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A nonlinear matrix formalism that allows the calculation of the optical field within a nonlinear multilayer system is presented. Taking advantage of this technique, the field profiles are calculated and the dispersion relation of nonlinear guided waves in such configurations is derived. The numerical results reveal that several field profiles occur, each attached to a certain unit cell of the multilayer system. The various field profiles apply to the corresponding branches of rich structured nonlinear dispersion curves. A comparison of the results of those yielded by an effective medium model is carried out. Appreciable differences are found and are discussed in detail.<>