There are only a few things that can compare to the duality of breastfeeding. When you breastfeed, half of the time you will bask in joy at the intense feeling of closeness you feel when you bond with your baby.
And during the other half of the time, you will wallow in frustration, desperation, and fatigue.
Because while breastfeeding is a delight, there are challenges that come with it. And to be honest, it can be really disappointing to have to experience cracked nipples right after you have finally perfected the latch.
But similar to how we get sick despite eating right and taking vitamins, breastfeeding problems are just like that — natural and inevitable.
The objective is not to know how to breastfeed perfectly but to understand how to deal with these breastfeeding problems and how to solve them. Here’s a list of the 8 most common breastfeeding troubles that you may encounter and the possible solutions.
Soreness can be expected during the early days but not excruciating or sharp pain. If you are experiencing the latter, the most probable reason is an incorrect latch.
Solution: A proper latch can be achieved by repositioning your baby’s mouth and making sure that it covers your entire areola and not just the nipple. To do this, you need to wait until your baby’s mouth is wide open (for example: when they yawn).
Look for these signs of a perfect latch: you can’t see your nipple and your areola is almost entirely covered, the sides of your baby’s head below the ears is moving as they suck, and their nose is touching your breast.
2. Leaky Breasts
Leaking breast milk is common, especially during the early weeks of breastfeeding, as your milk supply is still being established to meet your baby’s demands. However, it can be an embarrassing issue as you may be caught with leaks in public.
Solution: Because let-down can be uncontrollable (even hearing a stranger’s baby cry can stimulate let-down!), the best thing to do is to wear nursing pads and bring extra pads — and an extra top — with you.
3. Cracked Nipples
Similar to number 1, the key reason for cracked nipples during breastfeeding is an improper latch. But there are also other factors to consider like dermatitis, thrush, or something as simple as your rough fabric rubbing over your sensitive nipples.
Solution: If you think you have the proper latch, the culprit may be your underwear. To avoid this, try airing your breasts once you’re done breastfeeding and take off your bra at home to allow your nipples to rest. If this is not the issue, consult your doctor for possible medical reasons.
While you are waiting for your cracked nipples to heal, in the meantime, wear a nipple shield. You may also use nipple cream to keep the area protected.
Engorgement is basically an overabundance of breast milk. In theory, that sounds good — excellent even — but the sensation can range from uncomfortable to excruciatingly sore. Some moms are even unable to lift their arms due to the pain.
Solution: Because your milk supply is still establishing itself in the early weeks of breastfeeding, you can expect engorgement to happen. It will subside in a day or two, but you can ease the pain by nursing often and massaging your breasts. You may also use a warm compress before nursing and a cold compress after.
Mastitis is an infection that can be caused by either a clogged milk duct or bacteria. The first one happens when your breast milk has not been drained fully. The second one happens when bacteria from the outside (such as your skin or your baby’s mouth) enters through a crack in the nipple. Mastitis will result in a sore breast and flu-like symptoms.
Solution: You need to see a doctor if you have mastitis, and you will be prescribed with antibiotics. You are encouraged to continue breastfeeding to fully drain your breasts.
6. Clogged Ducts
You may have clogged or plugged ducts if you notice a hard and sore lump on your breast, which happens when your breast milk has not been drained efficiently. Similar to mastitis, you may also feel feverish.
Solution: If you have clogged ducts, you need to nurse often and massage the lump over the clogged duct. You may also apply a warm compress before feeding your baby.
Thrush is a yeast infection that can occur in your baby’s mouth, which can spread to your breasts, causing itchiness and pain.
Solution: If you develop thrush, you need to go to your doctor to be prescribed with proper medication. Both your breast and your baby’s mouth will be treated at the same time.
8. Low Milk Supply
Finally, one of the most common breastfeeding problems is a low milk supply. While some suffer from engorgement due to oversupply, some feel like they are not producing enough milk.
Solution: You will not have hard-rock breasts with leaking milk if your breast milk supply has already stabilized, so it is entirely possible that you have enough milk, not a low supply. But if you still think you are not producing enough, try to nurse more frequently to stimulate let-down. It also helps to pump to see what you are actually producing vs. what you think you are producing. You may also eating galactagogues.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience, but it takes time and patience to perfect. And along the way, despite finally perfecting your latch, it is entirely possible that you will still experience a couple of breastfeeding problems. We hope we were able to give you simple and clear solutions to these problems!