Breastfeeding is considered one of the most natural things in the world, yet as many new mothers discover, it’s not always as easy as it seems.
There are a surprising number of difficulties you can face when it comes to breastfeeding your little one. It’s a completely new process for both you and your baby, so it can take a little time to get used to. So, if you’re struggling to breastfeed your new-born, don’t worry – It’s not because you’re bad at parenthood! It’s actually a lot more common to have breastfeeding problems than it is for it to go smoothly. Here you’ll discover 5 of the most common breastfeeding problems and how to solve them.
1. Difficulty Latching On
One of the most common problems and often the most difficult, is your little one finds it difficult to latch on to the breast. Remember, this is completely new to them. Up until the minute they were born, all of their food was passed automatically through the umbilical cord. They didn’t have to suckle to get the nutrients they needed. So, you can’t just place them near the breast and expect them to automatically know what to do with it.
If they’re finding it difficult to latch on, your baby may start refusing to try. This can cause a lot of upset, with many mother’s convinced their baby just doesn’t like them. This is a common emotion, but it’s important to know that it’s more a refusal to feed because your little one is frustrated, not because they don’t like it.
What to do – Patience is the key skill that’s going to get you through this difficult time! You can also try out various feeding positions. It could be that your little one is finding it hard to reach the nipple correctly from a certain position. It can take practice finding the best position so be persistent and it will pay off.
Generally speaking, for infants having trouble latching on, the criss-cross position can work well. More about the different feeding positions can be found here.
2. It’s Painful (Like, Really Painful!)
Even if your little one latches on perfectly, it’s more than likely going to be painful. Now, you’ll come across advice from other well-meaning parents online stating “if you’re in pain when you breastfeed, you’re doing it wrong”. This advice typically comes from the lucky few mothers who experienced no pain whatsoever. It’s true that some feeding positions can be a lot less painful than others. However, there are a number of reasons you could be finding breastfeeding painful.
First-time mothers will typically experience the most pain to start with. This is because the nipples are very sensitive. They won’t have adjusted to nursing so they need a little time to “toughen up”. Once they have, the pain will disappear, leaving behind more of a blissful numb feeling.
Saying that, soreness usually only lasts for a couple of minutes when you start breastfeeding. If it persists beyond this, it could be that your little one is having trouble latching on properly. Or you may have developed cracked nipples which will need to be treated in order to eliminate the pain.
What to do – You’ll need to determine the cause of the pain before you can treat it. The first step would be to seek advice from a breastfeeding specialist. They’ll watch how you typically feed your infant and determine whether you’re in the right position.
If the problem is down to cracked, dry nipples, a lanolin-based cream can work wonders. Simply rub it into the nipples between feeds to moisturise the area. It’s really important to avoid using alcohol, soap and regular body lotion as this can harm your little one when they next have a feed. Finally, leaving on a little milk after every feed will also help to speed up healing.
One of the most surprising problems that can come from breastfeeding is thrush. This unpleasant condition is actually pretty common in babies. They develop the yeast infection in their mouths and then transfer it to your breasts. You’ll know if you have it as thrush causes the following symptoms:
- Redness and/or a rash
- Itchy nipples
- Shooting pains after or during feeding
The good news is it’s pretty easy to clear up. You’ll need to treat both yourself and your little one with an anti-fungal. Before treating your baby’s infection however, it’s worth consulting with a doctor to ensure you’re treating them with an infant-safe product.
4. You Aren’t Producing Enough Milk
You’d think with it being such a natural process, your body would automatically produce enough milk for your baby. However, as many new mothers have discovered, this isn’t always the case.
There are a couple of ways to determine whether you’re giving your little one enough milk. Firstly, pay attention to how they feed. Are they sucking quite hard, becoming agitated or refusing to latch on? This could be a sign of frustration that there isn’t enough milk being delivered. It isn’t always possible to identify the problem yourself however. Many parents only discover there’s a shortage of milk when their baby isn’t gaining enough weight.
There are ways you can encourage your breasts to produce a higher milk supply including feeding your infant more frequently and pumping milk throughout the day.
5. Painful, Enlarged Breasts
Alternatively, some mothers produce too much milk, causing their breasts to become painful and enlarged. This usually comes with a throbbing sensation, along with swelling and potentially even a slight fever. Swelling can run from the breast, all the way to your armpit.
The first thing you’re going to want to try, but shouldn’t, is pumping the breast milk out. Logically, it makes sense that if you pump the milk out, it’s going to instantly resolve the problem. However, what it actually does is encourage the body to produce even more milk (see the tip above).
The best solution is to wait until your baby is really hungry before you let them feed. That way, they’re going to drink a lot more milk and suck a lot more gently, reducing discomfort. The gentle sucking motion will also deter the body from producing too much additional milk.
These are just 5 common breastfeeding problems you can experience. As you can see, there are solutions to these problems and they have absolutely no bearing on your parenting skills! If you’re concerned about your breastfeeding experience, always talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to help you identify the problem and advise you on how to fix it.
Of course, if you have experienced any other problems which haven’t mentioned here, we’d love it if you’d share those with us below, along with how you got through it! We could all benefit from hearing what you have to say!