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When you first get pregnant you research all aspects of having and raising a baby. You might read dozens of books, watch videos and search the internet for the best advice you can find. You might start to feel confident in your knowledge and preparation for the baby. And then you have a baby…!
Once you’ve given birth (or even WHILE you are giving birth!) you soon realize that there is a big difference between the theory and the reality of having and raising a baby.
One of the first struggles you might encounter with your new bundle of joy is breastfeeding problems.
You might assume that breastfeeding will come naturally to you once you have your baby in your arms. This is true for some mothers, but a lot of mothers will struggle with one or more breastfeeding problems.
As a new mother, it can feel overwhelming and extremely distressing to not be able to feed your baby properly. You might doubt your skills as a mother and feel like a failure. Well… let me tell you this – you are not a failure and you are a wonderful mother!
Below I will outline some of the common breastfeeding problems that you might face during your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
There are some breastfeeding problems that can turn serious for you and your baby. So please seek advice from your doctor or lacation consultant.
Problem 1 – Finding reliable breastfeeding information
This might seem a strange “problem” to start with, but the internet is a big place and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Finding one source of reliable information about all aspects of breastfeeding can be difficult.
I recommend that you check out La Leche League. They have a great website full of useful information and local groups and experts.
If you are looking for a book that gives you a complete overview of all aspects of breastfeeding, then I STRONGLY recommend you check out Dr Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. This book literally changed my relationship with breastfeeding. When I was on the verge of giving up, this book completely saved the day!
Problem 2 – Breast Engorgement
Engorgement is when your breasts will feel very full and tender. They will feel like they are stretched full of milk! This generally happens about 2 to 6 days after you have given birth.
This is also referred to as your milk “coming in” – it’s when your body starts producing milk rather than just colostrum (which is the early milk that gets your baby off to the best possible start). The engorgement that you will feel is due to an increase in the fluid, blood supply and milk in your breasts. Your breasts will gradually feel less engorged over 12-48 hours.
This is all a very positive thing… but it can be very uncomfortable, even painful!
The following are all ways to decrease your discomfort from breast engorgement:
- Nurse as often as possible, even if it’s just for a short time. Also, don’t limit the amount of time that baby spends at the breast, let them feed as often as they want to.
- Make sure your baby is properly latched on (see Problem 3).
- Gently massage your breasts from collar-bone to nipple, using slow circular motions. Don’t press too hard though.
- Warm shower or bath. I always found that letting the warm water of a shower hit my chest made them feel much better.
- La Leche League also recommends the traditional method of using cabbage leaves. They suggest that you “rinse the inner leaves of a head of cabbage, remove the hard vein, and crush with a rolling pin (or similar). They can be used refrigerated or at room temperature. Drape leaves directly over breasts, inside the bra. Change when the leaves become wilted, or every two hours. Discontinue use if rash or other signs of allergy occur.”
Problem 3 – Sore or Cracked Nipples
Sore nipples are one of the most common breastfeeding problems that new mothers encounter. The most common cause of sore nipples is from your baby not latching on properly during feeding. Understanding what a proper latch looks (and feels) like could be the difference a successful breastfeeding relationship and an unsuccessful one.
One of the hardest things to get used to when first starting breastfeeding is getting the right “latch”. If the baby isn’t latched on properly, they won’t get enough milk and you will also get sore and uncomfortable nipples. Not good for anyone!
This is a great video that shows how baby should be latching on.
Tips that I wish I had known with my first baby:
- Baby’s chin should be on the breast and the nose clear of the breast
- Wait until baby has their mouth very wide open
- And the most important of all (to avoid sore nipples)… flip the bottom lip! Make sure baby’s bottom lip is flipped outwards, not folded into their mouth. If it’s folded in, then gently pull their chin down with your finger and flip the bottom lip out!
If you already have sore nipples then the following tips will help ease your discomfort while they heal:
- Feed your baby more frequently, so they aren’t “starving” hungry and won’t suckle as aggressively.
- Warm, moist compresses can help ease the discomfort.
- Rub a little breast milk onto your nipples after feeding. It will feel soothing and your breast milk contains antibacterial properties that will protect your nipple from infection.
- And most helpful of all… use a good quality nipple ointment that contains lanolin. I really liked Lansinoh, in fact, I used it after every feeding to help prevent problems.
Problem 4 – Not producing enough milk
This can be one of the most difficult breastfeeding problems and is one of the most common reasons that mothers give up breastfeeding.
Reduced milk production can have a number of causes and the solution depends on the cause.
Check out my extensive post about how to double your milk supply in just 2 days! It gives a full list of possible problems and solutions.
Quick and easy ways to increase your supply are (I go into a lot of detail about each of these in my “Milk Supply” post, so head over there to get the full info!):
- Drink more water
- Correct latch and nursing position
- Lactation teas and drinks
- Eating right
- Herbal supplements
These are some of my favorite resources and produces from that post. All of these helped me keep a healthy milk supply for my babies (the real secret was the “Let There Be Milk” supplement)!
Problem 5 – Painful Breasts
If your breasts have a painful spot (or are painful all over) and feel hot to the touch, then you may have a clogged duct.
These are also the same symptoms as engorged breasts (see Problem #2), so if your milk hasn’t come in yet, then painful breasts are normally due to engorgement and not clogged ducts.
What is a clogged duct you may ask? Basically, the tissue around your milk duct becomes inflamed for some reason and swells. This swelling puts pressure on the duct and blocks it.
It can feel like a sore spot on your breast or even like a hard lump.
To solve this breastfeeding problem you need to clear the clog and get the milk flowing out the duct again.
La Leche Leagues suggests doing the following:
- Take long, hot showers or baths and use moist hot packs on the breast. Breastfeeding the baby while the breast is warm will help unplug the affected duct.
- Massage the breasts from the armpit down to the nipple while it is warm.
- Nurse as much as possible on the affected side; the baby’s sucking will help to loosen the plug.
It is VERY important to clear clogged ducts are soon as you can. If they can turn into Mastitis if left untreated.
This is a much more serious problem and needs medical advice. If you develop a fever or feel like you are coming down with the flu, then you need to contact your doctor immediately.
Breastfeeding is tough. No matter where you are on your breastfeeding journey, you are doing amazing! All mothers are rock stars for everything we put our bodies through on a daily basis.
And remember to look after yourself as well.