7 common breastfeeding challenges and how to solve them

7 common breast feeding challenges

You’ve just spent the last day bringing a human being into to this world. Congratulations! You are full of joy, excitement and most likely—complete exhaustion. Now, just after giving birth—a Herculean feat on its own—it’s time to feed your baby for the first time. 

But this doesn’t mean feeding another human with your body will be a piece of cake. For some new moms, breastfeeding can be downright challenging (and yes, even painful!). New moms can even beat themselves up, thinking it’s somehow their fault they can’t seem to work out what comes so naturally for other mommies and mammals.

We are here to help. Banner Health lactation consultant, Shelbie Radom, MSN, RNC-OB, IBCLC, at McKee Medical Center answers some of the most common breastfeeding problems new moms face and how to conquer each and every one of them.

1. Help! My baby won't latch or it is painful when he does latch. What can I do?

Breathe! It’s okay if you and baby don’t hit a home run out of the gate when you start nursing. Soon after baby is born, a Banner Health lactation consultant (IBCLC) will visit you both. They are a free resource through most other hospitals too and can provide everything from tips and tricks for nursing to pumping and storing your liquid gold, a.k.a breast milk. 

“There can be many reasons the baby isn’t latching or why when they do latch it’s painful,” Radom says. “An IBCLC can give positioning tips and evaluate the baby’s latch.”

La Leche League International says you'll know your baby is latched properly if your nipple and at least half of your areola are completely sucked into baby’s mouth. An incomplete latch means you will likely feel a pinch (ouch!) and might end up with sore or cracked nipples.

If you're still uncomfortable after 60 seconds of nursing, gently press your finger on your breast near baby’s mouth to break the seal, then try again, making sure their mouths are open wide.

2. My baby is having trouble latching, could they be tongue-tied? 

Only a pediatrician or an IBCLC can diagnose your baby as tongue-tied, but it can cause latching problems, sore nipples and a cranky baby. When a baby is tongue-tied, it means the tissue connected to the floor of their mouth is too short or extends too far to the front of the tongue. Radom says moms and parents should not put this off and immediately speak with their pediatrician or an IBCLC as soon as possible if they are having concerns. 

3. Help, my supply is low! I'm stressed! What can I do to help increase my milk production?  

Stress can definitely slow the flow, but as long as you continue to nurse, it shouldn’t stop milk production. Plus, research has found breastfeeding can actually reduce negative moods and stress. If you are concerned and your baby doesn’t appear to be getting enough milk, seek help. 

“Working with a lactation consultant is very important if you are concerned about low milk supply,” Radom says. “We need to monitor your infant's weight gain very closely.  We can make a pumping plan to supplement breastfeeding. We can also evaluate the pump you have.” 

4. Help, I'm engorged! What can I do so my little one isn't drinking from a fire hose? 

Radom suggests applying a warm moist heat compress to your breasts followed by breast massage before every feeding at least every 2 to 3 hours. You may apply ice after feedings up to 20 minutes to decrease inflammation and for comfort. She cautions, however, not to apply moist heat or ice to nipples.

5. My baby is constantly eating! Will I ever sleep again?

It may seem like it will never happen, but you will eventually sleep again. Just remember all babies are different, but breasts need to be stimulated every few hours to establish and maintain a milk supply.

“Infants need to gain two-thirds to one ounce a day for the first few months, so breastfeeding frequently is how they grow and thrive,” Radom says.

6. What is mastitis and can I still breastfeed with it? 

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland in the breast that is typically due to bacterial infection from a damaged nipple. Your breast may suddenly become hard, red, warm or painful. But, red streaks, fever or flu-like symptoms are late signs. Radom says that you can still breast feed, but it is important to see your doctor and get an oral antibiotic. “Breastfeeding can usually help to clear up the infection and remove the clogged duct,” she says.

7. Will pumping ruin my supply or my baby's desire to nurse with me and not the bottle? 

Contrary to what you may think, pumping will not ruin your supply. However, Radom recommends that for the first few weeks, it is beneficial to focus on breastfeeding as long as your baby is medically stable and gaining weight. Then you can start pumping to save milk or so that your baby can be given a bottle.

“We usually recommend that bottles are given between 3-6 weeks once breastfeeding is well established and to ensure that your baby will take a bottle when needed,” Radom says.

8. Can what I eat and drink really affect my breast milk? 

“We typically tell moms that you can eat or drink whatever sounds good as long as you are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet,” Radom says. “But you should limit caffeine and avoid alcohol as a rule.”

There are many myths out there about foods to avoid. If for some reason you do believe that something is upsetting your baby, however, please talk with your pediatrician. 

“The best thing to do if you have any of the issues above is to call your hospital’s Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and schedule a visit,” Radom says. “Don’t wait. The sooner you are seen the better.”

If you have additional questions or concerns, Banner Health has a number of breastfeeding support groups and classes in your area. You can also call our Lactation line at 970-820-2324.

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