5 common breastfeeding problems
Learn about the challenges and how to face them.
It is a myth that breastfeeding is easy. Breastfeeding takes time and practice for both mothers and babies. Many mothers experience challenges with breastfeeding, but the right support can help overcome these issues.
If you are facing issues with breastfeeding, reach out to your midwife, breastfeeding specialist or health care provider for support.
Here are some of the most common breastfeeding issues, and our tips that can help you find relief.
1. How do I make sure my baby has a good breastfeeding latch?
Establishing a proper latch is the key to making sure that breastfeeding is a comfortable experience for both you and your baby. To make sure your baby is well attached:
- Bring their nose directly opposite your nipple.
- Let their head tilt back a bit so their top lip can brush against your nipple. This should make their mouth open.
- When their mouth is wide open, bring them quickly to the breast with their head back and chin leading. This way, your baby can take a large mouthful of breast and not just the nipple.
- Your breast will be drawn deep into your baby’s mouth and your nipple will be positioned back into the soft part of your baby’s mouth. This will ensure you won’t get sore and your baby can get all the milk they need.
Signs of good attachment include:
- A comfortable experience with no pain
- More areola is visible above your baby’s mouth than below
- Your baby’s mouth is wide open
- Their lower lip is turned out
- Their chin is touching – or nearly touching – your breast
2. What can I do about low milk supply?
It can be frustrating if you feel that you are not producing enough milk for your baby. If you are worried about your milk supply, reach out to your health care provider. In most cases, there is something going on that they will be able to help you identify.
Some common causes of low milk supply include:
- A delay in initiating breastfeeding
- No or very little skin-to-skin contact
- A delay in milk coming in due to delivery complications, illness or diabetes
- Poor attachment
- Feeding at fixed times
- Short feeds
- No nighttime feeding
- Infrequent feeds
- Worry and stress
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of bonding
- Dislike of breastfeeding
To help prevent low milk supply and maintain a healthy amount of breastmilk for your baby:
- Engage in early skin-to-skin contact at delivery and initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible.
- Ask for skilled breastfeeding support after delivery to ensure good attachment and effective suckling.
- Practice rooming-in (staying and sleeping in the same room as your baby) 24 hours a day.
- Breastfeed exclusively unless supplementing your milk supply is medically necessary as indicated by your health care provider.
3. What treatments are available for engorged breasts?
Having engorged breasts can be extremely painful. While full breasts can feel uncomfortable, engorgement is a different problem.
|They will feel hot, heavy and hard||They will feel painful, look abnormally swollen with fluid (oedematous) and tight. They may also look shiny and red|
|Milk will be flowing||Milk will not be flowing|
|You won’t have a fever||You may experience a fever for 24 hours|
Common causes and ways to prevent engorged breasts include:
Causes of engorgement
Ways to prevent engorgement
|Plenty of milk||Remove milk frequently (by hand expressing or with a pump) and initiate breastfeeding early|
|Delayed start to breastfeeding||Start breastfeeding soon after delivery|
|Poor attachment to the breast||Ensure proper attachment|
|Infrequent removal of milk or restricting the length of feeds||Allow unrestricted breastfeeding|
Reach out to your health care provider if you are experiencing engorged breasts.
4. How can I prevent cracked nipples when breastfeeding?
Sore or cracked nipples are usually a sign that your baby is not properly attached at the breast when feeding. Make sure that your baby has a good latch. If one or both of your nipples begin to crack or bleed, reach out to your health care provider as soon as possible for support. At home, try dabbing a bit of expressed breastmilk onto them after you feed. Breastmilk has healing properties that help relieve soreness.
5. What causes mastitis and blocked milk ducts? How do I prevent them?
Breastmilk flows through a system of ducts in your breasts to reach your baby. Sometimes, an area of these ducts can become blocked which stops the milk from flowing easily. Blocked ducts can be painful. Mastitis, an inflammation of the breast, can occur when a blocked duct does not clear or when the build-up of milk in your breast causes swelling or inflammation. Speak to your breastfeeding consultant, midwife or health care provider if you are experiencing pain from blocked ducts.
Some causes of blocked ducts and mastitis include:
- Short or infrequent breastfeeds
- Not removing the milk from part or all of the breast properly
- Damaged breast tissue
- Bacteria entering the breast through a crack in the nipple
To help relieve pain and treat your symptoms, try:
- Improving milk removal
- Correcting poor attachment
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Breastfeeding more frequently
- Gently massaging toward the nipple
- Applying a warm compress to the area in pain
- Varying feeding positions
Breastfeeding isn’t a ‘one woman’ job, and it is very common to run into bumps along the way. Reach out to your health care provider with any concerns and surround yourself with family, friends and loved ones for support along the way. You’ve got this!