Breastfeeding might be a natural thing, but that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally, or doesn’t have its challenges.
When I had my first baby, I never expected it to be difficult, I assumed babies just knew what they were doing, and my body would just do its thing, like it was supposed to! When I had my third baby, after already breastfeeding two others, I thought I had the whole breastfeeding thing down, yet she was the most challenging to breastfeed of all, and it was unexpectedly and incredibly painful!
So whether it’s your first time breastfeeding, or you’re a pro with 17 breastfed children under your belt, each experience won’t necessarily be the same, and you can come up against challenges at any point!
Common Breastfeeding Problems
Here are some of the most common breastfeeding problems, and what you can do to help when and if you experience them.
1. Sore and cracked nipples
You might think that this is an inevitable consequence of breastfeeding, and while it IS a super common effect of breastfeeding, it’s actually not what you should experience.
A strong sucking sensation is normal, but you shouldn’t just put up with pain.
If you do experience pain, sore cracked nipples and especially bleeding, you should get help from a breastfeeding specialist.
This is usually a result of a bad attachment, or ‘latch’. A breastfeeding support worker can help you with finding a good position to feed and show you how to adjust baby’s latch.
Other things to help with sore nipples
- Using a lanolin nipple cream before and after feeds can help to soothe and heal sore and cracked nipples.
- Leaving your nipples to dry in the air before putting your bra back on.
- Hand expressing a little milk and rubbing on to your nipples.
2. Over-full breasts
When your boobs are overly full, otherwise known as engorged, they can feel hard and it can be really painful. This can be caused by your baby not taking as much milk as they need to.
Breastfeeding is completely based on supply and demand and it can take some time for your body and your baby to match up.
It can be hard for your baby to latch on and feed properly when you breasts are engorged, so it might be a good idea to try hand expressing a little milk before feeding.
Expressing a little can help relieve the pressure a bit, and make it a little easier for your baby to latch on.
3. Blocked Ducts
Blocked ducts can happen if milk isn’t drained properly during a feed. This can cause you to feel sore, and you might feel a small lump in your breast where the block is.
Blocked ducts can lead to mastitis if not fixed, so it is important to deal with it quickly.
You can help relieve a blocked duct by massaging the lump while your baby is feeding, having a hot shower or placing warm flannels on your breast.
You can also try feeding frequently from the affected side to try and drain the milk.
Mastitis can develop if a blocked duct isn’t drained, and can lead to inflammation of the breast along with fever and flu like symptoms. It can be very painful and make you feel very unwell.
For mastitis the same techniques for relieving blocked ducts can be tried, massaging, warm flannels, showers and baths.
You should also try to continue feeding as stopping is more likely to make the symptoms worsen.
You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with the pain. Try and get as much rest as possible.
If your symptoms don’t get clear up quickly (between 12-24 hours), it’s important to see a doctor as you may need to take antibiotics.
Thrush is a yeast infection, which can be passed from your baby’s mouth to your breasts. It can cause you to be itchy, sore and may show as a rash.
To treat thrush you will need anti fungal medication from your doctor, and you will need to treat both yourself and your baby, to prevent passing the infection back and forth.
6. Low Milk Supply
It’s common to worry when breastfeeding about whether your baby is getting enough milk. You can usually tell if your baby is getting enough milk by the weight they gain, and whether they produce many wet and dirty nappies.
Ways to help increase milk and encourage your baby to take more:
- Feed often and for as long as baby wants
- Offer both breasts each time you feed
- Make sure you have a good position and latch (you can check with your midwife/breastfeeding specialist)
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