Breast milk is the only sustenance your child needs for the first six months of their life.
This superfood contains everything a growing baby needs in the right amounts and is easy to digest.
Research shows breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes, asthma, or obesity.
For breastfeeding moms, it lowers the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
With these and more benefits, it’s no surprise the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates for exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of your baby’s life.
However, while breastfeeding is a natural process, it can be very difficult.
The CDC found that despite 83.2% of lactating mothers choosing to breastfeed exclusively from birth, only about 56% make it to six months and beyond.
The main culprits behind these declining numbers are the various challenges faced while breastfeeding.
To end that and help more mothers breastfeed for as long as they can, here’s a look at these common problems and some solutions to resolve them.
Low Milk Production
The number one reason most women stop breastfeeding early on is that they cannot produce enough milk for their infants.
Low milk production can affect your baby’s weight gain and cause a lot of stress on your part.
No mother wants to believe they can’t make enough milk for their little one, but most causes of low milk supply are easily remedied.
- Check your baby’s latch. If they are not latched on correctly, they cannot suckle as much milk as they need. Since your milk production is based on how much they drink, fixing the latch and enabling them to suckle sufficiently will help stimulate more milk production.
- Breastfeed or express milk more often to stimulate more milk production.
- Encourage your infant to suckle longer. Breastfeed them for at least 10 minutes or longer, and ensure they stay awake, and actively nurse during the feed.
- Eat well, hydrate with plenty of fluids, rest, and try not to stress.
Over Milk Production
On the other hand, you might have an overabundance of breastmilk.
This excess can cause blocked ducts, engorgement, mastitis, and discomfort.
The pressure of having too much milk and a hyperactive letdown can make it hard for your child to nurse.
They can gag or choke as they feed, causing fussiness, gas, and frequent spitting up.
- Offer one breast at each feeding and let them nurse from the same breast if they want to suckle again within a short time.
- Try laying back while breastfeeding. This will slow down the flow of your milk since it is going against gravity.
- Burp your child often since they are more likely to swallow more air because of the fast-flowing milk.
A 3D or 4D ultrasound like the one you would get at Baby in Sight 3D can give you a more realistic look at the life growing inside you.
You could even see them suckling, an innate reflex they are born with.
However, despite this ability, they could have trouble latching onto your breast and breastfeeding properly.
If your little one doesn’t latch on well, they won’t get enough milk during feedings nor gain weight steadily.
You will also find breastfeeding quite painful.
- To help your infant get a good latch, ensure their mouth is wide open, and they have a large mouthful of breast. You should see more of your areola above their topzlips than below their bottom one.
- Their chin should touch your breast, their lips rolled out, and their nose is not pressed against your breast. You should not feel any pain as they feed, although the first few sucks might hurt as they stimulate your letdown.
Lactating mothers experience milk leaking at one time or another, but it is most prevalent during the first 6 weeks as you establish your milk production levels.
Milk leaking can also occur during pregnancy, and if you haven’t breastfed your infant in a while and your breasts are full.
That said, this issue is totally harmless, but it can be embarrassing.
- Wear nursing pads in your bra to absorb the excess milk and prevent it from leaking through your clothes. Don’t use pads with plastic lining, as it can trap moisture and cause bacterial growth.
- Try not to miss feedings or go long periods without breastfeeding your infant. This way, your breasts aren’t too full.
- If you feel your letdown reflex and you are not in a position to breastfeed your little one, gently press your breasts to your chest wall to stop the leaking.
This occurs when your breasts fill with milk and become swollen and tight.
It can be quite painful, on top of making it harder for your child to latch on properly.
Your breasts will be engorged for the first few weeks as your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs.
- In the meantime, you can ease the pressure and discomfort by breastfeeding as often as you can, at least 8 to 12 times a day.
- Ensure your infant latches on well so they can nurse more efficiently and remove as much milk as they can.
- If you are too engorged, express some milk to soften your breasts so your child can latch on.
- Use a warm and cold press and gently massage your breasts to relieve the pain.
Plugged Milk Ducts
Small, hard lumps form in your breast when milk ducts get blocked.
They can swell, become tender and redden.
- They often resolve by themselves after a few days, but you can help move things along by ensuring your child nurses efficiently and properly drains your breasts.
- Breastfeed often, starting with the side with the plugged duct first. Switch up breastfeeding positions to allow your child to properly drain all areas.
- Use a warm compress and massage the area to encourage milk flow through the plugged duct.
- Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
This is swelling or inflammation of your breast tissue because of an infection.
A blocked milk duct, illness, fatigue, or prolonged breast engorgement can also cause mastitis.
You might have mastitis if you notice redness, breast tenderness, flu-like symptoms, and a fever.
- Visit your doctor immediately if you suspect you have mastitis. You might need antibiotics to fight the infection.
- Continue breastfeeding despite your thoughts; it can help resolve the issue if a blocked duct causes it.
- Use a warm compress to ease the discomfort, get plenty of rest, eat well and hydrate.
Sore or Cracked Nipples
You will have some nipple tenderness during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but very sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples are not part of the deal.
They are a sign something is wrong.
If they affect your breastfeeding ability, it can lead to further problems such as engorgement or blocked ducts.
- Ensure your baby latches correctly. A bald latch can cause soreness, cracking and even bleeding. You can talk to a lactation consultant to help your baby latch on correctly.
- Change breastfeeding positions and find one where you are both comfortable. If your baby falls asleep while nursing, gently break the latch with your finger before removing them from your breast.
- Offer short and frequent feeds starting with the less sore side.
- Apply a warm compress to ease the pain.
- After breastfeeding, apply some breast milk onto your nipples to help them heal and keep them moisturized.
- If your nipples don’t improve, notify your doctor, as any opening on the skin can get infected, worsening the situation.
Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your little one need to master together.
This natural process can be challenging, but if you know what you are facing, you can resolve it.
If you face any other issues, consult your doctor or lactation consultant immediately.
The earlier you identify and correct any problems, the better it will be for you and your child.