Five Common Breastfeeding Problems (and How to Tackle Them)

4 min read

Five Common Breastfeeding Problems (and How to Tackle Them)

Not every mother finds breastfeeding a walk in the park. Like any new skill, it takes an investment of time and perseverance to get it right, but it can be easy to feel like you are the only one struggling. 

The reality is though, is that there are several common challenges you may experience as a breastfeeding mum. The good thing is, there are ways to overcome them to make breastfeeding a much more comfortable experience for both you and your baby.

Here are 5 common breastfeeding challenges, and my suggestions on how you might be able to tackle them.

1. Nipple Nightmares

Cracked nipples can be caused by different things, including thrush, dry skin, incorrect pumping technique, or most commonly, latching problems, which can leave them feeling red, raw and painful.

My tips for overcoming nipple issues:

  • Check your baby’s position when you’re feeding. The bottom part of your areola (underneath your nipple) should be in the baby’s mouth and their cheeks in symmetry either side of your nipple, their wee nose, can be slightly touching your breast. 
  • The initial latch-on will tend to hurt the most, so try a brief application of ice right before you feed to try and numb the area slightly. 
  • Some mothers will also have success with breastfeeding more frequently, but for shorter intervals. Your baby’s sucking will be softer if they’re not feeling so hungry.
  • Give your nipples a break to heal. Sometimes if you are working on your babies latch it can help to express alternate feeds to allow your nipples some respite with gentle expressing with a good quality breast pump while addressing latching.
  • Massage a small amount of nipple cream onto them after each feed, or try expressed breast milk. 
  • It has been said that it can help to expose your nipples to some sunlight during the day, for a few minutes, and avoid wearing a bra for around 10 minutes after each session. 
  • Milkbar Breast Pads or nipple shields can also help to protect your nipple from friction or dampness.

    2. Mastitis

    Mastitis is an infection that affects the breast, requiring medical treatment. You’ll generally experience a shiny, hot, red and very painful area on your breast, which could also be accompanied by chills, fever, nausea and fatigue. It could be caused by engorgement, blocked milk ducts or cracked or damaged skin around your nipple. Mastitis does need to be addressed early, before it leads to further problems, such as a breast abscess.

    My tips for overcoming mastitis:

  • It’s best to get along to your doctor straight away, who will likely prescribe antibiotics and suggest you try to get some rest. 
  • You can continue to breastfeed, in fact stopping could actually make things worse and lead to a drop in supply. 
  • Placing a warm compress on your engorged breast may also help soften the blockage and encourage the milk to flow. 
  • Massaging will also help to break up the ‘stuck’ milk, and release it so it flows out freely the next time you feed or express.
  • Aim to massage every 1-2 hours during the day, especially before, during and after every breastfeed.

    For more information on Mastitis and Blocked Ducts - you can read my blog article here.

    3. Low Milk Supply

    A low supply is one of the most common reasons that women give up on breastfeeding (mastitis and blocked ducts don’t help here either) - but, please don’t be discouraged straight away! There are ways to work on building up supply

    My tips for overcoming a low breastmilk supply:

  • Looking after yourself is really important - stay hydrated and eat plenty of nourishing food - lactation cookies are great, as well as oats, nursing tea and even 0% alcohol beer.
  • Keep feeding! Forget about schedules and feed your baby on demand. If you’re feeding with a bottle, also express at that feed time, too.
  • Get a good quality breast pump, like the Milkbar Advanced Flow Breast Pump, which drains the breast correctly, resulting in increased output. Express using your pump for 20 minutes (10 minutes each side), 20 minutes after breastfeeding. Remember, the more you drain your breasts, the more you will produce.

    If you’d like a little more advice, I’ve put together more tips on how to increase your breastmilk supply in an earlier blog article.

  • 4. Breastfeeding in Public

    While much has been done to remove taboos around breastfeeding in public, it’s understandable that many women may still feel self-conscious about whipping their boob out in public. Unfortunately, there are still instances where you may experience uncomfortable stares or even glares.

    My tips for breastfeeding in public:

  • Get plenty of practice at home first. Experiment with positions that work best for your baby, but that also make you feel comfortable and less exposed.
  • Find clothes you feel comfortable in. Breastfeeding Clothes make it easy to discreetly access your breasts, without having to lift or remove layers.
  • Use a wrap, cloth or cover-up if you’d like a bit of extra cover, however practice at home first so that your baby doesn’t fuss or resist having something over their heads.

    5. A Baby Who Falls Asleep at the Breast

    Who can blame them, it seems like a pretty relaxing gig! Falling asleep at the breast is common, especially in the first few months. It’s not exactly helpful though, and can leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted.

    My tips for keeping your baby awake while feeding:

  • When you notice your baby’s sucking slowing down and their eyes closing, remove them from your breast and stimulate by burping, tickling feet, stroking under chin, gently blowing on their face, changing their nappy or softly talking to them, then switching breasts.
  • Slight breast compressions can give your baby a subtle wake-up call with a mouth full of milk, and they’ll respond by sucking and swallowing.
  • Use less ‘sleep-inducing’ positions, such as the football hold, or a straddling position. If your baby is all cuddled up in a cradle hold, they will tend to fall asleep easily.

    Don’t forget - it’s important to ask for help if you are finding breastfeeding challenging, frustrating or painful. Your midwife, Plunket nurse, GP or lactation consultant will have plenty of tips for you to try to ensure it’s a more comfortable experience for you and baby.

    If you want to find some more support and other mums to bounce ideas, advice, laughs and questions around with - come join us in Milkbar Mum Chat on Facebook, together, we've got this!

    xx Laura

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