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When breastfeeding turns out to be a nightmare

A mother breastfeeds her child. Nipple sores and cracks make breastfeeding a nightmare. Courtesy photo.

By Stella Mpiima

After giving birth to her child, Betty Namuwaya was given breastfeeding lessons by a midwife which gave her more reasons to breast feed her child for at least two years.

Two days later, Namuwaya was discharged from hospital and the midwives cautioned her not to give up on breastfeeding her bundle of joy.

Much as she willingly breastfed her child, the changes she was undergoing made breastfeeding an extremely difficult undertaking for her.

Her nipple cracked and breastfeeding was so painful that whenever her baby showed signs of wanting to be fed, Namuwaya was hesitant to breast feed her child because of the pain.

“Nipple sores and cracks made breastfeeding a nightmare that at some point, I felt like stopping but since I had a lot of breast milk, I needed to have it out to reduce on the pain as well,” Namuwaya says.

Later she sought help from midwives and her nightmares ended. She breastfed her child for two years.

According to experts, cracks on nipples is one of the problems breastfeeding mothers face but this should not be a reason for them to stop breastfeeding their babies.

Dr Elizabeth Katamba, a pediatrician at Norvik hospital, explains that when a mother especially first time mothers get sores on their nipples while breastfeeding, some tend to discontinue breast feeding but this makes the baby miss out on the health benefits of breast milk.

She notes that much as it’s painful and at times comes with blood, mothers should continue breastfeeding their babies. With time, the sores heal and life goes back to normal.

She notes that this is caused by improper latching of the baby on the breast and poor position of the baby by the mother.

“Improper latching of the baby on the breast nipple makes the baby pull on the nipple and does not have a deep attachment to the breast causing the nipple to crack,” she explains.

Katamba says for mothers to avoid such, they should support their baby’s head with one hand and support the breast with the other hand.

“After tickle your baby’s lower lip with the breast nipple to encourage your baby’s to open their mouth wide,” she says.

“Ensure that your baby takes in part of the darker area around the nipple and your nipple should be far back in the baby’s mouth and its tongue will be cupped under your breast,” she adds.

His nose should be off your breast and his chin pressed against it. Keep holding the breast and don’t leave it to the baby.

“Ensure that the baby is facing you the mother and not having to turn its head to latch on,” she adds.

She adds that for relief a mother can consult a pediatrician for some nipple creams which may not have an effect on the baby.

Enlargement of the breasts
Katamba notes that much as breast enlargement is a sign of adequate breast milk for the baby, most mothers are bothered by enlarged breasts.

She notes that the biggest challenge is dealing with the too much milk which makes the breasts swell, rock-hard and painful yet the baby cannot latch on simply because your nipple is flat.

“Even when the baby latches on, it cannot fully breastfeed because it’s just learning to suckle and it suckles for a little time and leaves the milk to the mother,” she explains.

Katamba says much as it’s a challenge, mothers with flat nipples should be taught right from during their antenatal visits to keep rubbing their nipples so that by the time they give birth, they are prominent enough for the baby to latch on.

“The other thing is that when milk is too much, mothers can do some warm massaging of the breasts with a clean cloth or mothers can express some milk to encourage continuous flow and relief from pain. This should go hand in hand with frequent breast feeding to keep the milk flowing and reduce inflammation,” “she explains.

Baby won’t latch and suckle well
Katamba says most mothers are usually attentive and good at following breast feeding instruction during antennal visits and after giving birth, but no matter how they try to practice what they were taught; their babies fail to latch well for effective breast feeding. Some actually open their mouths but fail to suckle leaving the mother very disturbed and wondering what to do.

However, Dr Sabrina Kitaka a pediatrician from Mulago hospital, says it may show that the baby has some health problems that need investigation.

She says some babies actually respond well at the beginning but after some weeks, they fail to latch well hence failing to breast feed.

She advises breastfeeding mothers faced with such challenges to rush to hospital for medical advice. Here the doctors will help find out the cause and intervene immediately.

She says in the meantime, mothers should not give up on trying to give the breast and also expressing the breasts regularly to establish and maintain milk production.

Some mothers complain of not having enough milk. Such mothers are left with a dilemma of not knowing what to do to ensure that their baby’s weight gain is well catered for.

This might happen because the mother is simply not feeding well or not ensuring frequent breast feeding for continuous stimulation of breast milk. It’s important that before a mother supplements breast milk with other types of milk, she consults medical personnel’s for advice

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