Breastfeeding Part 2 – The First Days Home

Congratulations…you gave birth, decided to breastfeed, and made it through your hospital stay!  With the support of doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants, by the time you are discharged, hopefully, you are feeling pretty comfortable with the breastfeeding process.

This is exactly how I felt with my first son…so, when I got home and started having difficulty and pain, I felt frustrated and started doubting my ability to breastfeed. He was fussy and frantic at the breast, which lead to painful feeding sessions. I knew some pain was normal, so at the time I didn’t even know I needed help. Most parents would agree that the first couple of nights home with your first infant are the longest, most exhausting nights of your life. Add in difficulty with breastfeeding, and a time that should be filled with joy, becomes one that is filled with frustration. The good news is that this time passes quickly and with some patience and support, breastfeeding can get easier every day!

In my opinion, the biggest reason that new mothers are in this situation, is the fault of our current medical system. We send mothers and their infants home within 48 hours of delivery – well before most mother’s milk “comes in.”  So, many infants start to get very hungry within 24 hours of going home. This is a time when they start to gain back the weight that they lost after birth. If your milk is not “in” yet, then you are dealing with either a sleepy baby who does not have the energy to feed or a frantic, fussy baby.

The second problem that many mother’s run into is engorgement. Once the milk “comes in,” the breasts become hard, swollen and painful. A baby who was latching on perfectly before engorgement, can develop difficulty finding a comfortable latch – especially at the beginning of a breastfeeding session, when your nipple can lay flat against your areola.

Here are my tips to help you get through the fist days of breastfeeding, with as little difficulty as possible:

  1. Find support – a friend, relative, or lactation consultant
  2. Put your infant to the breast as often as they want (every 1-3 hours) – you can work on a feeding schedule later. In the first couple of weeks, the more your infant feeds, the faster your milk will “come in” and the more milk you will produce
  3. If your infant is too sleepy to feed or falls asleep at the breast, attempt to breastfeed for 10 minutes on each side, then pump to let your body know that you need more milk. If your infant is not gaining weight or having problems with jaundice, feed the baby this pumped milk (either with a supplementing tube/syringe or a bottle) after attempting to breastfeed. As a side note, this is exhausting – so utilize your partner or a relative to hold or feed the baby in between breastfeeding/pumping sessions. 
  4. If you are having pain or difficulty latching your infant due to engorgement, express breastmilk either with your hand or with a pump for about 1 minute prior to attempting to breastfeed. Be advised not to pump too much during this time (like after every feed) because you will overproduce milk and this can lead to lots of discomfort.

You will know that your infant is getting enough milk by the number of wet and dirty diapers they are having. They should increase every day until day 5 or 6. They will also start gaining weight around this time. So follow-up with your pediatrician is important.

It is normal to feel nipple discomfort for the fist 1-2 weeks of breastfeeding, though if the pain is making breastfeeding a dreaded task or you develop red sores, cracks or blisters – then find a lactation consultant to help work on your infant’s latch. You will also feel pain and fullness during engorgement – starting days 3-4 and resolving slowly over about a week. This pain should be tolerable with a supportive bra and cold packs.

Within 10-14 days, breastfeeding should become comfortable for both you and your infant. If it is not, or your infant is not gaining weight – seek help, because there are fixes for most breastfeeding problems. However, you need to know that some infants are not great breastfeeders and some moms don’t make enough milk – which makes me very thankful that formula was invented!

Heather Joyce, MD

Infant Reflux

This post was inspired by a friend who is having a tough time with a fussy newborn, but dedicated to all the parents out there who have ever cared for a baby with reflux, my husband included.

Reflux, colic, gas, milk intolerance, or general demeanor…there are many reasons for an overly fussy baby. Many babies who cry excessively swallow lots of air and always appear to have belly pain or gas, so figuring out the reason for a baby’s fussiness can be challenging. I will focus on infant gastro-esophageal reflux in this post, though many of these suggestions can help a baby with colic. Some babies with reflux are not fussy at all (they just make huge messes with spit-up), while others can have discomfort, poor weight gain and feeding problems. The symptoms of reflux are caused by milk that makes its way back up through a weak muscle at the top of the stomach, into the esophagus, and to the back of the throat or mouth. Infants do not all have the same symptoms, but can have spitting up, frequent hiccups, swallowing or grunting, arching of the back or neck, coughing, wheezing, difficulty feeding or excessive crying. Most infants with reflux act like they are always hungry, this is because they cry and root as a reaction to discomfort – often 1-2 hours after a previous feeding. If your child has been diagnosed with reflux or exhibits these behaviors, there are many techniques you can use to decrease symptoms.

1) Feed sitting upright – with bottle feeding, this is easy; but with breastfeeding you will have to find the most comfortable position for both you and your baby.

2) Burp frequently – with bottle feeding, this means every 1/2-1 oz; with breastfeeding it is still best to burp in between breasts or after 10-15 minutes.

3) If you are bottle feeding, find the right nipple and bottle. Babies who drink too quickly or swallow too much air spit up more. There are many choices and you may have to try several, but I say go with the one that works best for you and your baby.

4) Feed small amounts, frequently. For small infants, this means 1-2 oz every 1-2 hours; bigger infants need 2-4 oz every 2-3 hours and increase gradually. Do not over-feed your baby, this will lead to more discomfort!

5) Keep your baby sitting upright 20-30 minutes after each feed. Easy to say, not so easy to do (especially in the middle of the night or when you are chasing around another child). You do not have to hold your baby, you can use any contraption that works for you – bouncy/vibrator seat, upright swing, head elevating positioner, wedge with a sling, baby carrier/sling, just to name a few.

6) Position your baby to sleep elevated (30-45 degrees). The easiest way to do this is to put a couple of books under the legs at the head of the crib or bassinet. If you are using a co-sleeper or pack and play, a couple of rolled up towels or receiving blankets under the thin mattress works well. They also make special foam wedges for this purpose.

7) Do not lie your baby down flat on their back, especially after feeding. If possible, try to change your baby’s diaper prior to feeding.

After utilizing these techniques, your baby may still spit-up. If they are happy and gaining weight, your next step is to stockpile burp cloths, bibs, and wet wipes. If your baby has extreme fussiness, coughing, wheezing, difficulty feeding or poor weight gain, you need to take them to the pediatrician. They may recommend an elimination diet (for breastfeeding mothers), a formula switch, or medication for your infant. This can be a very stressful time as a parent, so keep in mind that whatever is causing fussiness in your baby will pass with time.

Heather Joyce, MD

Tricks of the Trade: Giving Medications

I have two boys, one who asks for medication whenever he thinks he might need it, the other who spits it back at us like we are giving him poison. As a health care provider for children, giving medication and helping parents give medication to their children is a big part of my job. Some children need medication only intermittently for fever or pain, others daily for chronic illnesses or infections. It is important that parents find the best way to give medication to each of their children for the times when it is important. Thankfully, medications come in a variety of forms, including pills, capsules, chewables, powder, granules, and liquids. Unfortunately, not all children’s liquids taste good (even after flavoring).

The most important step in giving medication to children is making sure you are giving the correct medication and dosage. Most children will be prescribed liquid, so your job is to measure the medication correctly and make sure your child swallows it. Infants and toddlers will usually take medication measured in a syringe (1 ml, 5 ml or 10 ml). However, they do make special nipples that hold medication, which some infants prefer. Older toddlers and children will drink medication from a measuring spoon or cup, they can also take chewable medication. Once your child is big enough to take a pill (5-7 years old for most children), you can start teaching them to swallow pills/capsules.

Tips for getting your child to take medication:

1) Give it slowly in their cheek

2) Offer a tasty bribe for after they take the medication or in between squirts – juice, popsicle, sucker

3) Get the pill form, crush it and put in apple sauce/pudding – this only works if it is not a long acting medication

4) Get the capsule form and open into apple sauce/pudding

5) Give a very small amount of medication in between screams/crying, most children will swallow it with their saliva

6) Get the rectal suppository form (acetaminophen) and place it gently into your child’s bottom

Giving medication to your child is not always easy, so if you are having trouble, ask for advice from your doctor or nurse. They may be able to prescribe a different form of the medication or offer other ideas for getting your child to take the medication.

Heather Joyce, MD

Hip Pain

Hip pain can be a tricky thing in kids.  Sometimes it’s hard for them to actually point to their hip and say “this hurts,” so they may point to their groin, thigh, or even knee, even though the problem arises from the hip.

One of the most common cause of hip pain in kids is synovitis (otherwise known as transient synovitis), which may come in combination with a viral illness and/or fever.  The pain comes from inflammation inside the hip joint.  This problem is not caused by a fall or trauma.  These kids are usually less than 10 years of age, and complain of hip pain, difficulty walking, and they also tend to walk with a limp.  The condition is self-limiting, meaning that it goes away on it’s own.

Even though synovitis is self-limiting, it is necessary for kids with this problem to be evaluated to make sure that they don’t have more serious hip problems that can be detrimental long term.  This means that they need an x-ray of their hip and pelvis.  Again, x-rays in kids with synovitis are normal, but they help make sure that other treatment is not needed.  Treatment is non-weightbearing (rest) and medicines like tylenol or ibuprofen until the pain resolves.

Some hip problems in kids affect their bones and may need surgery.  In older kids (around adolescence), the growth plate in the ball of the hips joint can actually slip and cause long term damage if surgery is not done immediately.  This problem is called slipped femoral capital epiphysis (or SCFE).   In young children (usually before school age) there is a condition called Perthes disease where blood flow to the hip is compromised and the ball of the hip joint is affected.

Hip pain can of course also occur with falls or trauma.  But sometimes kids aren’t the best historians and you may not witness the fall, so it could be difficult to determine if a fall or injury is causing their pain or limp.

So …  if your child limps, regardless of his or her age, make sure that they are evaluated by a pediatrician or orthopedic doctor.  If not, they could sustain long term damage and arthritis in their hip!

Rachel Brewer, MD

Allergies

It’s that time of year again…itchy, red eyes, runny nose, sneezing and hives. Allergies make many children and parents miserable. The best treatment for allergies is allergen avoidance, so keep your children inside all spring, with the windows closed and the air conditioner on – IMPOSSIBLE! However, you can try reduce a child’s time outside and make sure not to run an attic fan/house fan with the windows open. There are many other treatments, but they all involve using medications. Antihistamines are still the best medications we have available to treat allergies. There are several available over the counter now. I typically recommend a trial of diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which means giving an appropriate dose every 6-8 hours for a couple of days and monitor for symptom improvement. If symptoms are better, your child may benefit from a long acting antihistamine. I do not recommend long term therapy with diphenhydramine (Benadryl), because it can cause sleepiness and adverse behavior effects on children. Long acting antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadin (Allegra), certirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex). See your doctor before starting a long acting antihistamine, because they all have different and specific dosing for children of different ages. If your child has allergies and asthma, there is another medication available called montelukast (Singulair) available by prescription.

Treatments for specific allergy symptoms include:

Watery, red, itchy eyes:

– Use a cool, wet washcloth to soothe your child’s eyes and to keep them from rubbing

– Try an antihistamine eye drop, there are some available over the counter and others that are available by prescription

– Gently remind your children not to rub their eyes, this can lead to infection

Runny nose or congestion:

– Nasal saline several times per day

– Nasal steroid available by prescription

Rashes – hives or dermatitis:

– Cool bathes

– Cotton long sleeve clothing

– Vaseline or Aquaphor

Springtime is the best time to play outside. Allergies affect many children, but there are several treatments available to make life more tolerable when the plants and flowers are all blooming. Make sure to see a physician if your child develops difficulty breathing, wheezing, or severe eye swelling when their allergies flare.

Heather Joyce, MD

Osgood What?

Many of you parents out there may be familiar with knee pain due to Osgood Schlatter’s disease because your child is experiencing it, or you experienced in the past as a child.  It is definitely one of the most common causes of knee pain in kids (not due to falling or trauma).

I talked about what apophysitis is a few weeks ago, and Osgood Schlatter’s is the most well known form of it.  Again, an apophysis is a growth plate that provides a point for a muscle/tendon to attach.  And apophysitis is due to chronic traction of a tendon at its origin or insertion.  Continuous stress at the apophyseal site leads to local swelling and pain.  Stress at the knee comes from things like running, jumping, or squatting.

When Osgood Schlatter’s disease occurs, kids develop a bump that you can feel just below their kneecap. The bump is painful to touch.  Pain is worse with running and things like walking up stairs, hills, or any incline.  It is especially painful when a child with Osgood Schlatter’s falls on his or her knee.

If you think your child has Osgood Schlatter’s it is important for he or she to stretch, stretch, and stretch.  Specifically stretch the calf muscles, hamstrings, and quad muscles.  Icing the knee (right over the bump) at least two times a day and taking an age appropriate dose of ibuprofen is also helpful.  Sometimes kids with chronic or severe Osgood Schlatter’s need formal physical therapy.

Bracing with a knee strap (which goes between the kneecap and the bump that forms with Osgood Schlatter’s) can also be helpful.  The strap theoretically compresses the patellar tendon and lessens the traction on the apophysis where the pain is.

Osgood Schlatter’s disease typically resolves when the apophysis (or growth plate) below the kneecap closes.  However, in some kids, the problem can become chronic and those kids require surgery.  This doesn’t occur until high school age or beyond because you have to give the apophysis a chance to close.  There are also experimental treatments with injection for moderate to severe Osgood Sclatter’s, which may become a more common treatment in the future.

It doesn’t harm a kid to play with knee pain due to Osgood Schlatter’s, but it may prolong the course of recovery.  The best thing to do is try a course of rest and rehab to try to eliminate the pain before going back to a sport 100%.

Rachel Brewer, MD

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are one of the most frequent presenting problems that we see in kids and adolescents.  The important thing is to recognize when you should take your child to be evaluated if they experience an ankle injury and also understand how to treat and rehab the injury at home.

First, like I’ve said before …. young kids don’t sprain stuff.  What does that mean?  It means that their bones are the weakest link since their growth plates are still open, and that the growth plates get injured with a joint injury, not the ligaments.  You can “sprain” a ligament, not a bone.  Once a child’s growth plate closes, they are more apt to truly sprain a joint.  Ligaments get “sprained,” and muscles get “strained.”

Ok, so your kid twists his ankle at soccer practice.  Should you run to the ER?  If the foot or ankle appears deformed or pale, yes.  That means there likely is a serious fracture.  If your child has immediate swelling in his ankle and can’t bear weight, it is also important to be seen.  However, call your pediatrician first if it is after-hours and they can determine if it is ok to treat the injury at home overnight and be seen the next day.

Bottom line is that most ankle injuries in kids warrant an x-ray – especially if they are young enough where there growth plates in the ankle are still open (prior to puberty).

If your child is diagnosed with a true ankle sprain (again, this is likely in adolescence), then there are several things you can do at home to speed along recovery.  You may have heard of RICE therapy.  This stands for rest, ice, compression (with a brace or ace bandage), and elevation.  This also works for ankle sprains.  Swelling in ankle sprains can be very impressive, and RICE therapy helps swelling go away faster (anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can also help).  If your child cannot bear weight because of pain, they may need crutches for a couple days.

Kids are generally pretty good at letting pain guide them in terms of being able to bear weight on their ankle if they experience a sprain.  Once they are able to bear weight (when pain has improved), it is ok to progressively start to walk normally again.  If you rest the ankle too long with non-weightbearing that can lead to stiffness and more pain.

Rehab is key to getting through an ankle sprain.  Rehab means moving the ankle, getting the strength back, and also getting back your balance.  This handout shows some great things you can do at home.  Remember, flexibility, strength, and balance are all part of rehab.  Sometimes ankle sprains are severe enough that it working with a physical therapist is required (you can be referred by your pediatrician or sports medicine doctor).

Experiencing an ankle sprain is the biggest risk factor for having another one in the future.  A brace called an ASO (a lace-up ankle brace) is very helpful at preventing ankle sprains.  It is important to wear the brace during any cutting/pivoting sports.  Once you “stretch” the ligaments during an ankle sprain they never “tighten” back up – that’s why wearing a brace is very important!  You can get a lace-up brace from your pediatrician or sports medicine doctor.

Rachel Brewer, MD