Common Breastfeeding Problems

Nature intended for mothers to breastfeed but when nipples start to hurt and breasts become too heavy to carry, breastfeeding may not feel natural at all. Breastfeeding should not hurt and if it does it’s usually because the baby isn’t latched on properly. This is a common problem faced by many new and experienced breastfeeding mothers but rest assured there are solutions.

Inverted and flat nipples

Like many other features on our body, nipples come in all different shapes and sizes. Inverted and/or flat nipples can be the cause of frequent breastfeeding worry. Despite what your nipples might look like on the outside, in the inside your breasts can successfully make breast milk and you’ll likely still be able to breastfeed! A healthy baby can stretch out a nipple that isn’t truly flat or inverted usually without any hiccups and depending on a true nipple’s degree of inversion, the baby might still be able to draw it out when it latches on properly. Your doctor can complete a quick evaluation or you can do one at home to determine if your nipples are or aren’t truly inverted or flat. If your nipples protrude to gentle manual pulling or with cold stimulation they aren’t truly inverted. If your nipple doesn’t respond, consult a lactation expert for guidance on using breast pumps, nipple shields or breast shields. The suction from a breast pump, the latch on help from nipple shields (please note that you should only use these after your breasts have filled with milk which typically occurs between 2 to 6 days after giving birth) and the constant pressure that breast shields apply, may all help to draw out the nipples. It’s important that the uses of these materials are monitored by your lactation consultant, that you always clean your nipple and apparatus thoroughly after every feed and disregard any breast milk that collects in them. Begin Hoffman Technique stretches twice daily and gradually increase to 5 times daily to help break or loosen the adhesions holding back your nipple. To do this, place both your hands with your thumbs towards the nipple on opposite sides and gently pull your hands away from each other in opposite directions, from side to side and up to down. Despite all your efforts, it’s possible for reasons out of your control that you remain unable to breastfeed. Persevering through much stress, pain and possibly even scary, bloody scenes to try feeding your baby naturally is one of the most committed motherly acts but when feeding time becomes dreaded by both mother and child, it’s not a fail when you opt for formula feeding to satisfy the baby’s hunger and relieve your pain.

Sore and tender nipples

During your first week of breastfeeding, it’s very likely that you’ll experience tender nipples that feel sore and though it will be tough and temping to stop, it’s best to continue nursing on the least sore side with frequent and short feeds. This pain is nearly always short lasting, within the first week or so, your nipples will toughen up, milk will flow freely and your pain will subside as your baby will learn to properly latch onto your breast. To help them latch on, offer your breast with the hand that isn’t cradling them by placing your thumb above and fingers bellow, both behind your areola and stroke your nipple on the bottom of their lip. When they open wide, bring them towards your nipple with the arm that is cradling them. Sit comfortably and hold them correctly with their body facing you. About an inch of your areola should be in their mouth, with your nipple being too far back in their mouth to be compressed by their gums or lips which causes the pain. If they haven’t latched on properly, place your clean finger in the corner of their mouth and gently break their lip contact. If you are feeling sore, vary your breastfeeding position to change the sections of your nipple being compressed. Crying is a late indicator of hunger, so try feeding your baby before they start crying to prevent frantic sucking. You can help milk flow by massaging and applying warmth to your breast. To relieve nipple pain, let the protective factors in breast milk also work on your nipples by applying some before and after a feeding, let them air dry and give them some free time out of the bra. Keep your nipples dry by changing nursing pads frequently and prevent them from rubbing on clothes by using breast shells or nipple protectors. Consult a lactation or healthcare professional if you would like to use these gadgets during breastfeeding, take medication to assist with the pain or have persistent pain with an itchy and/or burning sensation(s) for your nipples may have become infected and need treatment.

Cracked, Itchy and Burning nipples

If the causes for sore nipples are not identified and fixed, nipples can become cracked and possibly bleed while feeding, no doubt terrifying you and your partner. Cracks also have the potential of becoming infected. The baby will not be harmed by swallowing blood and cracked nipples generally heal by taking some time off breast nursing. Use instead your hands or a breast pump to draw out the milk and collect it in sterile bottles. You can use lanolin cream or olive oil to help heal your nipples. If you don’t suspect an infection because you don’t feel itchiness, burning, excruciating pain or your nipple doesn’t look inflamed, you can gradually begin to nurse again on the least sore nipple first with frequent, short feeds by making sure you are holding your baby accurately and that he or she is latched on properly. You might still like to get a check-up from your doctor or you may suspect that you have an infection, which is usually thrush caused by a yeast infection that feeds on the lactose (sugar) present in your milk. It affects both you and your baby and can be treated. Once treated, use pain relief medication when necessary, nipple shields or breast shells after consulting with your healthcare provider first.

Engorged breasts

Whether you decide to breastfeed or not, during your first week after giving birth, your breasts will engorge with milk. Like it was possible for your breasts to further swell, become tender and more enlarged, they can and often because the baby doesn’t nurse frequently or empty out enough milk. The swelling may extend to the area under your arms and you may also develop a fever. You’ll find that anything cold, especially a chilled cabbage leaf with its long and wide, perfectly shaped structure will bring some relief and reduce the swelling. This pain will last for a day or two if you’re breastfeeding and could last up to a week if you bottle-feed. To prevent or deal with engorgement try to breastfeed often, around 2 hours a day for at least 10 to 15 minutes on each breast, alter your breastfeeding position to drain out all milk ducts, and apply warmth and massage your breast while nursing to help milk flow. Engorgement could be the reason why your baby isn’t latching on properly and causing sore, cracked or bleeding nipples. A solution to this problem is to empty out some milk from your breast by using your hands or a breast pump until your nipple and areola feel soft but be careful not to empty out too much for that stimulates milk production and any leftover milk will be stored in your breasts. If you are bottle-feeding you need to discourage your breasts from further milk production by avoiding any nipple stimulation and milk production. See your doctor or pharmacist for guidance on the use of pain relief medication if you need; you’ll be required to take it after a feed. If engorgement persist for longer than normal, see your doctor for it can lead to further complications such as plugged ducts and mastitis.

Juggling breastfeeding and work

Returning back to work and continuing to breastfeed can be problematic but well worth it. Before taking maternity leave or before returning back to work, discuss with your employer about possible arrangements that will allow for you to continue breastfeeding while working. You’ll likely require some extra breaks during the day which you may be allowed to catch up on after hours, you’ll also need a room not a toilet to express in, a refrigerator to store the milk and a place to store your manual or automatic breast pump machine. You caregiver may even be permitted to bring in your baby for feeds.

Breastfeeding strike

An unhappy, newborn generally younger than 8 months, may refuse their mother’s breasts and go on a ‘nursing strike’ usually for just a day or two but can last a week or longer. Their refusal can leave you feeling rejected, sad or even guilty. A baby can go on strike for many reasons; it could be teething, have mouth ulcers, blocked ears or a runny, stuffy nose. A sudden change in your diet can influence the taste of your milk or cause an allergy or intolerance reaction. It may just be that they don’t like the smell of your new perfume. Most babies do return to their mother’s breasts when encouraged. Spend your time together between feeds with plenty of skin-to-skin contact, have minimal noise and light in the nursery room and try breastfeeding while walking around or sitting in a rocking chair. Make their work easier by using your hands or a breast pump to draw out droplets before bringing them to your breast. Express as often as you did before to prevent engorgement and plugged ducts and to maintain your milk supply. Give them your milk preferably with a cup because the nipple of a bottle is easier to suck compared to your nipple and might make it more difficult to return them to your breasts. Weaning is different to a breast strike and occurs in an older, happier baby generally aged between 9 and 12 months.

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