Between leaking breasts, sore nipples and making sure you’ve got enough milk for your baby, breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as nature intended. Read on for the most common breastfeeding problems you might be dealing with and easy ways to solve them fast.
The problem: engorgement.
“Nature has a way of producing more initially than maybe the baby needs,” said Irene Zoppi, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant and clinical education specialist for Medela. While “normal fullness,” which happens in the first few days after delivery, can cause your breasts to ache - it’s very different from engorgement.
Engorged breasts become so full that the nipple becomes flat and hard and the baby can’t latch on. Supplementing with formula, not feeding your baby enough or pumping too much are all culprits.
The solution: Increasing your baby’s feedings is the best way to relieve engorgement.You can also try to soften the nipple or areola, apply warm compresses or take a warm shower. Manually expressing breast milk or pumping can also help to relieve the pressure.
The problem: poor latch.
Without a proper latch, your baby will be cranky, you’ll most likely be in pain and you’ll both be frustrated. Paula Fitt, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant and a perinatal nurse educator at Newton Medical Center in New Jersey says that over 65 percent of breastfeeding problems can be resolved once a proper latch is established. Sometimes a poor latch can also point to a bigger problem like tongue tie.
The solution: When your latch is good, the baby’s mouth is wide open. His chin, followed by his upper lip, approaches the breast and nipple - sort of like he is eating a large sandwich. You can know what a proper latch looks like but getting it right really depends on you and your baby. So it’s especially important to get support from lactation consultants and nursing staff while you’re still in the hospital.
The problem: sore nipples or pain.
You might feel a slight tug when your baby starts to suck, but, “Pain during breastfeeding is not normal,” Fitt said. Mothers used to be told that they had to toughen up their nipples before breastfeeding, but that’s simply not true. Nipple pain is usually due to a poor latch although pain in the breast could also be associated with a plugged milk duct or an infection like mastitis.
The solution: Once you’ve got a proper latch, pain should subside. If you continue to feel discomfort, speak with a lactation consultant who can help identify the problem.
The problem: cracked or bleeding nipples.
“That’s where sore nipples go if they’re not addressed,” said Fitt who noted that although bleeding isn’t usually a problem for the baby, it can be excruciating for the mother.
The solution: You can avoid abused nipples by having a proper latch from the get-go. You might also express some breast milk onto your nipples for a healthy dose of good fats and anti-microbial properties that speed up the healing process. Extra virgin coconut oil or products with lanolin are also good choices.
The problem: low milk supply.
“The number one reason moms decide to end their breastfeeding experience, and not meet their objectives, is the perception that they have a low milk supply,” Zoppi said. In fact, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics, one of the top three reasons moms stopped breastfeeding was a perception that their baby was not satisfied with breast milk alone.
The solution: It’s normal for babies to have a growth spurt seven to ten days after birth and it doesn’t mean they’re not getting enough milk. Supplementing with formula and sticking to a strict schedule of feedings can affect your milk supply too. “Timing breast feedings is not important. What’s important is that your baby ends content,” said Fitt, who suggests eight feedings a day to increase your milk supply. If your milk supply still seems low, then pumping, herbal supplements and medications can help.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.