Ask Dr. Sears: Nursing Trouble

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Ask Dr. Sears: Nursing Trouble

Q  My 3-month-old kicks like crazy when he nurses. This is very painful for me. Friends say they’ve never had this problem until their little ones were older. How can I get him to stop? Holding his feet does not work!

A When I watched Martha nurse our little “gymnasts” it seemed amusing at first, then it got downright annoying and even painful. This nursing quirk usually doesn’t start until around one year of age. Babies like to wiggle, twist, kick, nurse with their bottoms up in the air, and some even crawl over your shoulder to nurse upside down.

Your baby is beginning these breastfeeding gymnastics at a much earlier age than most – yet that makes the problem easier to solve. While funny things do happen on the way to the breast, nipples are not meant to be twisted and stretched. So, it’s time to teach your baby some mealtime manners so that breastfeeding can be pleasurable for both of you.

Cradle, Curve, and Tuck Your Baby

Wrapping baby around you in a curved position relaxes his entire body, which discourages his limbs from flailing. Bending baby’s entire body around you relaxes the facial muscles, which encourages a more nipple-friendly sucking pattern. As you’re nursing in the cradle hold, wrap his body around you to anchor him in close to you, like so:

  • With his head securely in the crook of your arm, grab and hold his diaper area.

  • Place the arm holding your breast between his legs, tucking his upper leg between your arm and your chest, just below your armpit.

  • Secure the lower leg between your arm and a pillow.

Clutch Hold

This is one of the most effective positions that we’ve used to curtail our squirming nursers:

  • Sit up in bed or in a comfortable armchair. Rest your arm holding baby on a couple pillows at your side or wedged between you and the arm of the chair.

  • Cup the nape of the neck in your hand and pull his head toward your breast. Curve his legs upward underneath your arm, resting against the back of a chair or against a pillow supporting your back.

  • The bent position encourages relaxation of his trunk and leg muscles, and resting his legs against a pillow or chair back discourages kicking.

  • To make it more comfortable for you, wedge a pillow between baby’s back and your knee to keep your arm from getting tired.

Don’t Dangle Baby!

One of the most common mistakes I see in my office happens when mothers nurse with baby’s head straight toward the nipple, leaving the rest of baby’s body turned flat. The dangling body becomes a wiggly body. Instead, turn baby’s entire body so he is facing you tummy-to-tummy. Be sure his head is lined up with the rest of his body. You should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from baby’s ear to baby’s buttocks; with a dangled baby, that line would go down baby’s abdomen to the front of the diaper area.

Remember, the body often follows the head during nursing. If you let baby’s head turn outward to one side, the body will follow. Be sure baby’s head is positioned straight toward your breast, which will encourage the body to curve around you in the correct position. Also, elevating baby on a nursing pillow discourages twisting and dangling.

Try Something Different

Pick a couple of times a day when you and/or baby is most tired and lie down, tummy-to-tummy to nurse. Tuck a pillow behind your back or a pillow behind baby’s back and drift off to sleep while baby is nursing. This position reminds baby of the one he enjoys during night nursing. Nap nursing and night nursing are two relaxing alternatives that discourage breastfeeding acrobatics. Or you could nurse on the move. Wear baby in a sling-type carrier and breastfeed while you walk around the house. The motion relaxes baby, the sling contains those kicking little legs.

You don’t have to grin and bear it if your baby’s nursing manners are uncomfortable to you. Try these tricks to make breastfeeding a comfortable experience for both you and your baby.