Even though it’s the most natural way to feed your new little one, and women have been breastfeeding their babies for thousands of years, it doesn’t mean that nursing comes easy. Learn how to overcome (or avoid) these common nursing problems now and settle into your breastfeeding routine so that you can enjoy the special bonding experience of breastfeeding your new little one.
Newborns are notorious for sleeping through their feedings. While this may seem like a hidden blessing (more sleep for you!), it can throw off your milk supply. Just because your newborn is sleeping when it’s time to nurse, it doesn’t mean that their tummy is full. “Demand” feedings, when your little one cries to eat out of hunger, typically don’t begin until your baby has regained their birth weight, which can take about two weeks.
Your new little one needs to breastfeed every two to three hours. Not only will this help you and your baby learn how to breastfeed properly and give them much-needed nutrition and calories, it will also help your body establish its milk supply. If it’s been two to three hours and your baby is still asleep, try:
- Removing some of his or her coverings.
- Rubbing a cool washcloth on his or her feet.
- Dimming the lights in the room. Newborns are sensitive to light, and bright lights will make them close their eyes, prompting them to go to sleep.
- Gently massage his or her back in a circular pattern.
- Hold your baby upright while talking to him or her.
While nursing can be slightly uncomfortable for the first week or so, especially when your breasts become engorged when your milk comes in, it should never be outright painful. Most painful nursing is due to your baby latching incorrectly. If you are nursing and the discomfort or pain lasts longer than a minute, re-position your little one’s latch.
First, place your clean index finger inside of the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the latch. Never just pull your nipples away, as this will cause pain. Next, tickle your baby’s chin until his or her mouth opens wide. As soon as it’s wide, hold your breast so that your nipple is facing up and help your little one latch on. If your little one is latched properly, his or her lips should be flanged out, your breast should be asymmetrical in their mouth and your entire nipple and most of your lower areola should be covered.
Cracked, Sore Nipples
Improper latch, thrush, improper pumping and dry skin can all result in your nipples becoming sore, cracked or even bleeding. A lactation consultant can help you figure out the problem and should be consulted as soon as possible.
Until then, only wash your breasts with water. Don’t be tempted to use soaps or lotion. Let some breast milk dry on your nipples, as the antibacterial properties in breast milk can help them heal. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen 30 minutes before breastfeeding, using a baby-safe lanolin cream and wearing hard breast shells inside of your bra when you aren’t nursing can also help.
Inverted or Flat Nipples
Having inverted or flat nipples can make breastfeeding more challenging, but it’s not impossible. To see if you have flat or inverted nipples, try this test: Gently grab your areola between your thumb and index finger and squeeze. If your nipple retracts, you have flat or inverted nipples.
Using a breast pump at the beginning of each nursing session can help draw your nipple out and make latching on easier. Soft, silicone nipple shields can also be used during nursing to help your baby latch on properly. A lactation consultant can also help by showing you techniques and exercises that can help draw your nipple out.
Low Milk Supply
If you are pumping less breast milk than before or your little one is slowly decreasing their number of wet diapers, it could be a sign that you have low milk supply. Low milk supply can occur due to several reasons:
- Improper latch
- Not nursing often enough
- Not removing enough milk during feedings
- Medical issues or prescription medications
Your body makes milk based on “supply and demand.” This means that the more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk that your body makes. To increase your supply, try pumping for five to 10 minutes after each breastfeeding session. This will help empty your breasts and send a message to your brain that your little one needs more milk.
You can also try “power pumping,” which mimics cluster nursing in babies. To try power pumping, pick one hour at the same time each day. Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10; pump for another 10 minutes, rest for 10; and then finish by pumping 10 more minutes. Repeat this for several days to increase your supply.
Clogged or Plugged Ducts
If you have a small, tender, hard lump on one of your breasts, you could have a clogged or plugged milk duct. Not only are they uncomfortable, but if left untreated, a more serious condition known as mastitis can occur. Putting a warm compress, changing your little one’s nursing position and breastfeeding more often can help clear the clog.
Engorgement (High Milk Supply)
In the early days of breastfeeding, your breasts will suddenly feel rock-hard, huge and uncomfortable when your milk supply comes in. Though you won’t recognize your chest for a few days, don’t panic. As your body settles down into how much milk your baby actually needs, your milk supply will decrease to the right amount and the engorgement will go away.
If your breasts are engorged too much for your baby to latch on properly, try pumping for a couple of minutes before breastfeeding. This will help remove some of the milk and make it easier for your baby to latch. Warm towels can help decrease the pain until your body regulates your milk supply.
Thrush is a yeast infection that occurs in your little one’s mouth. It can be passed back-and-forth from you and your little one during breastfeeding. It can result in itchiness, pain and redness. See your child’s pediatrician or your doctor. He or she will prescribe an antifungal cream to get rid of the thrush.
You have probably heard a few stories about the horrible problems that your friends or family members had while nursing. Take these stories in stride; breast milk is the best nutrition that you can give your little one and providing that milk is an incredible experience. Avoiding or overcoming any nursing problems you may encounter will help get you back on your way to having the breastfeeding experience that you want.