By Ebube Imana
As natural as breastfeeding ought to be, it is fraught with so many challenges which can be very discouraging even to a determined mother. It’s important for every nursing mother to realize that successful breast-feeding is a combination of patience, good technique, and determination. Find common breastfeeding challenges and tips on how to prevent or treat them.
Arguably, one of the most common breast-feeding problems is improper latch-on. This can cause pain to a nursing mother while the baby may not get enough milk. Painful breast-feeding is a clear sign that your baby is not properly latched on.
Babies usually develop sucking reflex while in the womb, however, they may not be able to latch onto your breasts successfully and this causes pain. In my case, I would even cry sometimes while breast-feeding and having an inverted nipple didn’t help.
To beat this:
Make sure your baby’s mouth is open wide before trying to latch him onto your breast.
Baby’s lips should be turned out, not sucked into the mouth while feeding.
As much as possible, baby should take in the areola as well, especially at the bottom lip.
Hold up your breast to help baby latch on.
Tease baby’s lips with your nipple to get him to open his mouth.
Sore or Cracked Nipples
Your nipples may crack and become sore due to improper latching or pumping. To avoid cracked or sore nipple, ensure that your baby is properly latched on by getting the whole areola into his mouth. Prolonged pain during breast-feeding for more than a minute is a clear sign that your baby is not latching properly. To treat sore or cracked nipples, use a nipple grease or paraffin to lightly lubricate only the affected area.
At the end of each feed, squeeze out some milk and apply on your nipples, making sure nipples air-dry before covering up, as this will facilitate healing.
When bathing don’t scrub your breasts with soap, just wash with water. Allow breasts air dry.
Babies nurse areola, not nipples! Initial feedings may therefore be more difficult with flat or inverted nipples. My mother-in-law and I did all that we could possibly do to bring my nipples out so it would be easier for my son to latch! Sometimes, after trying to latch for minutes on end, we would both get frustrated and burst into tears!
We were advised by a nurse in the hospital to express some milk by hand or using a breast-pump before I breast-feed.
Low Milk Supply
Many women think their supply of milk is low but the actual truth is that breast milk flows according to demand and supply. I, of course found this out the hard way.
When I stopped giving my son formula and focused on breast-feeding alone, it wasn’t easy initially because my supply was not at its peak and therefore could not meet his demand at the time.
Nursing mothers must remember that the breast is able to produce as much milk as the baby needs. Therefore, the more your baby sucks, the more milk you will produce. Sometimes, during growth spurts, the baby may seem to want more milk. The key is to feed more frequently, and in a few days, your milk supply will increase to match the baby’s demand.
To help increase your milk supply, increase your fluid intake. Also try to express by hand or pump milk in between feeds. Also, get your baby to breast-feed as often as possible. More importantly, get some rest. Rest when your baby sleeps so you are recharged when he is awake and demands another round of feed.
This may occur occasionally and could be as a result of infrequent nursing while supply is constant, thereby adding pressure on one or more milk ducts. When this occurs, you would feel a hard, lumpy, painful area on your breast.
To help solve this problem, it is advised to nurse your baby more frequently, ensuring that one breast is empty before moving on to the other. Also massaging the breast while breast feeding may help. Apply warm, moist towels to your breasts before feeding or have a hot shower. Avoid wearing tight and/or underwire bras while breast-feeding as this may contribute to this problem.
If the ducts remain clogged days after, please contact a lactation specialist for assistance or consult your doctor.
Engorgement refers to swelling within the breast tissue, which can be hard and painful, making it uncomfortable for babies to suck. In some women with engorgement, the breasts become firm, pink on light skinned women, warm to the touch, and may even throb. Some women develop a slight fever.
Engorgement is caused by increased blood supply, increased fluids and milk in the breast tissue. Usually, the best treatment for engorgement is to empty the breast frequently and completely by breast-feeding. Latching may become impossible where the breasts are engorged, therefore, it is preferable to express by hand or using a pump. Taking a warm shower shortly before breast-feeding will help soften and stimulate milk flow. You can also try putting a warm towel on your breasts to ease the pain and swelling for a few minutes before breast-feeding. Massaging the breasts could also be a good way to soften it and promote milk flow. Do note that the use of heat for long periods of time (exceeding 3 – 5 minutes) may make swelling worse.
If breasts continue being full and uncomfortable, after expressing, apply cold compresses to both breasts to reduce the swelling.
This is an inflammation of the breast usually caused by bacterial infection that has flu like symptoms and is accompanied by pain and fever. Not to worry though, your baby can still breast-feed because breast-milk has it own antibiotics. Just see to it that you empty your breasts frequently. However, if you feel worse after a few days, please consult your doctor or a lactation consultant for other remedies or antibiotics.
Generally the first few weeks to months of breast-feeding are usually the hardest, but as you become more adept with these skills, it will become easier and enjoyable. Hang in there, don’t give up, you’re giving your baby the very best of nutrition!