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Common Challenges with Breastfeeding - What to do?

After pregnancy and childbirth, you will have so many new thoughts. An enhanced appreciation for your own mum. Confirmation that you can do hard things. A new definition of unconditional love. Awe of the miracle your body just created and what it went through.

But, speaking of that body of yours, can we talk about your breasts? How they were perfectly designed to nourish your little one to help her grow and be healthy? Well, this natural process, breastfeeding, did not come naturally to me at all. At the lowest points, I conflated my ability to breastfeed with my ability to be a good mom.

Due to a nasty infection in my womb, I ended up in the operating theatre after a marathon labour that had lasted for days. As a result, my new-born baby was taken to the children´s unit for intensive care after he was born and I was left behind bewildered, trying to come to terms with my own ill-health and having been stripped of those beautiful first days with a new baby. When I finally could hold my son, after he repeatedly refused to latch on, I fed him with plastic syringes and tiny cups as if he was a bird. As his weight dropped, I recall tearfully giving him formula in what felt like, at the time, my first major failure as a mum. Why couldn’t I do this?

Arriving home, for the first several weeks, my very patient husband supported me through a majority of our nearly hourly nursing sessions. Nothing could have prepared me for the scale of the hunger, thirst, and exhaustion I felt. Without any way of establishing a schedule, I felt unmoored, lonely and at times, resentful of my lost autonomy.

Looking back, I wish someone had said to me that it´s ok, you´re doing your best. The pressure to breastfeed perfectly no matter your circumstances can be intense, but only you understand your individual situation and naturally care for your baby the best you can. Because breastfeeding can be challenging at best of times, we have put together some ideas on how to get back to the high side if you ever experience some of the lows that are common along a breastfeeding journey.

Hard as a Rock (Breast Engorgement)

You won’t believe how full and painful your breasts can get. Most women’s milk comes in anywhere between two to four days after the baby’s arrival. There are also increased blood flow and lymph fluids to the breasts that can cause inflammation. If they are too engorged, sometimes it’s challenging for baby to latch properly.

If that happens, it can affect let-down and your milk supply. And, engorgement can happen for several different reasons at any point when you are breastfeeding not just in the immediate days following birth.

Ways to work through it: Warm compresses or a warm shower or bath can help reduce inflammation. Frequent feedings (a minimum of 8 times in a 24-hour period) help and you can also pump a little milk or apply reverse pressure to your breast in order release some milk to help the baby latch. Our Thermal Boob Tube can also keep your breasts warm, especially when it’s cold out, which can help. Some mothers even find relief when they apply cold cabbage leaves to the breast.

Baby Isn’t Latching

It’s possible for the baby to develop challenges latching even if she latched like a pro in her first few days. A good latch is so important for you both: It’s when the magic happens when she sucks, milk begins to flow and you don’t feel any pain. If you feel pain after the first few days of breastfeeding, it’s a good indicator that there isn’t a good latch.

Ways to work through it: First, keep calm. The more you get upset, the more challenging it will be to get the baby to latch. Try going back to skin to skin to help your baby’s natural reflexes kick in to seek out your nipple. Latching problems can be caused by many things including a tongue tie, so if you continue to have struggles, be sure to check with your pediatrician or lactation consultant. In the meantime, you can pump to keep up your milk supply as you navigate this bump in the road.

Nipple Cracks and Soreness

We haven’t met a breastfeeding mum yet who hasn’t experienced some discomfort from breastfeeding (at least initially). The most common reason for nipple soreness is an issue with the baby’s latch, but sometimes it just takes nipples a bit of time to get accustomed to their new role.

Ways to work through it: Once you determine the latch or positioning aren’t the issues, it’s time for a little nipple pampering. Express a bit of milk on your nipple and let it dry. This helps soothe irritation because of the milk’s antibacterial protection. You can also try breast shields to protect your sensitive nipples from rubbing against clothing. Some women find warm, damp compresses also help.

Thrush or Mastitis

When you have burning or stinging pain, it might be a yeast infection known as thrush. Your breast and nipple may feel itchy or red and you might feel like you have the flu, but one thing is for sure: It will be too bothersome to ignore. Another common issue breastfeeding mums experience is a blocked milk duct which is known as mastitis. Again, symptoms will be considerable pain and possibly a red or lumpy breast.

Ways to work through it: If you suspect you have thrush or mastitis, it’s important to contact your doctor or midwife right away. Both you and the baby will need to get treated for thrush with antifungal medicine. Even though it’s painful, mothers with mastitis need to keep breastfeeding the baby. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics.

Not Enough Milk

Your milk production is a supply and demand process. The more milk baby wants, the more you will produce. So, any interruptions to your body getting crucial signals that more milk is demanded, such as an inconsistent feeding schedule, can cause a deficiency in milk production.

Ways to work through it: Since your body’s systems are working overtime, you need to be sure you’re giving yourself enough water, healthy foods and rest to sustain your milk production. You can also trick your body into thinking there is more demand by pumping after nursing. Your baby benefits from any milk you can provide, so even if there are reasons why you aren’t able to produce enough, what you can is super beneficial.

Check out: Breastfeeding Starter Pack for nursing moms

by Lola&Lykke Team