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Since most breastfeeding problems can be solved by knowledge about breastfeeding, here are some simple ideas, and frequently ask questions. 

Are sore nipples just part of Breastfeeding?  No , but there are a number of causes, the most common being a baby who has difficulty with latching. This can happen for variety of reasons. The most common just not getting enough breast tissue in the babies mouth. Some infants don't open wide enough or mom doesn't get then deeply enough on the breast. Getting baby on deeply with him taking more than just the tip of the nipple is the key. Some times baby has a tiny mouth or high pallet that can cause issues and frequently a tight fenulumn, referred to as tongue tie. An engorged breast with little nipple movement can make all of the above feel worse. 
 When the baby has a shallow latch the tip of the nipple can become abraded from rubbing back and forth against the roof of the mouth. This problem can sometimes be dealt with by getting a deeper latch but when it can't, one needs to see and IBCLC, she can help you decide if you need to use a nipple shield temporarily to help baby learn to latch more deeply. She can refer you to respected local providers to release ties, or for body work.

Here is a link to a video that may help.

Another common question is how long should a baby be breastfed. Even though the clinical recommendations are pretty clear about how long an infant should be breastfed, it always seems that people ignore the facts. This seems to be an area that people believe is open to personal preference or opinion, this even happens when dealing with health professionals. 

So first off, any breastfeeding is better than none, any breastmilk is better than none. The more exclusive the breastfeeding the better. 
What is exclusive breastfeeding , nothing by mouth other than breastmilk, preferable directly from the breast alone. We all know that this is not possible for all parents but then that's not the point. Sometimes babies arrive too soon and aren't yet able to take enough directly from the breast, or are too sick or premature to be at the breast at all. Still human milk is the preferred food . Some moms pump and provide breastmilk via tube or another feeding devise for a period of time, thus allowing time to give baby the ability to develop sufficiently to come to the breast for feedings. 

In other situations mom may be separated from her baby for work or another reason and not able to fully breastfeed because of the separation. Then of course providing breastmilk via pumping is the logical and most healthy thing to do. 

In the majority of cases baby should be put to the breast with in the first hour of life and receive nothing other than moms breast or breastmilk for the at least the first 6 months of life, then after 6 months or later for some babies, a gradual addition of some solid foods can be started to supplement the infants diet. The majority of the food that baby still takes in should be breastmilk until at the very least 12 months od age. and for many familes breastfeeding can continue as long as mom and baby are mutually happy with the experience. 

So a 2-4 year old that is still breastfeeding is normal. One does not need to commit to two years to breastfeed, but its perfectly normal for babies to breastfeed well past a year. 

Some families will use breastfeeding to space their pregnancies. I know there are skeptics out there, but research shows that a mother who is exclusively breastfeeding, not using supplements or pacifiers and is not separated from her child for extended periods of time, and whose baby sleeps with her or in the same room, will be able most of the time to use breastfeeding as a natural contraceptive. At least until her periods return on a regular bases. 

To learn more about this method read Sheila Kipley's book: Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing 
a link to Sheila's group is here:
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