doctor discusses a term you don’t understand or you are unsure about a particular condition or treatment, ask questions. It’s important you are as informed as possible.
Often, a NICU will have visiting hours. This isn’t to keep parents or family members away, but to ensure your baby is able to receive the care they need to get better. Babies often need rest and as little stimulation as they are growing stronger so they can conserve their energy. Frequent visits and disruptions could affect this needed time. Ask your baby’s nurse about visiting hours and how you can maximize these visits, such as through skin-to-skin contact or providing breast milk for feedings.
A stay in the NICU can be very stressful, especially if your baby may require a months-long stay. It’s important to rest when possible and to enlist the help of social workers at the hospital, who can find services for you, such as discounted hotels to stay at near the hospital or even at a facility, such as the Ronald McDonald House where parents can stay while they’re child is receiving care. While you should take care of your baby, you also must take care of yourself so you will be at your strongest when it is time to bring baby home.
Giving birth to a new baby is usually a time of joy and celebration. Who hasn’t seen commercials of happy, smiling moms doting over a newborn baby? Yet, there’s a darker side of giving birth that you don’t hear as much about. Postpartum depression is a potentially serious condition that is often swept under the carpet. In fact, most people don’t understand or harbor certain misconceptions about it. Even the experts aren’t completely clear on what causes it. Here are five facts you might not know about postpartum depression.
1. It’s More Common Than You Think
Estimates are that 10 to 20% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth – and women aren’t the only victims. Up to 10% of fathers experience it as well. These estimates are conservative. The number of people affected is probably higher as not everyone seeks medical attention. Needless to say, it’s a serious problem and one that often goes untreated.
2. It’s More Than a Case of the “Baby Blues”
About half of all women experience mood swings after giving birth. No wonder! After giving birth, your hormones fluctuate wildly as your body tries to return to its pre-pregnancy state. These changes can send your emotions on a roller coaster ride. You might be smiling one minute and crying the next. Then there are the emotional aspects of being a new mom. Your entire life has been transformed by the little person you gave birth to and you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities you face.
Unlike postpartum depression, the baby blues usually last for a week or two before subsiding. Plus, the blues are usually not debilitating. You’re still able to care for yourself and your baby. The symptoms of postpartum depression are more debilitating and usually don’t go away after a week or two. In fact, if experience “the blues” for longer than two weeks, it’s important to get help.
3. Postpartum Depression Can Be Long Lived
As mentioned, the baby blues rarely last for more than a week or two while postpartum depression can persist for weeks or months. Sometimes the symptoms don’t even show up until several months after giving birth. By definition, symptoms of postpartum depression can appear anytime within the first year after delivering a child.
4. Any Woman Can Experience It
If you’ve given birth or even if you’ve miscarried, you can experience postpartum depression. Young moms and first timers get it and you can develop it when you give birth later in life as well. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your third, you’re not immune. One risk factor for postpartum depression is having experienced it in the past. If you were depressed after a previous pregnancy, your risk is higher. Some experts also believe you’re at higher risk if you don’t have a strong support system during or after pregnancy or if you experienced depression or anxiety prior to becoming pregnant. Other life stressors such as a death in the family, loss of a job, or martial problems may also increase the risk.
Here are some of symptoms you might experience:
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
- Feelings of intense sadness
- Physical symptoms, like headache, nausea, panic, rapid heartbeat, numbness/tingling in the hands/feet
- Lack of interest in food
- Lack of interest in other people, including your baby and family
- Fear or harming yourself or your baby
5. There Are Effective Treatments
If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression, treatments are available and usually include a combination of counseling and medications. The medication most doctors prescribe is an anti-depressant, which is helpful in up to two-thirds of cases. The key is to seek help if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, especially if you feel like you might harm yourself. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you’re not alone and help is available.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Postpartum Depression Facts”
MedicineNet.com. “Postpartum Depression”
What to Expect at the Hospital After Birth
You anxiously awaited the hour when you’d meet your new baby. Now, the delivery is FINALLY over. Congratulations! You’re entering a new phase in your life. Yet, you may have questions about what to expect at the hospital after giving birth. Let’s look at what you can anticipate in the first day or two after giving birth.
Once your baby has entered the world and you’ve met your new family member for the first time, you’re probably exhilarated but exhausted. You may also notice that your vaginal area is sore, especially if you had a vaginal tear and episiotomy. The nursing staff will give you instructions on how to care for it. They may recommend sitting on a special ring or pillow and using an ice pack to help with the pain and swelling.
Another sign to expect – vaginal bleeding and discharge called lochia. You may experience bleeding that will last several days. Slowly, the bleeding will die down and change to a colored vaginal discharge, although it may take 4 to 6 weeks for this to happen. Although this is normal, let the staff know if the discharge has an unpleasant odor or you have pain or heavy vaginal bleeding.
Using the Bathroom
Using the bathroom may feel uncomfortable right after giving birth. For one, the tissues surrounding your urethra, the opening through which you pass urine, will likely be swollen and sore. This can make urinating uncomfortable. Having bowel movements may be unpleasant as well if you developed hemorrhoids, swollen veins in your anal area, during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some women experience leakage of urine or feces after a vaginal birth. Special exercises called Kegel exercises may help you with this problem should it persist.
Also, don’t be surprised if you notice your weight drop right after giving birth. You’ll subtract the weight of the baby along with several pounds of water weight. All in all, you can expect to be between 12 and 14 pounds lighter right after giving birth.
Contractions? Bet you hoped you were through with those. However, you may feel contractions off and on for a few days after giving birth. Fortunately, these contractions are not as severe as the ones you experienced during delivery. They’re more on par with menstrual cramps and are usually tolerable. Just remember, these cramps won’t last for more than a few days and will seem tame after giving birth.
Giving birth is a hard job! You may feel a mixture of emotions during the first day or two after delivery. On one hand, you’re excited to finally meet your baby, yet you’re exhausted from all you’ve been through. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel an immediate bond with your new baby. You’ve been through a lot and it takes time to get to know the little person that emerged from your body. You might run the gamut of emotions from exhilaration to feeling a bit weepy and emotional. It’s all to be expected.
The Bottom Line
Now you have a better idea of how you’ll feel in the first few days after giving birth. Keep in mind that all women are different. The most important thing to do is congratulate yourself on a job well done – and get some well-deserved rest.
Mayo Clinic. “Labor and Delivery, Postpartum Care”
Five of the Best Tips for Stretch Mark Prevention
There are plenty of common skin conditions that can develop during pregnancy, but stretch marks are by far the most common complaint–an estimated 90% of women notice at least some during the third trimester. They are pink, red or purple scars that appear in streaks, and they’re caused by the quick stretching of the skin that happens as your baby grows.
Treatments can make stretch marks fade, but it’s unlikely they will ever disappear entirely. Consequently, prevention is better than cure. Here are five popular tricks used for stretch mark prevention.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E cream can be spread across your abdomen in order to attempt to fortify both collagen and elastin in the lower epidermis of your skin, which should lead to improvements in elasticity and tissue strength. There is also evidence that vitamin E can assist your skin’s natural regeneration process. Dietary sources of vitamin E can help too–some great examples include almonds, oats, avocados and sunflower seeds. However, don’t start vitamin E supplements without discussing it with your doctor, as they may not be safe to take during pregnancy.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
The more weight you gain during pregnancy, the more likely you are to develop noticeable stretch marks. So, be sure to consult guides explaining the healthy amount of weight to gain during each stage of pregnancy, and be conscious of what you’re eating. In addition, consider that a certain amount of gentle exercise is good for you during pregnancy, and not just because it limits weight gain.
- Potato juice
Some pregnant women swear by rubbing a slice of potato around the areas most prone to skin marks, as the vitamins and minerals found in potato juice may restore skin cells. You have little to lose by at least trying this approach–it’s cheap and easy!
- Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is a derivative of vitamin D, and your body naturally produces it when you’re in the sun. Some studies suggest that treatments containing vitamin D3 compliment those that feature vitamin E, boosting their ability to regenerate your skin’s epidermal layer.
- Cocoa butter
Research demonstrates mixed results when it comes to using cocoa butter for stretch mark prevention, but it remains a popular treatment. The hope is that applying it a few times a time will enhance skin moisture, making the tissue more pliable and reducing the chance of scarring during the stretching process.
- Olive oil
Another famous topical treatment, olive oil not only contains vitamin E (with all its regenerative powers) but is also a natural moisturizer.
Finally, if you do develop stretch marks, know that they will fade over time and that there are also ways to help them fade at a faster rate. Plus, try to consider them as a reminder of your amazing achievement–you’re growing a baby, and these little lines are a consequence of bringing a wonderful new life into the world. How do you feel about your stretch marks, and (if you’ve tried to prevent them) what treatments have worked well for you?
Contraceptives after Birth: What Are Your Options?
After giving birth, it’s time think about what form of contraception to use to prevent future pregnancies. The time until you’re fertile again and able get pregnant is variable, but it’s not likely that you’ll be able to conceive again until your baby is at least 3 weeks old. Still, you need to be ready when your fertility returns.
Breastfeeding Offers Some Protection
If you’re breastfeeding, you have a very low risk of becoming pregnant, as long you continue to breastfeed. This assumes that you’re breastfeeding only and not feeding your baby other forms of nourishment. You should be breastfeeding at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night to get the most protection against pregnancy. It also assumes that you’re not having periods yet and no more than six months have passed since you gave birth. Breastfeeding as a form of birth control is unreliable if you’re not fully breastfeeding, if your periods have returned, or it’s been longer than six months since you began breastfeeding.
When you visit your doctor for your six-week check-up, they’ll likely ask you about what form of birth control you plan on using. It’s a good idea to be ready BEFORE that time arrives. If you don’t breastfeed, you’ll begin ovulating, on average, 45 days after giving birth and can become pregnant at the point. Keep in mind, ovulation can return earlier or later than this. You can even become pregnant before your period returns. That’s because you ovulate two weeks before your period and the egg can be fertilized at that time. Also, keep in mind that some forms of birth control aren’t effective right away.
What Form of Contraceptives After Birth Are Available?
Confused about what to use? You have a variety of options. If you choose a hormonal method, one that contains estrogen, you won’t be able to use it until at least 6 weeks after delivery. This includes the ring, patch, or pill. Estrogen increases the risk for blood clots and your risk is already higher when you’re pregnant. It’s also not a good idea to use a hormonal form of birth control that contains estrogen when you’re breastfeeding. Doing so can reduce milk flow. Wait until your baby is at least 6 months old before using a form of birth control with estrogen. If you do take a hormonal form of birth control, make sure it’s a pill that contains only a progestin.
Although hormonal methods are the most effective, they have a higher risk of side effects, including an increased risk of blood clots. Another birth control option is to use a barrier method. Diaphragms and IUDS are an option, although they don’t carry the same degree of effectiveness as hormonal methods. Another form of barrier birth control is condoms. Although condoms have a higher rate of failure, you can increase their effectiveness by using them with a spermicide.
If you prefer the most natural, side-effect free approach possible, a natural family planning method might suit you. You’ll have to learn when you’re ovulating by tracking your temperature or monitoring your cervical mucus and avoid intercourse around that time. It takes commitment and attention to detail to make this method work.
If you know you don’t want to become pregnant again, you might opt for a more permanent method like having your “tubes tied,” also known as tubal ligation. You can have this done immediately after birth if you’re ready. This is an option to discuss with your physician.
Thromb Res. 2011 Feb;127 Suppl 3:S35-9. doi: 10.1016/S0049-3848(11)70010-X.
Medscape Multispecialty. “Maternal and Neonatal Outcomes in Obese Women Who Lose Weight During Pregnancy”