How to Troubleshoot 6 Common Breastfeeding Problems
Breastfeeding can be challenging, and it definitely takes two willing partners working together to make it an enjoyable and peaceful experience. Whether you are a new mother with zero experience or breastfeeding your third child who is 8 months old, breastfeeding problems can occur.
Here are 6 common breastfeeding problems and solutions to try:
Problem #1: Baby isn’t getting enough milk – Although many mothers worry that baby isn’t getting enough milk, most women produce plenty. The best way to know if your baby is getting enough milk is by his weight and growth patterns. Your baby’s doctor can help if you have concerns.
What you can do: Offer both breasts at each feeding and let your baby continue to eat until he slows or stops swallowing. Your baby could lose interest in breastmilk if you supplement formula or baby cereal during the first 6 months, so avoid offering either to your baby to keep your milk supply up.
Problem #2: Baby doesn’t latch properly – Poor latching can make breastfeeding very painful. It should not hurt or pinch when your baby latches on. He should be taking in the entire nipple as well as all or most of the areola (the dark ring of tissue surrounding the nipple).
What you can do: Allow your breast to hang naturally so baby can fill his mouth with the breast. Support his head and shoulders and let him latch on by himself. Holding your baby skin-to-skin before breastfeeding can help you both feel relaxed and comfortable and encourage breastfeeding for your baby. Nipple shields may be a temporary fix to help train your baby to latch. Ask your doctor for advice if your baby still struggles with latching properly.
Problem #3: Plugged ducts that cause painful lumps. When milk doesn’t drain correctly, the tissue surrounding the plug gets inflamed and very tender.
What you can do: Before breastfeeding, use a warm compress on the affected area and massage in a circular motion from the outside of the breast working in. Feed your baby from the breast with the plugged duct more frequently to dislodge the plug. When positioning baby, aim his/her chin at the plug as this is where baby’s suck is the strongest. Make sure your bra is comfortable and supportive without being too tight, as a tight bra can put pressure on the milk ducts and contribute to plugs.
Problem #4: Mastitis (breast infection) – The symptoms for an infection in the breast are very similar to those of plugged ducts, but if the tenderness is accompanied with fever, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms, it could be mastitis.
What you can do: Try the warm compress and massage suggested with the plugged ducts and make sure to get plenty of bed rest. It’s important to continue breastfeeding, as breastmilk is so full of antibodies that the infection won’t hurt your baby.
Problem #5: Yeast infection/thrush – Fungal infections are formed by the bacteria Candida, which thrives on milk, and can occur in the breast or on the nipples. You can get fungal infections if you receive antibiotics or steroids, have a chronic illness or cracked nipples, or if your baby has an infection in his/her mouth. Fungal infections cause your nipples or breasts to feel sore and achy and it usually lasts for more than several days. Discolored or cracked, blistered nipples are also a sign.
What you can do: Talk to your doctor. Yeast and thrush infections can affect both you and your baby, although you should still keep breastfeeding. You will likely require medication for several weeks. You can also help keep the infection from spreading by washing your hands and baby’s hands often, changing nursing pads frequently, and boiling pacifiers, bottle nipples, and anything else that comes in contact with your milk on a daily basis.
Problem #6: Engorgement – When your milk comes in during the first week after delivery, it is common for the milk to build up and cause engorgement, although it can happen anytime you skip feedings. The breasts become very tender, firm, and warm, and engorgement can lead to plugged ducts or mastitis.
What you can do: To avoid engorgement, express your milk often either by feeding your baby or using a breast pump. You can use cold compresses (avoid heat! It can make things worse) between feedings and/or massage the engorged breast to help ease the discomfort. You can feed your baby more often on the affected side to remove the milk.
Breastfeeding is full of benefits physically, emotionally, and socially for both baby and mother. Let your baby lead in breastfeeding. Offer him milk when he acts hungry and allow him to feed as long or short as he desires. If you feel frustrated or are in pain, it’s important to keep breastfeeding and get help. Connect with a lactation consultant, a professional who is trained specifically to help mothers and their babies through breastfeeding problems. He or she can assist you in making breastfeeding comfortable and enjoyable.
Have you ever felt frustrated about breastfeeding? We’d love to hear your story in the comments!