A Blog for Families by Delta Children

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can be anything but easy. Delta Children explores common breastfeeding challenges and shares breastfeeding tips.
Mother breastfeeding her baby boy

Top 7 Breastfeeding Challenges and Breastfeeding Tips

Low Milk Supply

Low milk supply is a common concern among new moms. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first six months, it can be hard to measure just how much milk your little one is drinking.

Being unable to accurately measure your baby’s consumption of breastmilk can be worrisome, as you don’t know whether he or she is eating enough, or on the other end of the spectrum, overeating. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfed babies will gain an average of four to seven ounces per week in the first four months of life. Check with your baby’s pediatrician to ensure he or she is growing at a healthy rate.

Causes of Low Milk Supply

If low milk supply is a cause for concern, there are measures you can take to increase production. Firstly, breastfeed as much as your little one desires. If you’re pumping, you may not be producing as much milk, so nurse from the breast as much as you can.

Your diet while breastfeeding may also be affecting your milk supply. Be sure to avoid these five food and drinks while breastfeeding. Consuming supplements containing milk-boosting herbs like fenugreek can help increase your production.

Poor Latch while Breastfeeding

A poor latch may be the root of most of your breastfeeding challenges. If the latch, which refers to the action of your baby placing his or her mouth around your nipple, is too shallow, it can prevent your little one from consuming milk efficiently and cause pain and discomfort for nursing moms.

Breastfeeding Tips: Creating The Perfect Latch

Helping your baby be in the proper breastfeeding position and get a good latch during the first few nursing sessions can pave the way for a successful breastfeeding experience. A good latch should feel like a comfortable tug or pull, never like a pinch or like your baby is biting you.

Here’s how you can help your baby create a good latch:

  • Make sure his or her mouth is wide open before allowing him or her to suck on your breast
  • Make sure your baby is awake and alert before each feeding
  • Make sure your baby’s mouth covers the areola, not just the nipple
  • Listen for swallows to make sure your little one is actually drinking the milk and not just nuzzling your breast

Sore Nipples

Sore nipples are often a sign of a poor latch. Make sure your baby’s mouth covers most of the areola, otherwise you may experience cracked or bleeding nipples. Red, cracked, bruised and bleeding nipples are not a normal part of breastfeeding. Work with a lactation consultant to correct your baby’s latch and use lanolin creams or hydrogel pads to relieve pain associated with sore nipples.

Engorgement

Engorgement refers to a woman’s breasts becoming hard and painful when they’re too full of milk. Engorgement is common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding as your body’s milk supply adjusts to the needs of your baby. It’s important to nurse as often as your baby desires, providing him or her with the nutrients he or she needs for a healthy development.

After establishing a breastfeeding routine, your breasts may become engorged if you’re unable to nurse or pump for an extended period of time. If you know you’re going to be away from your little one, consider bringing along a breast pump and pumping at the times you would normally feed your baby. Trying to nurse after your breasts are already engorged may make it challenging for your baby to fit enough breast tissue in his or her mouth to extract milk. You can pump or hand express to soften your breasts, allowing for a good latch and successful feeding.

Engorgement is very uncomfortable for moms, but can also lead to other problems like clogged milk ducts and decrease milk supply.

Plugged Milk Ducts

They probably didn’t cover this in your high school anatomy class, but your breasts deliver milk through milk-making cells, which send milk through your breast tissue to pores in your nipples, known as milk ducts. When the ducts are plugged, or clogged, areas of your breast become hard and tender.

Infrequent feedings and tight-fitting bras may cause plugged milk ducts. Using a warm compress and gently massaging your breasts before and during feedings can help resolve clogged ducts. It’s important to resolve the plug quickly to relieve discomfort and avoid infections such as mastitis.

Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue, causing discomfort accompanied by flu- or cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, vomiting and achiness. It can be hard to tell the difference between mastitis and a plugged milk duct, as both can cause symptoms lasting for only 24 to 48 hours, but mastitis may require treatment through antibiotics. Cracked nipples can cause mastitis by allowing bacteria to enter the breast and cause the tissue to become infected. Consistently failing to empty your breast can lead to milk stasis and, subsequently, mastitis.

You may be surprised to learn that you can (and should!) keep breastfeeding while experiencing mastitis. The milk in your affected breast is not infected or tainted and cannot hurt your baby. Nurse and empty the affected breast as often as possible, massaging the affected area before and during breastfeeding sessions.

Infections, even breast infections, are a sign that your body is working too hard. Call in support from family and friends so that you can focus on healing and getting more sleep. Tight-fitting bras can make mastitis worse by constricting milk ducts, so opt for a well-fitting, supportive bra to prevent future infections.

Thrush

Thrush refers to a yeast infection. It’s common for a nursing mom to develop thrush of the nipple, areola or breast. If either you or your baby develop thrush, you should both be treated, as the infection can transfer from your breast to your little one’s mouth, causing oral thrush, and vice versa. It can be difficult to determine who contracted thrush first, but can easily be treated through anti-fungal medications.

Thrush thrives on moisture and sugar, making breast milk the perfect prey. While antibiotics may be administered during labor or early during the postpartum period, they can kill off “good bacteria,” making your body more susceptible to developing thrush. Moms who have a history of yeast infections may also be more prone to contract thrush.

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