Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean breastfeeding will come naturally or easily for you or your baby. Walking is instinctive for humans, but we can’t walk the day we’re born. It’s a skill we have to learn and practice, and the same is also true for breastfeeding.
So if you’re worried about or struggling with breastfeeding, you’re not alone. Many moms just like you have the same kinds of concerns. Many people feel that breastfeeding is wonderful and beautiful, but it can also be difficult for both new and seasoned moms.
Every baby and breastfeeding experience is different. One thing that’s inevitably the same for most moms, though, is that problems will arise. However, if you follow these simple solutions and use reliable resources for common breastfeeding concerns and challenges, you can worry less and breastfeed with more confidence.
Common Breastfeeding Concerns and Solutions
One of the most common pains of breastfeeding is sore nipples. The good news? That sharp, tingling feeling you experience in the first 30-45 seconds of breastfeeding usually goes away after a few weeks once your nipples have gotten used to breastfeeding.
But until then, you can help treat sore nipples by first making sure your baby is properly latched onto your breast. The keys to a good latch include:
- Having your baby’s head in line with his neck and back.
- Having your belly and your baby’s against each other – a nursing pillow can help you and your baby achieve this no matter what position you feed in.
- Making sure your baby goes in to latch with a wide-open mouth. His latch should cover your nipple and areola, with his chin and nose resting against your breast. To achieve a secure, deep latch, your nipple should be pointed up against the roof of your baby’s mouth.
- Enlisting the help of a lactation specialist.
Your nipples may still be sore even with a good latch for a bit so let them air-dry and dab nipple cream on them after feeding. You can also cover them with a nursing pad while not feeding and take over-the-counter pain medication before breastfeeding if necessary.
Breast engorgement is most common for new moms, but that doesn’t mean seasoned moms are immune to it. A few days after your milk comes in, your breasts may feel rock hard. They’ll be bigger and it’ll be a tad painful, but once you and baby get into a good breastfeeding rhythm, it should go away. But to help ease your pain until that time comes, breastfeed or pump on-demand or at least every 2-3 hours. Use a warm compress on your breasts before feeding and a cold one afterward. Gently massage your breasts while feeding to help ease the engorgement and prevent milk ducts from clogging. Wear a supportive nursing bra to help comfort levels.
Many moms-to-be may get scared or freak out about the possibility of getting mastitis. However, instead of getting scared, they should prepare themselves.
Mastitis happens when bacteria enter the breast tissue and cause an infection. It’s most often the result of a clogged milk duct or bacteria entering your breast through a cracked nipple. One out of 10 nursing moms experience it, and you may have it if you have breast pain, redness, swelling and flu-like symptoms.
Jennifer Lezak is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a contributing medical advisor to Ergobaby. To help prevent mastitis, she recommends, “Continuing to empty your breasts of breastmilk on a regular basis either with the baby, hand expression, or a breast pump can help to keep you free of plugged ducts, which can cause mastitis. Avoid restrictive clothing such as bras or tight tops. Vary breastfeeding positions so all ducts are emptied. Not trying to do too much too soon after childbirth, getting enough rest and sleep, and staying hydrated with a good diet are all good ways to keep mastitis at bay.”
If you think you have mastitis, call your doctor immediately so they can get you on antibiotics to get rid of the infection. To help treat the discomfort, you may be able to take a pain reliever. You should continue to breastfeed or pump as much as you can to keep your infected breast drained. Gently massage your breast before and after feeding. Many moms will put chilled cabbage leaves on their infected breast because it can have an anti-inflammatory effect and help ease the pain.
Low Milk Supply
Some moms stop breastfeeding because they worry their baby isn’t getting enough milk. If your pediatrician keeps bringing up weight gain, they may suggest supplementing with formula. Here’s the thing: breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. The more you breastfeed or pump, the more milk you should produce. But, there could be other causes if you suspect a low milk supply, like dehydration and not eating enough. So make sure to feed on demand, increase the frequency of your feeds or try power pumping if necessary. If these attempts don’t work, talk to your physician as it’s important to take care of yourself and your baby.
Baby Falling Asleep While Feeding
This is a common concern with newborns, as they tend to nod off a lot while nursing. A simple solution is to be more aware of your milk flow. A faster milk flow should keep your baby awake, engaged and eating. Your milk flows faster when you first start feeding, so you can always feed for a few minutes on one breast and then switch to the other to get that good let-down. Also make sure you have full breasts when feeding and try massaging the breast your baby is feeding on to get the milk flowing better.
Other ways to help keep your baby awake include gently rubbing her cheeks with your finger or undressing her down to a diaper only while she feeds.
Another breastfeeding tip that helped me and that’s also recommended by a highly-touted Registered Nurse and Certified Lactation Specialist is having frequent skin-to-skin contact in between feedings. With your firstborn, you may be able to do skin-to-skin while holding and rocking him in the nursery chain at any time. With your second, babywearing may allow you to do skin-to-skin while you take care of your toddler.
There are so many helpful and reliable breastfeeding resources available! Here are some places to help get you the support you need:
- Local lactation specialists – Do an online search or call the hospital where you gave birth to find one.
- The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) Helpline: 1-800-994-9662
- La Leche League International
- Medela Breastfeeding University
- Virtual support groups, such as The Leaky Boob or Milky Mamas Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook
- Ergobaby’s breastfeeding blog posts – Ergobaby works with several lactation specialists who share their simple, insightful breastfeeding tips and tricks.
No matter where you’re at on your breastfeeding journey and no matter what concerns you have, just remember to give yourself grace, be patient with your baby and ask for help when you need it!