5 Common Breastfeeding Problems and How to Overcome Them

Yes, breastfeeding offers an abundance of health benefits for both mom and baby. Yes, it’s a unique and special opportunity to bond with your newborn. Yes, mothers have been doing it for time immemorial – it’s beautiful, it’s nutritious, and it’s natural. But just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Any modern mom who’s taken on breastfeeding knows this to be true. 

1) It hurts when my baby latches onto my nipple

When you first start nursing your baby, your nipples may feel sore. As you acclimate, that pain should decrease. If, after a minute or two, the pain doesn’t diminish, try repositioning your baby. You’ll know he’s positioned correctly when both his nose and his chin touch your breast and his lips cover your nipple and lower areola. 

If your baby is positioned correctly and latching still hurts, it may be that your nipples are dry. There are several ways to treat dry, cracked nipples. Allowing a dab of healing breastmilk to air dry on your nipples after feeding will often improve the situation. If that doesn’t do the trick, try a lanolin-based cream specially made for nursing moms.

2) My breast has a hard lump and I feel feverish

If your breasts are sore and you notice a small, hard lump, your milk duct may be clogged. This is more likely to happen if you go long stretches between feedings, but nursing bras and stress can also inhibit the flow of milk. If left untreated, clogged ducts can become infected, necessitating a trip to the doctor. While this won’t harm your baby, it will definitely affect your feelings about nursing, so it’s important to address the problem quickly and not suffer in silence.

To prevent clogged ducts, try to minimize your stress and get plenty of rest. Nurse more frequently to prevent engorgement, and treat your tender breasts to a warm compress and a massage to stimulate the movement of milk. 

3) I’m afraid my baby isn’t getting enough milk

Hormones trigger milk production, but once baby has latched on, production is driven by supply-and-demand. Breastfeeding babies tend to feed more frequently than formula-fed babies, usually nursing every two to three hours during the first few weeks. Often, moms mistake frequent feedings as a sign that baby is famished, but nothing could be farther from the truth. If your baby is on target for healthy weight gain, she’s getting plenty of milk, even if she seems hungry all the time. 

If your milk supply is actually low, you’ll see tangible indicators such as stalled weight gain, fewer diaper changes, and lethargy. A variety of issues can lead to low milk supply, including a sleepy baby, supplementing with formula, and drinking alcohol, to name a few. The best way to stimulate your milk supply is to get rest, eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and nurse your baby frequently. You can also pump to increase your milk supply. 

4) My baby sleeps through feedings

It’s tempting to let sleeping babies lie. However, if your baby shows signs of stalled weight gain or your breasts are engorged due to long periods between feedings, it’s time to wake her up. During the first few weeks of her life, your baby should be nursing eight to twelve times a day. 

To prevent your breasts from becoming swollen and sore, always start nursing your baby on your fuller breast. Swaddling keeps babies warm and cozy, which can leave her sleepy. Unswaddle your baby to stimulate her, and if she still dozes, tickle her feet or burp her to engage her interest. 

5) My baby isn’t latching onto my breast properly

Sometimes babies have a hard time getting the hang of breastfeeding. This may be the result of a premature or difficult birth, or the mother may have inverted or flat nipples. In some cases, it’s just a matter of both mom and baby getting used to the experience of breastfeeding. In any case, your baby won’t get as much milk if she isn’t properly latched, and you’re more likely to have sore nipples as a result. 

The first thing to remember is that your nursing sessions will be more productive if you and your baby are relaxed, so find a comfortable place to nurse your baby. Try different positions to find the one that works best for your baby. Whether you cradle your baby, lie on your side, or hold her at your side like a football, the key is to ensure her head and body are turned towards your breast with her lips at the same level as your nipple. She shouldn’t have to turn her head to reach it. Be sure that when she latches on, your nipple and the underside of your areola are covered by her lips to ensure optimal expressing.

Have you experienced any of these common breastfeeding problems? Breastfeeding should be a time for enjoying your special bond with your baby. If your experience is frustrating, don’t wait to get in touch with your doctor or a lactation consultant who can help you improve the situation.