5 Breastfeeding Problems You Need to Know About Before You Start

By: Ria Majumdar
breastfeeding problems

Becoming a mother for the first time is a wonderful yet terrifying experience. And while most would-be mothers prepare themselves extensively for the eventual pain of birthing a child, what most do not prepare for is the complexity of breastfeeding that follows afterwards.

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So here are 5 breastfeeding problems (and their solutions) that every new nursing mother needs to know about:-

#1 Latching Pain

It may look simple from afar, but you only realize how difficult the entire process is when your newborn latches onto your nipples for the first time and suckles away at a frightening pace. This is because the most common problem every new breastfeeding mother faces is the eventuality of "latching pain".

"Latching" is the process by which your newborn instinctively zeroes in on your nipple and catches it in his toothless mouth. This motion is also called the "suckling reflex", and is, contrary to popular belief, something your newborn does not know how to perform effectively.

That's why if you do not guide your newborn's mouth properly, you will end up enduring terrible pain as your baby suckles away forcefully at your nipple, and will soon develop what is called "sore nipple".

Keep in mind though, breastfeeding is never 100% pain-free, and it is normal to feel some pain during the first minute after the latch. But if the pain persists beyond that time, or becomes unbearable, you can do the following to ease the pain:-

  • Change the baby's position to shift pressure over your nipple and areola.
  • Tickle your baby's chin or put a finger in his mouth to make him let go of your nipple before guiding him to relatch in a better way.
  • Guide your baby's mouth in such a manner that the latch places your nipple closer to the roof of your baby's mouth, thus producing what is called an "asymmetric latch".
  • Use nipple creams or oil-based soaps to clean your breasts as the regular kind can dry the skin and increase the possibility of a painful feeding.

#2 Cracked Nipples

This is also a common problem that most breastfeeding mothers face. So if you find your nipples cracked and seeping a little blood, do not freak out. It is perfectly normal.

The main culprits behind this painful condition are dry skin, incorrect breast-pumping and incorrect latch. And it can be remedied by following these tips:-

  • Shorten the feeding time to reduce pain.
  • Increase the frequency of feeding because your baby's force of suckling will increase dramatically with the intensity of his hunger. 
  • Apply nipple cream (or coconut oil) over your sore nipples to ease the pain.
  • Coat your nipples with some breast milk and allow them to dry. (Breast milk contains antibodies against infection.)
  • Wear special nursing bras to reduce the pressure over your full breasts.

#3 Clogged Ducts

breastfeeding problems

Your breasts contain mammary glands that produce milk within them. And these glands are connected to your nipple via milk ducts, which allow you to expel their contents so you do not develop painful, over-filled breasts.

But these ducts can get clogged if you do not drain your breasts sufficiently, or wear too-tight bras that do not give them enough space to relax.

In fact, if not treated, clogged ducts can soon give rise to painful, hard boils over your breast that can become infected. This condition is called Mastitis and is accompanied by fever, body pain, fatigue and a smelly-white discharge from your nipples.

Fortunately, the situation does not have to escalate that far. All you need to do is follow these tips:-

  • Team up with your partner so you get sufficient rest at night.
  • Use warm compresses to keep the milk flowing.
  • Massage your breasts frequently between nursing sessions to circulate the fluids and prevent pressure from building up within your mammary glands.

#4 Breast Engorgement

As the name suggests, breast engorgement is a condition that arises when your breasts fill up with too-much milk without sufficient draining.

This excessive build-up of pressure causes engorged breasts to become hard and painful to touch. Additionally, it becomes extremely difficult to nurse your child with such breasts as the baby's mouth fails to latch on and keeps slipping off.

Other problems that arise due to engorged breasts are fever, back pain and mastitis due to secondary infection.

So if you face these issues, you can use the following tips to ease your suffering:-

  • Hand pump-out some milk to soften your breast before you offer your nipple to your child. This will improve latching success.
  • Feed your baby frequently to prevent excessive build-up of milk.

#5 Low Milk Supply

While some women face problems due to excessive milk-production, there are others who tend to produce too little.

Sometimes it is because of insufficient mammary glands within the breast, while other times it is because of pre-existing conditions like hypertension, diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease and the presence of breast implants.

Regardless of the cause, producing too little breast milk is a serious cause for concern because you will fail to nourish your child during his crucial stage of development, and also fail to give him immunity against life-threatening neonatal diseases through the antibodies present in your milk.

Therefore, if you face this problem, use the following tips to guide you:-

  • Consult a paediatrician or lactation expert.
  • Increase the frequency of nursing to stimulate milk production. 
  • Try to manually pump your breast milk.
  • Procure donated breast milk from human milk banks to nourish your child in the meantime.

Breastfeeding a child is a complex task. But with time and experience the process gets easier and more comfortable.

You just need to stick with it until then.

Enjoyed reading this article? Please share it with your friends to help spread the awareness. You never know who you might help out that way.

Also, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

What was the biggest problem you encountered while breastfeeding your child?

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