Breastfeeding Tips: Common Breastfeeding Issues and How to Fix Them
You excitedly waited nine months, give or take, to meet your little one. And maybe, you were more afraid and anxious about labor than about breastfeeding.
Most new moms look at other moms breastfeeding and think ‘how hard can it be?’
It looks so easy. But when your little baby is newly born and you attempt to breastfeed, suddenly you realize, breastfeeding looked way easier than it actually is.
You’re faced with this tiny human being crying and fussing, your nipples sore (and even bleeding), sleep deprivation and exhaustion. And things just seem to get worse.
You want to continue breastfeeding (maybe even desperately so), but you can’t take it anymore. Is it even worth all the trouble? Perhaps, you may have even tried formula and your baby just won’t take it.
Breathe mama. You’ve got this.
Breastfeeding is usually never easy, especially if it’s your first bub. I mean, sure it’s natural and instinctive (blah blah), but it takes a little learning for you and your baby.
So give yourself a break. You are doing your best. Just take one step at a time, and you’ll soon find the best solution for your baby.
Meanwhile, let’s go through a few common problems that could be the cause of your breastfeeding troubles. It’s time to troubleshoot.
If you find the cause, try out the solutions provided and see how things go. If you still don’t find the answer, it’s time to see a lactation consultant or doctor.
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Breastfeeding Tips: Common Breastfeeding Issues and How to Fix Them
If your baby is not latching on to the breast correctly, it could be for a number of reasons.
One way to tell if your baby is having trouble latching is to check if they are swallowing after suckling a couple of times. Baby should be suckling once or twice, then swallowing (observe his throat and jaws during feeding time).
If your baby is not latching correctly, you will find her to be fussy and upset after a moment of trying to feed.
Now that you know how to check if your baby is having trouble latching on to the nipple, let’s look at what may cause poor latch.
Baby refusing to latch
One of the problems you can face as a nursing mother is your baby refusing to latch. This usually happens during the first few days.
You’re trying to get your baby to feed, but for some reason, your baby is pulling away or being extra fussy.
The first thing you should do is try skin to skin contact with your baby.
It’s one of the best ways to help a non-latching baby to start feeding on the breast properly. To do this, take off your baby’s clothes and take off your blouse until you’re naked from your waist upwards.
Carry your baby on your bare chest and after a moment, he/she will scoot down to the breast and latch.
Nipple pain & shallow latch
Some tenderness and sensitivity when the baby latches are quite common among new mothers but not an outright pain. One problem experienced by nursing mothers is nipple pain due to a shallow latch.
Pain comes from the baby not getting a mouth full when feeding. The solution to this is to ensure that your baby’s mouth is wide open with his/her chin pressed to your breast and head tilted slightly backward.
Try to avoid having your hand on the back of your baby’s head (a common occurrence when learning to breastfeed) as that will only cause improper latch. It can also prevent your baby from pulling away when they need to do so.
During this time, it’s a good idea to use a nipple cream for healing and pain relief. I personally found THIS nipple cream was a lifesaver!
After one application, I noticed a huge relief from pain and cracked nipples. I applied it after breastfeeding every time during the first week when I was struggling to get baby to latch on correctly.
And it’s completely safe for your baby even if you apply it before breastfeeding.
Swollen and engorged breasts
Swollen and engorged breasts is a normal problem nursing mothers face. This happens when the milk production ramps up a few days after the baby is delivered (when your milk comes in).
It takes time for your body to regulate your breastmilk according to the needs of your baby. And it usually resolves without much of an intervention, as long as you’re feeding your baby on cue.
However, it can be quite uncomfortable especially when you are wearing a bra. You may also find your baby starts coughing and spluttering during feeds since your letdown is forceful due to excessively engorged breasts.
In this case, it’s a good idea to try releasing some breastmilk so that you can avoid a blocked duct and mastitis.
Relieving engorged breasts
To relieve swollen and engorged breasts, tuck cleaned cabbage leaves (yes you heard it right!) into your bra when you are not breastfeeding.
You may also use your fingers to manually express some milk. This is best done in the shower as the warm water will usually help with initiating letdown. You can use a breast pump, however, be careful to not overdo it.
Pumping out too much milk and emptying your breast can make the problem worse since your body produces even more milk in response to stimulation and emptying of the milk ducts. If you choose to pump for relieving engorged breasts, only pump out just enough milk to feel comfortable.
Breastfeeding frequently also helps relieve the ache. Feed your baby as often as he or she wants to feed.
Blocked duct and mastitis
Mastitis is another painful condition that occurs when a milk duct is blocked and becomes inflamed. It’s usually because the breasts are not being properly emptied during feeds.
You may notice a lump and sore area where the blocked duct is. Try a warm shower or heat compress over the area, while gently massaging the blocked duct. This should help relieve the pain and unblock it.
During this time, I also found nursing from that side first helped greatly. It’s important to keep emptying your breasts by feeding even though it’s not the most comfortable.
You can also take a breastfeeding-safe analgesia to ease your pain.
If you experience a fever and flu-like symptoms, it’s likely that you have an infection so you’ll need to see your medical doctor immediately.
How to prevent mastitis
Wearing restrictive bras or clothing during feeding can also prevent proper emptying of the ducts. Try to ensure your breast is not squished (for lack of a better word) when you’re feeding your baby.
Breastfeed on demand to avoid engorgement and mastitis. Express milk if you’re not breastfeeding your baby for an extended period of time to avoid blockage.
Low milk supply
It’s easy to worry about low milk supply especially if your baby is crying and fussing. After about six weeks, your breasts also become softer (and feel empty) as your supply is adjusting to your baby’s appetite.
All of this can make you feel like there is a problem with your milk supply. However, a better way to judge your supply is by watching your baby. Is he gaining weight? Is her diaper full frequently?
If you’re worried about your baby not gaining enough weight or being generally miserable during feeds, discuss this with a lactation consultant or doctor.
Baby biting during breastfeeding
When your baby’s teeth start to form, it is normal that he may try to use his teeth at some point. Unfortunately, your nipples might be the practice dummy they’ll try their teeth out on.
To stop a bite, insert your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth. This should release the baby’s bite. Avoid pulling your baby away while they’re biting as that will obviously make things worse.