Breastfeeding is normal and natural. We are meant to feed our babies in this way. However, this does not mean that it is always easy. When breastfeeding challenges arise, you can seek help from experienced support people such as sisters, friends or your mother. Sometimes it is necessary to find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group to help move through these issues.
Here are a list of 5 common breastfeeding challenges you might encounter and how to overcome them.
- Sore Nipples: Pain is one of the most common reasons that mothers wean, but it doesn’t have to be! When moms experience sore nipples, symptoms might include redness, bruising, cracks or even blisters. Most of the time, the fix is simple. Good latch and positioning is crucial for a pain-free nursing experience and also allows the baby to get enough milk and gain weight. When the latch or position is incorrect, many times just a simple tweak is all that is needed. Experienced breastfeeding support people can detect the problem and usually assist mom in getting a latch that feels better in no time. Breastfeeding should feel like painless tugging. It is not supposed to hurt! Seeking help early will get you and your baby on the path to an enjoyable breastfeeding relationship.
- Engorgement: It is normal for your breasts to feel full around postpartum days 2-5, when your mature milk begins to come in. However, normal fullness can turn into engorgement if milk is not being regularly removed from the breast (not feeding enough or not emptying the breast during feeds) or if mom has received IV fluids in labor. Engorged breasts become firm, hard, red, and can be painful. These symptoms will generally be relieved in 24-48 hours with some care. First, nursing often (at least 8 times in 24 hours) is the surest way to remove milk and feel relief. Be sure to massage your breast while baby is breastfeeding, moving your hand towards the nipple as you go. Cold compresses such as bags of frozen peas can help, though be careful not to place frozen bags directly onto your skin. Another grocery item that can help is cabbage. Wash and place the cabbage in the refrigerator. Take a few cold cabbage leaves, crush them a little to break up the fibers and place it in your bra (leaving your nipple exposed). This will help decrease swelling! Do this technique for twenty minutes a few times a day. Ibuprofen will help with inflammation as well.
- Plugged ducts: Sometimes the milk ducts in our breast get clogged. You will notice a hard, tender lump in the breast when this happens. If you experience this complication it is a sign that you may be doing too much. Rest and drinking plenty of water will be a big help in overcoming a plugged duct. Warm compresses over the affected breast are important, as well as, massaging the lump in the direction of the nipple to help the plug loosen and dislodge. Nursing throughout is the most important remedy of all.
- Mastitis: Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast. It causes flu-like symptoms complete with fever. You will feel awful when you have mastitis. The cause can be infectious so it is important that you contact your health care provider as soon as you feel these symptoms as you may need to start antibiotics. Things that can help: As with plugged ducts, mastitis typically indicates stress in a new mom. Stop what you are doing and go to bed with your baby. Breastfeed often and drink plenty of water. Warm compresses and massage are helpful. Probiotics and herbs such as garlic and Echinacea (ask your lactation consultant or healthcare provider for dosages) can be helpful. Antibiotics are frequently the cure for this concern so be alert and in contact with your midwife or physician.
- Issues with Milk Supply: Sometimes moms struggle with not enough milk or even too much milk. If you struggle with either of these it is important to see a lactation consultant. In the case of low milk supply, very often the fix is as simple as increasing the number and duration of feeds but sometimes, more help is needed. When a mom has an overabundance of milk, it may be necessary to look at varying methods of decreasing her milk supply slowly in a safe way. Sometimes, mom may complain of a forceful letdown. If you experience this you will notice that baby may sputter, choke, or even pull off when your milk lets down. If this happens, consider laying back to feed and/or gently laying an open hand above your areola to slow the flow.