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Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions

Michael Brian

Supplements and Biting

What if I need to supplement with formula?

"Combo feeding" (breastfeeding and supplemental formula) can work, but it's important to get breastfeeding off to a good start for a few weeks before introducing commercial nipples. Otherwise, babies can become "nipple confused," which means they try to suck at the breast the way they get milk out of a bottle. This is not very effective, and it can be painful! If formula supplementation is medically necessary within the first month, a lactation consultant can help you try supplementing with a syringe or a nursing supplementer, a handy device that delivers breast milk or formula through a flexible tube attached to your nipple, while baby breastfeeds. Supplementers help babies learn to suck from a mother's nipple. As an added perk, mother gets the milk-making hormonal stimulation as Baby sucks at her breast.

Breastfed babies sometimes refuse to take bottles offered by Mom because it just doesn't feel right. Dad or a substitute caregiver may be more successful at persuading a baby that food can come from other sources. Choose a nipple with a wide base so that baby has to open his mouth wide as he does at the breast. This will minimize problems with lazy latch-on when baby is fed at the breast.

Don't take it personally if your baby appears to prefer pumped breast milk or formula from a bottle. It usually doesn't take as much effort to get milk from a commercial nipple. (This is a good reason to avoid them in the early weeks.) If you are planning to combine breastfeeding with formula supplements, or if you find yourself doing this, try to give breastfeeding priority. The more you substitute formula feedings for feedings at the breast, the less milk your breasts will make, and it's possible that your baby's interest in breastfeeding will also wane. Combo feeding works for many mothers, but use some caution or your baby may stop breastfeeding before you had planned on weaning.

Help! My baby bites during feedings!

Babies eventually sprout teeth, with the first ones arriving around six months of age, and when they get them, they experiment with them, which can lead to a startled "ouch" from Mom when she gets nipped during nursing. Even though babies do bite the breast that feeds them, you don't need to be a human pacifier. And, this doesn't mean it's time to wean (even toddlers with lots of teeth can breastfeed without causing pain). It is time to teach your baby some nursing manners. It's okay to holler "ouch!" when Baby clamps down. To pry your nipple out of your child's mouth without any further damage, wedge a finger in between his gums and hook it around your nipple. If he bites down again before the nipple is out of his mouth, your finger will protect your tender nipple. That startled "ouch" may frighten some babies and intrigue others. If your baby cries at your reaction, calm him and immediately resume nursing. If he bites again -- with a curious gleam in his eye -- it's time to end the feeding and do something else together. Eventually, your infant will associate biting with an end to the feeding, and will stop biting. Another trick used by mothers of biters, me included, is to draw the baby in closer to the breast as soon as you feel that first nip, or even when Baby looks like he's about to bite. He'll automatically let go in order to breathe.

Breastfeeding requires large doses of commitment, a helping of patience, and a sense of humor. While you may experience some problems, rest assured that with help, you will likely be able to work through these challenges and enjoy this special bond with your baby.