When a baby is latching on poorly, he may also cause the mother nipple pain. And if, at the same time, he does not get milk well, he will usually stay on the breast for long periods, thus aggravating the pain. Too often the mothers are told the baby's latch is perfect, but it's easy to say that the baby is latched on well even if he isn't. Mothers are also getting confusing and contradictory messages about breastfeeding from books, magazines, the internet, family and health professionals. Many health professionals actually have had very little training on how to prevent breastfeeding problems or how to treat them should they arise. Here are a few ways breastfeeding can be made easier:
• The baby should be skin-to-skin with the mother and have access to the breast immediately after birth. The vast majority of newborns can be skin-to-skin with the mother and have access to the breast within minutes of birth. Indeed, research has shown that, given the chance, many babies only minutes old will crawl up to the breast from the mother’s abdomen, latch on, and start breastfeeding all by themselves. This process may take only a few minutes or take up to an hour or longer, but the mother and baby should be given this time (at least the first hour or two) together to start learning about each other. Babies who "self-attach" run into far fewer breastfeeding problems. This process does not take any effort on the mother’s part, and the excuse that it cannot be done because the mother is tired after labor is nonsense, pure and simple.
• The baby should be kept skin-to-skin with mother as much as possible immediately after birth and for as much as possible in the first few weeks of life. Incidentally, studies have also shown that skin-to-skin contact between mothers and babies keeps the baby as warm as an incubator (see paragraph on skin-to-skin contact, below, and the information sheet The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact). It is true that many babies do not latch on and breastfeed during this time but generally, this is not a problem, and there is no harm in waiting for the baby to start breastfeeding. The skin to skin contact is good and very important for the baby and the mother even if the baby does not latch on.
•Skin-to-skin contact helps the baby adapt to his new environment: the baby's breathing and heart rate are more normal, the oxygen in his blood is higher, his temperature is more stable and his blood sugar higher. Furthermore, there is some good evidence that the more babies are kept skin-to-skin in the first few days and weeks of life (not just during the feedings) the better their brain development will be. As well, it is now thought that the baby's brain develops in certain ways only due to this skin-to-skin contact, and this important growth happens mostly in the first 3-8 weeks of life.