Breastfeeding is a rewarding but challenging journey. It is for that reason that it isn’t uncommon to encounter breastfeeding problems along the way.
Every woman, every baby, and every circumstance is different. That is why no breastfeeding stories are 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 issue 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!
5 Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions
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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 are producing more milk than the baby is drinking, then engorgement will likely happen.
So, until your body starts to regulate the supply your baby needs for each feeding, breast discomfort and engorgement can stick around and even worsen.
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, and 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 fully decompress breasts
- 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 mins at a time)
- Take pain relievers approved by your doctor
- If you are not breastfeeding, pump or extract enough to relieve breast pressure until milk production starts decreasing
If your breasts become extremely engorged, painful, you are unable to feed baby, and/or you develop a fever… contact your healthcare provider immediately.
2. Cracked Nipples
Cracked nipples can make it extremely hard to breastfeed and it can potential hinder your ability to breastfed long-term.
Women are more susceptible to cracked and irritated nipples in the first few days/weeks as your 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 the things you can do to treat you cracked and irritated nipples…
Cracked and Irritated Nipples Solutions
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 off with a bit of breast milk first.
However, between the constant baby feedings and pumping, I found it hard to use the breast milk alone.
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 there are many safe, and organic products that are completely chemical and toxin-free for both mom and baby.
My top 3 picks for over the counter nipple creams that are safe to use, toxic and chemical free are (source):
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 popular nipple care products to help your nipples heal as you continue to breastfeed:
- Hydrogel pads: serve as a soothing and protective barrier between your nipple and your clothing, while promoting healing.
- Nipple shields: are flexible silicone nipples that are 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. With that said, in some instances there is a real underlying cause which might be inhibiting milk production.
Before we identify low milk production as an actual breastfeeding issue, here are a few things we should address first.
It important to understand that milk production from day one postpartum won’t be the same as 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 are only making 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 your increase your supply from day one.
Low Milk Supply Solutions
- Feed your baby on demand from day one. During this time frequent and effective emptying of breasts controls the levels of milk production.
- Continue to put your baby to the breast as often as possible.
- Pump after each feeding after 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 Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals. 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 with 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 can discuss the potential latching issues, is important to have an idea of what a proper latch is.
You’ll know you’ve got a proper latch if your baby’s chin and tip of her nose are touching your breast.
You’ll also notice the baby’s lips have a good mouth full of your breast instead of just your nipple.
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 out effectively and breastfeeding should not be painful.
To get a proper latch ensure the baby is properly aligned to your body (more on positioning next).
Then, once the baby opens his mouth wide and tongue is down, introduce your breast in 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 suction by gently putting your finger into the corner of her mouth, and try again.
Now, let’s take a look at possible factors that might be interfering with achieving a good latch.
If either baby or you aren’t properly aligned to one another, it makes it harder for baby to get a good latch.
Here are some basic breastfeeding positioning guidelines:
- Help the baby latch by having a good under arm 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 be facing you (a tummy to tummy position).
Flat or inverted nipples
Having a flat or inverted nipple can make it more difficult, but not impossible, for baby to latch on.
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 are also used in helping lactating moms with flat or inverted nipples.
Nipple shields are meant to only be used temporarily. So, once your baby is able to latch on herself and breastfeed effectively nipple shield should no longer be used.
There might be some other underlying reasons that are causing poor latching (baby ear infection, low milk supply, etc.).
If you have tried all you can on your own but still don’t get the baby to latch contact a Lactation Consultant in you area that can physically help you with breastfeeding techniques and assess for other potential latching issues.
Most importantly, if you baby isn’t latching well and you feel he isn’t getting the proper intake (low diaper counts, fussy baby), contact your doctor immediately.
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
- 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 ahead of time about your plans to pump at work.
- Have good, portable, friendly pump. A lifesaver for me was the Medela Pump in Style Advanced with On the Go Tote. 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 mins pumping session on an 8-hour work day.
- You can pump on the same bottles at different pumping sessions on the same day as long as you keep the bottles chilled.
- Try to breastfeed often when you are home with the baby (nighttime feedings boost supply so take advantage of that).
ADDITIONAL BREASTFEEDING RESOURCES
- My Breastfeeding Stories: Why One Failed and One Succeed (Challenges, Tips, and Takeaways)
- 13 Must-Read Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
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?