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Hey, mama! Have you been experiencing difficulties breastfeeding your newborn? I am sure you are like me and thought it would be easy peasy. After all, breastfeeding is a natural process, but it doesn’t always come naturally (just like birth).
Breastfeeding may not be a walk in the park, especially if you are a first-time mom. But know there is help for you.
I learned with all my 3 babies that breastfeeding is an art you and your little one learn as you go along.
Thankfully, many early breastfeeding difficulties are simple to deal with. Here are my breastfeeding tips to the most common problems moms experience and their possible solutions.
P.S. Happy BreastFeeding Week!
Not latching properly
A good latch helps to boost your milk production and keeps your baby well-fed.
If you are new to breastfeeding, your baby may not get the hang of latching well, especially as a first-time mom.
Also, you may feel some discomfort during breastfeeding, but it shouldn’t be outright pain. If you feel a pain that lasts longer than a few seconds, there may be an issue with your baby’s latch.
Get into a comfortable position to breastfeed your baby. (Breastfeeding pillows like a Boppy can be magical.)
Then caress her cheek to stimulate the rooting reflex. You want your baby’s mouth open wide, as she latches on, to cover your nipple and areola.
Her chin should gently touch your breast. But make sure her head tips backward so that her nose isn’t covered.
If making these adjustments don’t help, consult a lactation expert.
Not sure who to talk to? See what options you have in your area for La Leche– a great support group for breastfeeding moms.
RELATED READ: 9 Quick And Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy As A New Mom
Flat or inverted nipples
Most women have their nipples protrude outward, the ideal shape for a baby’s mouth. But, some have nipples that are flat or retract inward — making it more challenging for their babies to latch on.
You should gently pinch your areola with your thumb and index finger. If your nipple retracts rather than protrudes, you may have inverted nipples.
Having flat or inverted nipples doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed. But, it means you’d likely need some help from a lactation consultant.
If necessary, using a breast pump can help pull your nipples out before breastfeeding your baby and get your milk flowing.
You can also consider using nipple shields. Nipple shields are thin, silicone shields that fit over the nipple helping the nipple protrude more, making latching easier.
However, realize babies are more than capable of breasfteeding from inverted nipples. It just may take time and some guidance!
Cracked nipples are a little terrifying. But this breastfeeding problem is not a big deal. It can be caused by the following:
- Improper positioning
- A shallow latch
- Not pumping milk correctly
- Even dry skin
Your first step is to get into a comfortable position with your baby. Then make sure your baby latches well onto your breast.
A breastfeeding tip that is particularly helpful, is to rub a lanolin cream after feeding or let some milk stay on your nipples and air dry to aid healing.
And because cracked nipples can allow germs to get into your breast, you should keep your nipples clean. Your doctor can also prescribe an antifungal cream to help with thrush.
I also experienced engorgement in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, and it was quite uncomfortable.
Engorged breasts are very full, firm and taut, making it hard for your baby to latch. It happens because your body is still figuring out how to regulate milk production.
Engorgement can also happen if you go too long before feeding your baby. Or if she isn’t draining your breast milk completely, because of the small size of her tummy. She can only feed on small amounts of milk at a time.
Try hand-expressing a little before feeding your baby (just enough to relieve pressure or you’ll make the problem worse!). This will get the milk flowing and soften the breast, making it easier for your baby to latch and access milk. I found this breastfeeding tip very helpful.
And of course, the more you nurse, the less likely your breasts get engorged. A well nursing baby is better than a breast pump for effectively relieving engorgement.
When using a breast pump, remember to remove only enough milk to soften the breast. Pumping too much can worsen the situation because it leads to overproduction.
If you need to take pain medication, talk to your doctor about which medicine options are safe for breastfeeding.
When your breasts are full, or you’ve gone longer than usual between feeds, milk can clog your ducts.
You’ll know this happens if your breast is sore or you feel a hardness in it. Other causes of clogged ducts include:
- Compressing your breasts while sleeping
- Using a poorly fit breast pump
- Experiencing trauma to your breast
But some women are more prone to plugged ducts without any explanations.
Apply warm compresses and massage your breasts to ease a clogged duct.
You can also try feeding your baby on the affected side first. Breastfeeding keeps the milk flowing, which will unclog the duct.
Also, try not to wear tight bras, your breasts need to breathe.
Mastitis is an infection in your breasts marked by flu-like symptoms such as fever and pain.
It’s common in the first few weeks after birth but can also happen anytime.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics that will make you feel better.
But, it’s still important to empty your breasts often. If it’s too painful to nurse your baby, you can pump milk to keep your breasts empty.
Finally, warm compresses can help soothe discomfort.
The milk let-down sensation, or milk ejection reflex, is often described as a tingling kind of feeling. But for some, it hurts, especially when milk production outweighs your baby’s feeding.
When this pain develops, try feeding your baby longer on one breast and switching to the other only if you need to. It gets better with time.
RELATED READ: Inspiring Breastfeeding Quotes
Not sure if your breast milk is enough
Breast milk is produced on demand, but it can be hard to tell exactly how much they’re producing.
In the first few weeks, your milk supply may be small because of hormonal changes in your body.
Thankfully, your baby’s stomach is small in size, and it gets bigger as she grows and your milk supply naturally increases. You should only be worried if your baby is losing weight. Or, she produces few wet and dirty diapers or shows signs of dehydration.
Feed on demand and not on a schedule. In the first week after birth, your newborn should feed at least every two to three hours (maybe more!) throughout the day and night. This frequency helps to build your milk production.
Rest when you can, eat well, and get as much help as possible with chores and any older children. So you can focus on breastfeeding.
RELATED READ: 10 Self-Care Tips for Breastfeeding Mamas
Leaky breasts sound funny but are very common in the early days of breastfeeding, once your milk has come in. You may leak from one breast:
- While you’re feeding your baby from the other
- When lying on your front while sleeping
- When something stimulates your let-down reflex – like the sound of another baby crying
Leaking usually settles down after six weeks or so.
Protect your clothes by wearing disposable or washable nursing pads inside your bra.
Breast Milk is like liquid gold, so don’t allow any drop to go to waste. You can use milk collection shells fit inside your bra to collect any leaked milk. They’re helpful when the leakage is too much for nursing pads.
If you want to save the collected milk, you can store it in a sterile container and place it in the fridge immediately. Make sure to use it within 24 hours. Try not to wear collection shells for more than two to three hours at a time.
Producing too much milk
In the first few weeks, you may produce more milk than your baby can feed on because of her small tummy.
Your baby may cough or vomit with the force of your let down. She may even have frothy greenish poos. But this issue may resolve itself as soon as your breasts adjust to your baby’s feeding schedule.
Express a little milk by hand at the beginning of each feed to reduce the force of your let down.
Try the laid-back breastfeeding position so your baby can better control the flow of milk.
Be gentle and patient. Allow your baby to rest and digest her milk, both during and after a feed. Moving her around too much could make her feel sick. She’ll get used to the flow as she grows, which will eventually slow down.
Baby Sleeping at the Breast
Newborns sleep a lot in the first few weeks after they are born, it is part of their job description. So nodding off while nursing can happen. However, snoozing at the breast may also occur if your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk.
Milk flows more at the start of every feed with the first let-down. So you should start with the fuller breast, then switch to the other.
When your baby’s sucking slows, and her eyes are fluttering, you can try rubbing her head, to keep her awake. Sometimes undressing her or changing her diaper may also help.
The Ultimate Solution
The most crucial point is to never feel shy about asking for help. It is common to go through an adjustment period and having that extra support can help massively.
So, there you have it! Some quick breastfeeding tips for common breastfeeding problems. If you ever feel stressed, don’t hesitate to get help from the professionals. They can tailor their guidance to meet your unique needs.
Have you experienced any of these problems? What remedies helped you the most?