The first few days with your baby can be very overwhelming, and difficulty breastfeeding can add an additional stressor. Each woman has to decide whether or not breastfeeding is best for her and her baby. For those who are breastfeeding, it can be discouraging if you experience difficulty, but rest assured that many women do. It’s important to keep in mind that these challenging times will pass and nursing will become easier and easier the more you learn.
One of the best resources for breastfeeding is through lactation services. Whether in person, by phone or virtually, lactation consultations can provide some of the best tips and advice to help you navigate your breastfeeding journey. Here are some of the challenges lactation consultations anticipate most moms will experience and how to solve them:
One of the most common challenges of breastfeeding in the beginning is getting your newborn to latch, especially as a first-time mother who is navigating this new journey. Oftentimes, your baby just hasn’t figured it out yet and that’s totally normal! Some tips to help your baby latch include changing up the position. Is the cross cradle, football, or even side lying pose most comfortable for you and your baby? Try them all to find the right fit. In addition, use your hands to cradle your breast and hold your baby behind the shoulders to help position them better. You should try to bring your baby onto the nipple when they open their mouth wide. Encourage a wide open mouth by touching your nipple to the baby's nose. Lastly lean back; this can often encourage a deeper, more successful latch.
Sore, cracked nipples can be caused for many reasons including a poor breastfeeding latch, not using a breast pump correctly, or an infection. First, rule out an infection by speaking with your doctor and if you don’t have an infection, it’s likely caused by an improper technique that can be easily fixed! To relieve soreness, massage your breasts to express a few drops of colostrum or breast milk so that they coat your nipple. Your milk can help heal an inflamed nipple. Avoid creams and lotions unless medically indicated. Also, make sure your baby is properly positioned at the breast and that your baby is very close to you so they can get more of the areola into their mouth, then make sure they are properly latched. Lastly, try feeding your baby frequently so they are not overly hungry. If they are very hungry, they may be so frantic that they begin to pull at the nipple, causing pain and discomfort.
Engorgement is pretty common in new breastfeeding moms and can also be caused if moms wait too long in between feedings. If you’re experiencing full, firm and taut breasts, try applying a warm compress to soften the breasts as well as massaging your breasts inward toward your nipple to encourage a let down before feeding. Then apply cold compress 10-20 minutes after feeding to relieve inflammation. For extreme engorgement or if your baby is sleeping, pump for 1-5 minutes, apply cold compress to breasts, and hand express some milk for comfort. Getting ahead of engorgement can help avoid a blocked milk duct and mastitis. If you do get a blocked milk duct, remember to continue nursing through it, massage, warm compress, and wear loose clothing/bra. In addition, you can submerge the affected breast in a bowl or haakaa of hot water and epsom salt.
There are times where your body may not be producing enough milk and that is completely normal. Your body will go through seasons where you may be producing enough, too much or not enough. In order to keep your milk supply high, try nursing your baby more often, massage your breast before and during feedings, and pump throughout the day to build up your supply. You can try power pumping to build up your supply, as it imitates cluster feeding. While pumping, look at a picture of your baby, it actually releases serotonin and helps create a letdown. In addition, take care of yourself, Mama; stress and exhaustion affect your milk supply. Lastly, the more hydrated you are the more milk you will produce. It’s recommended to drink one 8 oz glass of water every time you nurse or pump.
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. It can be caused by milk trapped in the breast, a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering your breast. Symptoms include swelling, warmth and redness, and you may also experience fever and chills. With that said, Mastitis is a common condition in women who breastfeed and as many as 1 in 10 breastfeeding women in the U.S. will get it. If you do, consult with your doctor because the only way to treat Mastitis is with antibiotics. There are some helpful tips to avoid getting Mastitis, which include fully draining the milk from your breasts while breastfeeding by allowing your baby to fully feed on one breast before switching to the other side and making sure your baby latches properly.
About Carole Kramer Arsenault
Carole Kramer Arsenault is an RN, author of Newborn 101 and founder of Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny, a leading agency of overnight and daytime newborn caregivers, and pre- and postpartum support services including lactation services. As a parent educator and founder of a childcare staffing agency, Carole has more than a decade of experience working with thousands of families to help them source childcare and match them with top-notch providers that best fits their family’s needs.