Breastfeeding

5 Common Breastfeeding Problems and How to Fix them ASAP!

Breastfeeding is a rewarding but challenging journey. For that reason, it isn’t uncommon to encounter breastfeeding problems along the way.

Every woman, every baby, and every circumstance is different, so no breastfeeding story is ever the same.

However, there are common breastfeeding problems that affect breastfeeding moms across the world.

Knowing what to do when and if those breastfeeding issues arise will give you a better shot at a successful, long-term breastfeeding journey.

Next, we will go over five common breastfeeding problems and how to fix them as soon as possible so that you can regain your sanity!

breastfeeding problems and solutions
Breastfeeding Frustrations. Annoyed Young Woman Tired Of Baby Lactating, Sitting On Floor At Home, Free Space

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1. Engorgement

Breast engorgement is an almost inevitable breastfeeding issue.

Although not necessarily true for some women, most breastfeeding moms experience some degree of breast engorgement and discomfort.

Breast engorgement is when your breasts are painfully overfilled with milk. In turn, breasts become swollen, firm, and even painful.

Breast engorgement is more common in the first few days and weeks postpartum. It happens as your body starts producing more and more milk to meet the demands of your growing baby.

If you produce more milk than the baby drinks, engorgement will likely happen.

So, breast discomfort and engorgement can stick around and even worsen until your body starts to regulate the supply your baby needs for each feeding.

Clogged ducts and mastitis can be the result of prolonged breast engorgement.

Breast Engorgement Solution

The following breastfeeding tips can relieve engorgement symptoms, keep your milk flowing, make it easier to breastfeed, and prevent further issues from arising:

  • Apply warm compresses for a couple of minutes before you breastfeed (or before pumping or manually expressing milk)
  • Breastfeed or pump right after a warm shower
  • Try to breastfeed more often to decompress breasts fully.
  • Gently massage and compress the breast when the baby pauses between sucks
  • Use cold compresses after feedings to alleviate discomfort. A frozen pea bag wrapped around a thin towel works great (no more than 10 minutes at a time)
  • Using the Therapy Gel Breast Pads (cold therapy to help relieve engorgement, AND as warm therapy to encourage milk let-down and help relieve plugged ducts and mastitis)
  • Take pain relievers approved by your doctor
  • If you are not breastfeeding, pump or extract enough to relieve breast pressure until milk production decreases.

If your breasts become extremely engorged and painful, you are unable to feed the baby, and you develop a fever… contact your healthcare provider immediately.

2. Cracked Nipples

Cracked nipples can make it extremely hard to breastfeed, and it can potentially hinder your ability to breastfeed long-term.

Women are more susceptible to cracked and irritated nipples in the first few days/weeks as their breasts get used to the continuous sucking.

In addition, not providing your breasts with the proper care and improper latching can also lead to nipple issues.

Here are what you can do to treat your cracked and irritated nipples…

Cracked and Irritated Nipples Solutions

Natural Remedies

Here are some natural alternatives that can get the job done without using any over-the-counter nipple creams:

  • Breast milk alone (around your nipple) is known to be a natural moisturizer
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Coconut oil
  • Organic Shae butter

As a rule of thumb, I always tried to start with some breast milk first.

However, I found it hard to use the breast milk alone between the constant baby feedings and pumping.

That’s why I recommend having a nipple cream at your disposal, especially if you are planning on pumping.

Over-the-counter nipple creams 

Despite my attempt to go all-natural to relieve my irritated and cracked nipples, I had to opt for reinforcement.

Thankfully, nowadays, many safe and organic products are completely chemical and toxin-free for both mom and baby.

A popular organic and non-toxic nipple cream is the Organic Nipple Butter™ Breastfeeding Cream by Earth Mama.

    Nipple Care Products 

    One of the most challenging breastfeeding problems is to breastfeed with an irritated or cracked nipple.

    In my case, I also developed a nipple blister, and take it from me… the pain was unbearable.

    Here are some of the best and most popular nipple care products to help your nipples heal as you continue to breastfeed:

    • Hydrogel pads are a soothing and protective barrier between your nipple and clothing while promoting healing.
    • Nipple shields: Flexible silicone nipples worn over the mom’s nipple during a feeding (temporarily) to promote faster healing. They are also used in helping lactating moms with flat or inverted nipples.

    3. Low Milk Supply

    Many new moms give up on breastfeeding early on because they believe that they are not making enough milk.

    Most women are physically capable of making enough milk for their babies to be healthy and happy. That said, in some instances, there might be a real underlying cause inhibiting milk production.

    We should address a few things before identifying low milk production as an actual breastfeeding issue.

    It is important to understand that milk production from day one postpartum will not be the same as that from day five or month three.

    Your body is designed to produce exactly what your baby needs to thrive at every stage of development.

    Here are some parameters to consider when it comes to the baby’s stomach size maximum capacity (source):

    • 1-day-old: 5-7 ml
    • 3-day-old: 22-27 ml (0.75 oz)
    • 1-week-old: 45-60 ml (1.5-2 oz)
    • 1 month: 80-150 ml (2.5-5 oz)

    In other words, if you only make a small amount the first few days per feeding, remember that is the exact amount the baby needs.

    Next are things you can do to help you increase your supply from day one.

    Low Milk Supply Solutions

    • Feed your baby on demand from day one. Frequent and effective breast emptying controls milk production levels during this time.
    • Continue to put your baby to the breast as often as possible.
    • Pump after each feeding or between feedings to stimulate your breasts to make more milk.
    • Add herbal breastfeeding teas to your diet to promote relaxation and support a healthy breast milk supply. One of the most popular choices is the Organic Milmaid Tea by Earth Mama. Always ensure to consult your doctor before starting any herbal supplements.
    • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of breast milk-producing foods (such as oatmeal, ginger, garlic, fennel, etc.).
    • Drink enough fluids.
    • Get plenty of rest and try to reduce stress.
    • Certain medications, such as antihistamines, counteract milk production. If you are using antihistamines or estrogen-based birth control, consult your doctor for alternatives.

    4. Poor Latch

    A poor latch is one of the last things we want to happen.

    Without a proper latch, your nipples will be more prone to cracking and bleeding, milk production will likely decrease, and you will have a fussy, hungry baby in your hands.

    Although babies are born with the innate ability to “suck,” latching is something that takes practice and A LOT of trial and error.

    Possible latching problems and solutions

    Before we discuss the potential latching issues, it is essential to know what a proper latch is.

    Proper Latch

    You’ll know you have a proper latch if your baby’s chin and the tip of her nose touch your breast.

    You’ll also notice the baby’s lips have a good mouth full of your breast instead of just your nipple.

    Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions

    Once the feeding begins and you’ve got the proper latch, your baby will fall right into the rhythmic suck-swallow-breath pattern of suckling.

    With a good latch, you shouldn’t hear clicking noises and should see rhythmic jaw movements instead of lip movements.

    With a good latch, your breasts should empty effectively, and breastfeeding should not be painful.

    To get a proper latch, ensure the baby is correctly aligned to your body (more on positioning next).

    Then, once the baby opens his mouth wide and his tongue is down, introduce your breast into his mouth.

    If he does not open wide, don’t try to force it. You can try to get him to open his mouth again by tickling his lower lip with your nipple. Once he opens wide, introduce your breast again.

    If he latches successfully, you should see all the signs of a proper latch described earlier.

    If you don’t, break the suction by gently putting your finger into the corner of her mouth and try again.

    Let’s look at factors that might interfere with achieving a good latch.

    Positioning

    If either you or the baby aren’t correctly aligned with one another, it makes it harder for the baby to get a good latch.

    Here are some basic breastfeeding positioning guidelines:

    • Help the baby latch with good underarm support (a nursing pillow will be your best friend). That will help draw the baby up and closer to your breast.
    • Don’t take the breast to the baby. The baby should come towards you.
    • Baby’s face and body should all face you (a tummy-to-tummy position).

    Flat or inverted nipples

    A flat or inverted nipple can make it more difficult for a baby to latch on, but not impossible.

    Try pumping a few times a day. Pumping can help draw out the nipple.

    You can also try using nipple shields. Nipple shields are flexible silicone nipples used to help lactating moms with flat or inverted nipples.

    Nipple shields are meant only to be used temporarily. So, once your baby can latch on herself and breastfeed effectively, the nipple shield should no longer be used.

    Some other underlying reasons might be causing poor latching (baby ear infection, low milk supply, etc.).

    If you have tried all you can on your own but still can’t get the baby to latch, contact a lactation consultant in your area who can physically help you with breastfeeding techniques and assess for other potential latching issues.

    Most importantly, contact your doctor immediately if your baby isn’t latching well and you feel he isn’t getting the proper intake (low diaper counts, fussy baby).

    5. Going back to Work

    One of the breastfeeding problems many moms face is their desire to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

    Having a clear plan of action can make that possible.

    Going Back to Work Breastfeeding Solutions

    Getting Ready

    • By the time you return to work, breastfeeding should be well established.
    • You can begin by offering small bottle feeds to get the baby used to taking the bottle while you are away.
    • Talk to your employer beforehand about your plans to pump at work.
    • Have a good, portable, friendly pump. The Medela Pump with On the Go Tote was a lifesaver for me. It comes with all you need to make the back-to-work pumping experience more convenient and hassle-free.

    Back to work

    • Set the alarm to pump when the baby “would have been feeding.” Try to plan for three 15-minute pumping sessions on an 8-hour workday.
    • If you keep the bottles chilled, you can pump the same bottles at different pumping sessions on the same day.
    • Try to breastfeed often when you are home with the baby (nighttime feedings boost supply, so take advantage of that).

    An amazing and inexpensive resource which walks you step-by-step through transitioning to back-to-work pumping is The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class from Milkology.

    ADDITIONAL BREASTFEEDING RESOURCES

    Related articles:

    Conclusion

    Breastfeeding problems are common. Breastfeeding is a journey that takes time and patience to master.

    If you encounter any of these breastfeeding issues, try working through the above solutions to help you through it.

    If nothing you do works, contacting a lactation consultant in your area can help you assess potential breastfeeding problems and get you back on track.

    What breastfeeding problems have you encountered and where you able to find a successful solution?

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    Common Breastfeeding Problems and How to Fix Them

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