Breastfeeding is a big deal. Trust me, I breastfed three babies, and I can confirm that it is a real commitment on most days. Despite the proven health benefits for both mom and baby, breastfeeding is hard work with its own unique set of challenges.1 Here are seven of the most common breastfeeding discomforts and some of our favorite solutions for addressing them
1. Sometimes breastfeeding makes our nipples hurt.
It’s normal to experience sore nipples — especially as a newbie to breastfeeding. It’s also good to remember that every baby, every latch is different; each breastfeeding experience will be unique. So don’t feel bad, mama! I had to consult a lactation nurse with baby number three. By all means, DO NOT be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
One of the most common breastfeeding discomforts is sore nipples, often due to an improper latch. Achieving the best latch will certainly help. You want to achieve an asymmetrical latch, where baby’s mouth covers more of the areola below the nipple rather than above. Place your index finger inside baby’s mouth to unlatch and reposition her. NEVER yank her off your nipple. I cannot even begin to describe the pain this will cause. When she is correctly positioned, her chin and nose will touch your breast — her lips splayed open so that you cannot see any of your nipple or areola.
If baby’s position is correct and your nipples are still sore, they may be dry. Wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid washing the nipple area with soap in the shower, and use nipple cream between feedings. You can also try taking a mild painkiller about 30 minutes before feeding (or pumping). Still have questions? Talk to your doctor. She may be able to refer you to a specialist.
2. Clogged (or plugged) ducts are the worst.
You MUST breastfeed (or pump) often. You HAVE to empty your boobs entirely and regularly. Otherwise, you are going to be in a world of pain. If you notice a hard bump in your breast, redness, or start feeling feverish and achy, you could have an infection (known as mastitis). You will probably want to see your doctor since you may need a prescription antibiotic to clear it up. Try not to stretch too far between feedings or pumping.
Failure to wear a nursing bra or a nursing bra that fits incorrectly (too tight) can cause clogged or plugged ducts. Do not wear a bra with underwire. This is just asking for problems. I LOVE the super soft and comfortable nursing bras from Bravado Designs. Adequate rest will also help to combat plugged ducts and mastitis. (Ask your partner for help when you can!) Plugged ducts (and even mastitis) are not harmful to your baby because breastmilk contains natural antibodies.
3. Thrush is also no fun.
Thrush is a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth, which can also spread to your breasts. It can cause itchiness, soreness, and even a rash. You will want to consult your doctor. They will be able to prescribe an anti-fungal for both you and baby. You must both be treated simultaneously; otherwise, you will pass it back and forth.
4. Baby keeps falling asleep while breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding tends to make baby (and mom) a little sleepy. It has to do with the hormone (oxytocin) released during nursing. Milk flow is quickest immediately after let-down. Start at the fuller breast, then switch to the other breast when finished with the first. If you notice baby dozing off, remove her from the breast and try to stimulate her — burp her, change her diaper, tickle her feet — then try to transition her to the other breast. This should get better with time.
5. Low milk supply
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. If you want to make more milk, you will need to nurse or pump more often, drink plenty of water, eat enough calories, and get plenty of rest. These are just a few ideas for increasing your milk supply.
6. Overproduction of milk
Another common breastfeeding discomfort is engorged breasts. When you produce too much milk, your breasts can get full very fast, which can be painful! Try hand expressing a little milk — to help soften them up and get the milk flowing — before trying to latch baby. Also, try practicing different breastfeeding positions to ensure your baby isn’t forced to swallow too much milk too fast when you let down. Remember, the more you nurse, the less engorged your breasts will be.
7. Breastfeeding in public
Talk about breastfeeding discomforts. Breastfeeding in public can be awkward, especially if your wardrobe limits you. Wearing the same outfit 52,000 times so you can breastfeed can get old fast. To avoid a nip-slip or any similar mishap, you can try a nursing cover too. Use a small blanket, a poncho, or shawl to cover your shoulders all the way to your baby’s head. You can now even find covers specifically designed for breastfeeding in public. It has the proper support and covers completely to make the practice easier for moms.
And when all else fails? Don’t be afraid to pump and pack a bottle when you know you will probably encounter a more challenging breastfeeding situation. Be sure to check out all of our breastfeeding essentials, too. So nurse on, mommies! We survived labor and delivery; surely, we can handle breastfeeding and any challenges it may throw our way!
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