A lot of moms think breast feeding is easy and comes naturally, when in reality sometimes that isn’t the case. Breastfeeding is something that your body learns to do and your baby needs to learn how to do it as well. Sometimes it takes awhile for everyone to learn but remember that you are not alone during this time. There are many resources available to you, you just have to look for them or know the right people to ask.
Here is my list of top breastfeeding challenges and, of course, some tips to those struggles.
Latch Pain – It is quite common to have sore nipples when you first start breastfeeding. Your body needs to adjust to the new situation. If your baby has latched and the pain is lasting longer than a minute into the feed then you should double check on the positioning of the latch. The best latch is an asymmetrical latch where the mouth covers more of the lower nipple. If you need to reposition the baby put your finger inside their mouth in order to break the latch. Tickle your baby’s chin or feet so their mouth is open wide and position your breast again. If the baby’s chin and nose touch your breast and their lips are spread out around your nipple (so you cannot see your nipple) then you have a good latch. If you have a good latch and are still in pain, your nipples may be dry. Try using a nipple cream like Lansinoh in between feedings. Also try to avoid washing with soap as that tends to dry out your skin.
Cracked/Bleeding Nipples – There are many different reasons why your nipples could crack or bleed, again this is quite common. It could be caused by dry skin, pumping issues, latch problems or thrush (see below). During your first week of breastfeeding you may have bloody discharge which is caused by baby learning what they are doing and your body adjusting to it, this is not harmful for your baby. Ensure you have a good latch or try feeding more regularly and in shorter periods. If your baby isn’t as hungry they tend to suckle softer. As stated above, try using a nipple cream to soothe your nipples. Leaving some milk on your nipples to air dry will sooth them as well, plus the milk has natural antibiotics to help healing.
Blocked Ducts – If your ducts are blocked it is because your milk isn’t coming out properly. You may even notice hard lumps, redness or tender spots on your breasts. If you start to get a fever or feel achy that could be a sign of infection and you should see your doctor. Try not to go too long in between feedings as milk needs to be expressed often. A tight nursing bra may also cause your ducts to become blocked and of course, stress can also be a factor. Applying a warm compress to your breasts and massaging them will promote milk movement.
Engorgement – This makes it hard for baby to latch properly since your breast is hard and it is uncomfortable in their mouth. If you hand express a little before you try to feed then your breast will be softer and it will be easier for baby to latch properly. Engorgement is due to high milk supply so the more you feed (or express) the less likely your breast will become engorged. Try using cabbage leaves or watermelon rinds to sooth your breasts if they become painful due to engorgement.
Mastitis – This is a bacterial infection in your breasts. It is painful and usually is accompanied by flu-like symptoms. This is also quite common during the first few weeks after birth (but can also happen when you wean) and is caused by dry/cracked skin, blocked ducts or engorgement. The best way to treat mastitis is with antibiotics, hot compresses and frequent expressing. It is actually recommended that you continue to breastfeed when you have mastitis since breast milk has antibiotics in it.
Thrush – This is a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth that can spread to your breasts. It is very itchy, sore and sometimes is accompanied by a rash. The best way to treat thrush is with antifungal medication. It is important to remember to treat baby and you at the same time or you can prolong the healing by continuing to pass it along to each other. You can also use coconut oil, tea tree oil and garlic to treat thrush and watermelon rinds or cabbage leaves to soothe your breast.
Inverted Nipples – There is a simple test that you can do to see if you have inverted nipples. Softly pinch your areola with your thumb and index finger, if your nipple goes in instead of going out then you have inverted nipples. It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean you cannot breastfeed. However, it will be more of a struggle for you. Try using a pump or hand expressing to get your milk flowing before you try to latch your baby. If your baby is still having latch problems after you have a good supply try using nipple shields.