Many of this generation’s new moms are big advocates of breastfeeding. In an ideal world, all moms can do it, given the benefits that breast milk offers both the mom and baby. But it can be a tough journey when moms encounter various breastfeeding problems especially within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth.
Here are some common breastfeeding problems and possible solutions.
The problem: Cracked nipples
Sore and cracked nipples happen because of many reasons, including dry skin, improper pumping, and latching problems. Sometimes, it may even cause a little bleeding, but according to Sylvia Malabanan, a lactation counselor and a member of L.A.T.C.H. Philippines, “your baby can take the blood-tinged milk and continue breastfeeding.”
The solution:Use virgin coconut oil or breast milk on your nipples to help them heal. “These are both food grade and okay for a baby to swallow,” shares Armi Anastacio Baticados of L.A.T.C.H.
Celebrity mom Ina Raymundo also shares she applied lanolin cream or ointment on her nipple months before giving birth. It helped moisturize and keep her nipples supple to avoid dryness that leads to skin cracks.
A correct latch will lessen the occurrence of sore nipples. You can also try breastfeeding more frequently and at short intervals — the less hungry baby is, the softer her sucking will be.
If you experience prolonged bleeding because of your cracked nipples, Malabanan advises moms to have their breast checked and to seek treatment.
It’s normal for your nipples to feel sore when you first start to breastfeed, especially if you’re a first-timer, according to The Bump. But when you feel prolonged pain, the kind that’s mahapdi and makes you cry, it might be because your baby is not latching correctly.
The solution: Noelle Polack, birth and postpartum doula from the Pinay Doulas Collective, says you should always aim for an asymmetrical latch. Lessen the pain by positioning your nipple farther in the baby’s mouth. The baby’s mouth should be wide open with her lower and upper lip flanged out (like a fish). Your areola and not just the nipple should be inside your baby’s mouth.
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“What we want is for the whole mouth [of your baby] to move,” says Noelle. This will also let your baby receive more milk from the breast while lessening the likelihood of sore nipples, according to the International Breastfeeding Centre.
The first step to getting a correct latch is to position your baby correctly. “The baby has to be tummy to tummy with the mom,” explains Noelle.
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If your baby is not opening her mouth wide, use your pinky finger to tickle the side of the baby’s mouth or apply slight pressure on your baby’s chin, advises Abbie Yabot, a breastfeeding counselor in a previous article for SmartParenting.com.ph.(Read up on the different breastfeeding positions here.)
If you feel a hard, painful lump on your breast that is sore to the touch, you may have clogged milk ducts. Ducts clog when you’re unable to drain your breast milk completely or when you skip pumping sessions.
The solution:Apply a warm compress on your breast before feeding to encourage milk to flow better. Massaging your breasts while feeding may also help relieve the plug. Avoid wearing bras and tight clothing as it may also contribute to clogged ducts.
Nurse your baby more often. If possible, do it every hour and a half. Breastfeed on the side with the plugged duct first, as babies suck the hardest at the beginning of every feeding and it may help unclog the duct. You can also try breastfeeding in different positions.
Lastly, make sure to get plenty of fluids and rest. Stress and fatigue may affect your milk flow and lead to other breastfeeding problems like mastitis.
Mastitis, often called a breast infection, happens when breast tissues get infected and inflamed due to engorgement of clogged milk ducts. Breasts feel tender and warm to the touch, accompanied by swelling, skin redness, and a burning sensation while breastfeeding. Moms who have mastitis may also feel feverish, exhaustion, and body pain.
The solution: The quickest way to treat mastitis is to fully empty the breasts, as in pumping or nursing although it can mean (sometimes excruciating) pain. Applying warm compress may also help loosen milk ducts.
Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to fight off the infection. In some cases, surgery may be required to open the ducts and drain abscess or pus.
The problem: Thrush
Thrush is an infection caused by yeast or fungus. Though not a serious condition, it can cause your baby discomfort especially when feeding. It’s characterized by white patches on the baby’s tongue, palate, or the walls of the mouth, which cover red lesions that bleed easily. Babies can spread it to the mom’s breast and can cause itchiness, soreness, and a rash.
Solution: An anti-fungal cream may be prescribed your doctor, which you need to put on your nipples and on baby’s mouth. You may continue to breastfeed, but you both need to be treated for thrush.
To prevent spreading the infection, clean then sterilize all bottles, nipples, pacifiers, toys, and breast pump parts that come in contact with your breasts or your baby’s mouth. Choose bras that give your skin some breathing room and wash the bras frequently.
Having too much breast milk can cause several breastfeeding problems like clogged milk ducts, mastitis, and breast engorgement. Engorged breasts make your breasts feel abnormally full, enlarged, and almost rock solid. Babies may find it hard to latch because the breast is hard and does not conform to her mouth.
Having too much milk in the breast can cause milk to flow really quickly. Your baby may gag and choke as she’s forced to gulp milk down while feeding. It can lead to overfeeding and can also cause gassiness and spit-ups.
The solution: Before breastfeeding, try and remove a little breast milk by hand expressing. It will also get the milk flowing and soften the breast so the baby can have an easier time latching. Breastfeed often, at least eight to 12 times a day.
To slow down the flow of milk, try breastfeeding while laying on your back or reclining on a chair. Make sure to burp your baby frequently to prevent gassiness.
The problem: Low milk supply
A low milk supply after childbirth often discourages moms to breastfeed. But remember, you don’t need to produce a lot of milk during the first few days. On day one, a newborn has a stomach capacity of a calamansi. You’ll only need to produce less than a couple of ounces every one to three hours of feeding your little one.
The solution: If your baby is growing older and you’re still concerned with low milk supply, remember to nurse often. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you’ll make. Pumping also helps! The extra stimulation can help increase your milk supply.
It’s also important to eat healthy food. Have a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and fruit. You may also try lactation goodies and supplements like malunggay, but best consult your doctor on how much to take.
How do you know if you have an inverted nipple? Try this test from The Bump: Gently grab your areola with your thumb and index finger — if your nipple retracts rather than protrudes, you have an inverted nipple. For moms with inverted nipples, breastfeeding may be a little more challenging, but it is still possible.
The solution: Use a pump to get the milk flowing before placing the baby at your nipple. Wearing nipple cups called breast shells between feedings can also help draw the nipple out. Hand expressing your milk may also help.
Yes, breastfeeding can become a struggle but remember that for every breastfeeding problem, there is always a solution. It’s vital you have a strong support team who will encourage you whenever you feel like giving up.
Apart from your husband, you can also seek help online — our Facebook group Smart Parenting Village is a safe place where you can share your thoughts and where moms like you are willing to share their personal experiences to help. You can do it, mommy!