10 common breastfeeding problems and how to solve them
1. Baby does not latch on
Feeling exhausted from your baby’s overnight newborn phase? Tell yourself you are doing an awesome job! If your baby is not latching on well, it could be due to reasons such as poor positioning or the medication it received during labour. When this happens, move your baby away from the breast and start again, because pushing it into the breast may cause your precious one to refuse it even more. Babies also may not show interest in breastfeeding if they are tired and sleepy. Try breastfeeding again when your baby is awake and feeling calm.
2. Baby rejects breastfeeding
If your baby starts using a pacifier or bottle in the early weeks of breastfeeding, it may become confused when presented with the breast and may reject breastfeeding completely.
A pacifier or bottle is best introduced no earlier than three to four weeks after birth, and only after you have established a nursing routine. If your newborn continues to experience nipple confusion, contact a lactation consultant for more advice. In the meantime, keep positive because just as suddenly as your baby refuses breast milk, your baby will be happily breastfeeding again in no time.
3. Sore or cracked nipples
If you are new to breastfeeding, it is not unusual to experience sore or cracked nipples due to poor positioning or incorrect latch-on techniques. Ensure that your nipple reaches the back of your baby’s mouth during breastfeeding, away from the pressure of its gums and tongue. You may also wish to try out a silicone nipple shield for the first few months of breastfeeding.
This ultra-soft silicone shelf, almost as close to the skin, protects sore breasts and allows you to continue breastfeeding with less pain. Holes at the tip allow for controlled milk flow into the baby’s mouth and provides air circulation to relieve cracked or bleeding nipples. Do check in with a lactation consultant if needed for the right breastfeeding methods, and apply pure lanolin cream to soothe your nipples meanwhile. Unless it is an infection, soreness will settle in a few days!
4. Fungal infection
If your nipples feel painful, itchy and are in a deep pink colour, it may be a sign of fungal infection, or candidiasis. You may also notice white patches in your baby’s tongue and gums. In this case, alert your doctors and seek treatment urgently. Anti-fungal medicine will be prescribed for you and your little one. In addition, ensure that you wash your breast pump parts, pacifiers, nursing pads and bras daily. Until the fungal infection is cleared, avoid storing and freezing breast milk. It is not always easy with a newborn, but try to rest when you can and get as much help as possible.
5. Breast leakage
Between changing nappies and washing breast pumps, you may suddenly experience dampness…in your bra! Leakage occurs when your breasts produce so much milk that they overflow.
The good news is that leakage is harmless, save the occasional embarrassment if you are out and about. Tuck nursing pads inside your bra to absorb leaks, or cross your arms over your breasts and press firmly. Fret no more once you have established a breastfeeding rhythm that works for you and your baby!
6. Breast engorgement
If your breasts are full of milk and generally feel hard, tight and painful, you may be experiencing breast engorgement. Newborns feed little and often, and it can take days before your milk supply adapts to your baby’s needs. If breast engorgement is not treated, it can lead to clogged ducts and infection. To reduce your chances of becoming engorged, feed on demand, about eight to 12 times a day. It also helps if you let your little darling finish nursing on one breast before switching to the other!
7. Clogged milk ducts
If you feel a small lump in your breast, it could be a sign of a clogged milk duct. Milk ducts will become blocked if they are not drained well. Hang in there, because this can be easily fixed! To avoid clogged ducts, feed regularly. Nursing bras without underwires are also a great option as they will reduce the compression of milk ducts. In between feedings, express milk or place a warm compress on your breasts to encourage milk flow.
8. Low milk supply
Breastfeeding is a physical and emotional journey and it is normal to worry if you are supplying your baby with enough breast milk. The good news is that the vast majority of mothers will create sufficient milk just by feeding on demand and by having skin-to-skin contact! Here are some signs of a happy, cuddly baby: its little cheeks are full while feeding, and it releases the breast on its own to fall asleep when full. After each feed, your breasts should feel soft and not hard. Alternate between breasts to stimulate your milk supply, and monitor by weighing your baby after each feed.
9. Returning to work
Returning to work after your maternity leave is definitely a transition like no other. Purchase electric hands-free pumps that allow you to express milk in office while you are busy typing up reports or processing documents. If you can, buy two sets of pumps – with the right flange fit – so that you will always have a clean set available. It also helps to practice pumping a few weeks before returning to work! Stock up some breast milk in the freezer before you go as well. These pre-sterilized breast milk storage bags are disposable and help to free up space in the fridge or freezer by freezing and stacking them flat. After all, any amount of breast milk is better than none.
10. Breastfeeding in public
Many mothers think twice about breastfeeding in public, but you should not feel obliged to stay home! Gain breastfeeding confidence when you practice in front of a mirror, and arm yourself with a blanket, nursing cover and nursing clothes with hidden access. If you feel more comfortable to nurse in private, most shopping malls have got a baby changing room and some even a nursing room. Do check out their locations before heading out to avoid the last minute frantic search. Your baby feels most relaxed if you are relaxed. While experts suggest exclusive breastfeeding for six months, take into account your lifestyle needs and supplement with formula or stop nursing if necessary. Most importantly, build a strong support system with family and friends – their words of encouragement can make all the difference at the end of each hectic day!
10 common breastfeeding problems and how to solve them