I’m going to give it to you straight – Breastfeeding can be hard.
There, I said it.
When I was pregnant I did a prenatal class where we covered the basics. You know, what to expect when you go into labour, positions to help with labour, breathing exercises. Oh, ya and breastfeeding. I think amongst all that labour and delivery information we did cover the basics of breastfeeding.
But I have a confession to make. I didn’t pay attention.
Looking back I think I thought it was going to be easy. I mean, it’s such a natural thing how could it not be?
But it wasn’t.
My daughter had trouble latching and we spent four days in the hospital until she figured it out. During that time I was feeding every three hours (from the beginning of one feed to the start of the next) with each feed attempt taking an hour to an hour and a half. Throw in burping (30 min) and I had a whole hour in which to catch some sleep. During the feed attempt, my daughter would latch for a few seconds before pulling off and I would have to reposition her again. We did this over and over and over again.
The hospital eventually decided to supplement with donated milk while I continued to attempt to feed and pumped to keep up my milk supply. Finally, I tried a nipple shield and my daughter was to latch properly.
I nursed my daughter for 12 months and it didn’t start getting easy until about the eighth month. At 5 months she decided to go on a nursing strike and would only take the bottle during the day. After about a month of pumping and going to a lactation clinic at our local women’s hospital, I stopped pressuring my daughter to nurse so much. At which point she decided she loved breastfeeding.
I consider myself lucky that I had the support of my family and community resources which encouraged me to continue. However, I am a firm believer that a fed baby is best no matter if it’s breast or bottle.
If you’re breastfeeding here are some common issues you may encounter and how to problem solve them.
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Breastfeeding issues #1: Cracked Nipples
Breastfeeding might hurt a bit at first. It is, after all, a lot for your poor nipples to get used to. But if your nipples are becoming cracked and bleeding then you need to look for the issue as there’s a good chance your baby is not latching properly.
Kelly Mom is an amazing site and was my go-to resource when I had breastfeeding questions. Here’s their guide for latching your baby for breastfeeding.
What to Expect has a list of suggestions for problem-solving why your nipples are cracked and bleeding.
Use Lanolin after every feed in the first few weeks. It was a lifesaver for me.
Breastfeeding issues #2: Milk Supply
Over or undersupply of milk can be a worry when you first start breastfeeding. Undersupply can lead to anxiety over your newborn getting enough to eat.
At the hospital where I gave birth, I was required to track all dirty diapers my daughter produced. This along with her weight loss allowed my doctor and the nurses to assess if my daughter was getting enough milk.
Kelly Mom walks through what to look for if you’re concerned whether your baby is getting enough milk. If your baby is showing signs of not getting enough then you must talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Breastfeeding issues #3: Engorgement
Engorgement usually happens in the first week after giving birth and is when your breasts feel hard and really full of milk. It’s incredibly uncomfortable but it doesn’t last. Keep feeding your baby frequently and hand express to relieve some of the pain.
Taking a shower and massaging your breasts while hand expressing did help for me.
Baby centre has a great list of suggestions to help with engorged breasts.
Breastfeeding issues #4: Mastitis
Mastitis is an inflammation or inflection of your breast. Your breast may feel like it has a lump in it, be red, swollen and very sore. It’s also possible that you may have a headache and/or a fever.
Mastitis is caused by a milk buildup in your breast. This build-up can happen because you’re feeding on one side more than the other, extended engorgement and a variety of other issues.
Keep feeding your baby from the affected breast. It’s going to hurt like hell but if you stop nursing from that side it’s going to get a whole lot worse.
If it doesn’t go away quickly go see your doctor as you may need antibiotics.
See this list for more suggestions of how to cope with mastitis.
Breastfeeding issues #5: Problems Latching
A proper latch is essential for breastfeeding success. Without it, your baby will not get the milk they need. As well, your breasts won’t be stimulated to produce more milk which can lead to poor milk supply. Poor latching can also lead to cracked and painful nipples.
If your baby is having trouble latching make sure you’ve checked a few things.
Is your baby tongue-tied?
Does a nipple shield help?
Are you positioning your baby properly?
If you’re still struggling consider seeking the help of a lactation consultant who may be able to offer more advice.