Older women with breastfeeding problems may feel that perhaps younger women are not having as many issues with breastfeeding. This is not true, as many younger moms have difficulties with breastfeeding. The good news is that moms of all ages can and do successfully breastfeed their babies, and most problems with breastfeeding can be resolved with some help from a physician or lactation consultant.
Breast and Nipple Soreness
Pain is one of the most common breastfeeding problems and can range from mild tenderness to serious chafing, cracking, and bleeding. Some new moms assume that pain is part of the process of nursing, and that the breasts have to "get used to" nursing. In fact, breastfeeding should not cause pain. Usually, pain and tenderness is due to a baby's incorrect mouth positioning, or latch. The baby's mouth should open wide, and moms should encourage the baby to take the nipple far back into his or her mouth. This ensures that the most pressure is put on the area around the nipple, rather than the nipple itself.
An appointment with a lactation consultant is a great first step in diagnosing a latch problem. The lactation consultant can watch mom and baby during nursing and check for incorrect positioning or poor latch. A lactation consultant can also check the baby's mouth for anatomical issues such as palate or tongue abnormalities.
Some lactation consultants will suggest a nipple shield to assist babies with a poor latch. Nipple shields used to be made of rubber and were fairly thick. Shields are now available in very thin silicone with notches cut into them to allow for maximum skin-to-skin contact. The thinness of these new shields makes it easier for moms to maintain milk supply while using them and to transition from using the shield to breastfeeding without it. The best thing about a nipple shield is that it will allow sore breasts a chance to heal while mom and baby work on the latch problems.
Many older and younger moms struggle with worries about their milk supply. This is especially challenging in the first days after a baby is born, since it takes some time for a mom's full supply of milk to come in. In the first 24 hours after birth, the breasts produce a substance called colostrum. Colostrum is produced in small amounts but is calorie-dense and full of vital nutrients and antibodies. New mothers are encouraged to breastfeed often in these first days, as more nursing stimulates the breasts to produce more milk.
While moms who breastfeed may not be able to explain their baby's intake in ounces, they don't have to be in the dark about whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat. In the first few days, babies do not have as many wet or dirty diapers, but these should pick up after a mom's milk supply is well established. Newborn babies should average five to six wet diapers and three to four dirty diapers per day, although some variation between individual babies is normal.
Also, while healthy babies can lose some weight in the first few days after birth, this should turn around quickly. According to Kellymom.com, breastfed babies usually gain about 6 ounces weekly, and consistent weight gain means that the baby is getting enough to eat. A fussy baby does not mean a low milk supply, and neither does a baby who seems to want to nurse around the clock. Growth spurts can cause a baby to nurse more frequently, and these usually happen in the first days after a baby comes home from the hospital, at seven to ten days, and again at three weeks and six weeks.
Best Solution for Older Moms With Breastfeeding Problems
The best solution for older moms with breastfeeding problems is to consult a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants often work in hospital maternity wards or county health departments, and some may offer free or low-cost consultations to nursing mothers. It's okay to ask for help with breastfeeding, and it's okay to keep asking until the problem is resolved. Some moms do end up making the decision to stop breastfeeding, and it isn't a sign of a less dedicated or loving mom, or a guarantee that a baby will not be healthy.