Common breastfeeding challenges – and how to solve them
While breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it can sometimes be tricky at first, with some moms experiencing things like cracked nipples, latching issues and leaking boobs.
It can sometimes be a bit frustrating and painful, especially in the early days of looking after a new baby, but like any new skill, it may take a while to master. Many of the early challenges can be managed and solved, and you can likely end up with a positive and pain-free breastfeeding experience.
Here are some solutions to common breastfeeding challenges:
Sore and cracked nipples are a quite common issue and could be due to your baby not latching on properly or being in the wrong position. Try not to be too hard on yourself about it– you’re not expected to be an expert at first, and it’s something that needs a bit of learning. It might be worthwhile getting help from a lactation specialist or healthcare professional to support you with your technique..
To prevent soreness try squeezing out a drop of milk after you feed and rubbing it into your skin, letting your nipples dry before you cover them. If you’re using breast pads in your bra, remember to change them after every feed and opt for a cotton bra, which will let the air circulate.
If you have shooting pains in your breasts during feeding you might have thrush/yeast infection. Other symptoms of thrush could include itchy, red or shiny nipples, and your baby might have white patches on their tongue or insides of their cheeks. It’s a common infection that’s easily treated – chat to your healthcare professional for advice.
A few days after your baby is born, your breasts will likely feel full and swollen, which can cause breast pain while breastfeeding. This is due to your body producing an abundance of milk, and increased blood flow to the area..
A warm bath or shower before feeding can encourage the milk to flow, while massaging the breast you’re feeding from can help to relieve some of the tightness. You could also try applying cold packs to soothe your breasts and provide some relief from discomfort.
However, the best way to ease the full, swollen feeling and to relieve the pressure is to feed regularly – in time your body will adjust to your baby’s needs. If you continue to struggle with this, chat to your healthcare professional.
Your breasts may leak if they are too full of milk, or if your “let down” reflex is triggered, like if you hear a crying baby. Usually, your breasts only release milk when your baby suckles, but sometimes you will leak milk..
The more regularly you feed, the less likely your breasts are to leak. Most moms wear breast pads inside their bras in case of any leaks. You will probably find that the problem disappears almost completely after about seven to 10 weeks of breastfeeding.
There are two types of blocked ducts.
The first is a small white spot at the end of your nipple, which you can usually remove with a clean fingernail when your skin is soft after feeding.
The second is a painful lump in your breast with inflamed skin around it. This kind of blockage could be an early sign of mastitis (inflammation of the breast) but could simply be a blocked duct.
Mastitis usually occurs due to a breast engorgement or blocked milk duct, which develops into a tender and red lump on the breast and can become infected. It is a common condition but shouldn’t be ignored. It is easily treated, and you don’t need to stop breastfeeding. Other symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, headache, and nausea.
If you have any inflammation or symptoms, please chat to your healthcare professional. In the meantime, feed as often as you can to drain the excess milk. Make sure your baby is latching onto your breast correctly and try using a breast pump to drain your breasts fully after a feed.
Gently massaging your breasts and applying warm cloths can help too. Rest and drink lots of fluids and ask your doctor to prescribe medication to reduce any pain or fever.
Too little milk
The less milk your baby consumes the less your body will produce, so if your baby isn’t latching on properly and not taking in enough milk, your body may produce less milk than they need.
If you’re worried your baby isn’t getting enough milk because they’re not picking up weight or don’t seem satiated after a feed, speak to your healthcare professional. An important measure is the number of wet and dirty diapers your baby produces – they should around six to eight a day.
To increase your supply, you can try the following:
- Allow your baby to feed for as often and as long as they want
- Completely empty both breasts during a feed (you will likely know this as your breasts will feel soft)
- Express often
- Take more rest during the day and drink enough
Too much milk
Producing a lot of milk is common in the first few days. Initially your body produces lots of milk to allow for a high volume of feeding, which settles down once breastfeeding is established, and baby is feeding effectively.
Some moms might still have an oversupply of milk, with their babies coughing and spluttering after the let-down. If this happens, try to express some milk before a feed to reduce the amount of milk when there’s let down, and feed lying down or in a reclined position so that your baby has better control.
Try not to express too much or in-between feeds though, as this will cause your body to produce more milk to fill the extra demand.
Just as it takes a baby time and effort to take their first steps, it might also take a while until you master breastfeeding. Although it’s natural, it’s not always easy, and you’re not a bad mom if you have some hurdles in the beginning – everything in life needs experience and learning..
If you’re struggling, chat to your healthcare professional or reach out to a network who can help – whether it’s a supportive Facebook group or friends who have been in the same boat.
Be kind to yourself on this journey and celebrate all the parenting and feeding wins – no matter how “small” they might seem.
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