As natural as breastfeeding is, it doesn’t come without its challenges. In fact, one study involving more than 500 mothers found that 92 percent of mamas had difficulties nursing their little one by their third day of life outside of the womb.
If you’re in the majority, take heart in knowing that you are not alone and that there are solutions to every breastfeeding roadblock you may encounter. The first issue many breastfeeding mamas (especially new mothers) experience is this:
Roadblock #1: Breastfeeding Is Painful!
New mamas will likely experience some pain on the outset simply because your body isn’t used to breastfeeding. Mild nipple irritation is common for the first few days while your body adjusts, and the “let down” you may experience once your milk comes in may cause temporary tingling and discomfort.
Pain becomes a problem when it is persistent or when there are physical symptoms present, such as cracked, bleeding or blistered nipples, or hot, red spots on the breast. Here is how you can solve your nursing pains:
- Check Your Baby’s Latch. The latch is the most common issue behind pain when breastfeeding. Newborns should have the majority of the lower part of mum’s areola in their mouth as they nurse, with your nipple resting against the roof of the baby’s mouth. Nursing pillows or blankets can help prop your baby up and help with the latch.
- Change Your Nursing Position. The “across the body” or “cradle” hold is the most common way to feed, but it is by no means the only way to feed your bub. Try different holds, including the cross-cradle hold, the clutch or “football” hold, and lying on your side.
- Comfort Your Breasts. Engorgement can be a major source of pain for nursing mothers. A hot shower while gently massaging your breasts can ease the pain, and hand expressing or briefly using a breast pump can reduce discomfort while softening the nipple and areola to help your baby latch more easily. If your breast pain is accompanied by a fever and flu-like symptoms, you may have mastitis, which requires medical attention.
Roadblock #2: Not Producing Enough Milk
Many mothers worry that their little one isn’t getting enough milk. Fortunately, this is, for the most part, untrue, and your baby is most likely getting just the right amount.
The greatest clue as to whether your baby is receiving enough milk is if they are gaining weight. If they are gaining weight and meeting milestones, mothers usually have nothing to worry about. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, your pediatrician will monitor your baby’s weight gain and may recommend pumping between feedings, increasing the frequency of your feeds, as well as supplementing with formula. Mums should also be conscientious about what they eat, being sure to drink plenty of water and eat up to 500 extra calories a day.
Roadblock #3: Cracked Nipples and Thrush
The most common cause behind cracked nipples is an improper latch. Once the latch is solved, your nipples should return to their healthy, pain-free state.
In the meantime, there are options available to soothe and treat cracked nipples. One is to regularly clean your nipples with warm water to prevent infection. A soothing pure lanoline-based ointment or cream safe for nursing babies is another solution.
Thrush is a yeast infection that can also cause nipple discomfort that may cause anything from itchy or burning sensations to stabbing and shooting pains. Because your baby is also likely to have the infection, your doctor will treat both you and your newborn with an anti-fungal medication that can be applied to the breast and placed in your baby’s mouth.