After I found out the biology behind breastfeeding and how to properly hold my son while breastfeeding, I started to do research on breastfeeding problems and their solutions. I did not want anything or anyone to deter me from breastfeeding my son, so I made sure to prepare myself for any possible breastfeeding problems that may arise. I think it is important that mother’s do as much research as possible, when it is their first child, to alleviate stressors. We will be going over the most common breastfeeding problems and their solutions. If you have not already, read the Breastfeeding 101: The Basics. It has basics such as the composition of your breastmilk, how to position to feed and more! Anyway, let’s resolve these breastfeeding problems and get baby back to getting that nutritious milk.
Baby Won’t Latch Properly Or Isn’t Latching At All
On the very first day of breastfeeding your baby, you may experience the breastfeeding problem of getting your baby to latch. If you need assistance, have your midwife or hospital lactation specialist present in the room. If you do not have those resources, then speak with someone you know that has breastfed. Personally, I did as much research as possible prior to birthing my son. I watched countless YouTube videos and coached myself to not expect it to be a perfect process. If your baby has given you feeding cues and you wait until they are flushed and crying, then soothe and calm them before trying to latch. If you attempt to latch a hungry, crying newborn, then you may experience pushback. Remember, your baby is new to the entire process, so s/he doesn’t know that it is milk that will resolve the issue.
Your baby’s first latch isn’t going to be perfect. Honestly, it won’t be for the first few months. I have one breast that is larger than the other, as do most women, so I mostly fed him on one breast and pumped the other. I did this until he was large enough to handle both breasts. He also did not learn to properly latch until he was a couple months old, but it was my job to attempt each time to coach him on to do it. Remember, breastfeeding is a skill and you are learning just as your baby is learning to eat from your breast.
When you first start breastfeeding in the hospital (or home if you had your little at home), you may notice a scab start to form on your nipple. The skin on your nipples are very sensitive and need time to adjust to the new “trauma” that they experience from your baby’s suckling motions. It is normal and nothing to be alarmed about in the first few days of feeding. Apply liberal amounts of lanolin to each nipple; it will aid in healing and comfort the soreness as your nipples become accustomed to the process. Yes, you can nurse while you have scabs. In the hospital, I had a scab that was hanging, so I peeled it off while in the shower to ensure that my son did not swallow it. Ick, sounds gross, but it’s a breastfeeding problem that may happen mama.
In the first few months of your baby’s life, your breasts will naturally be engorged. Your body is trying to figure out exactly how much milk it needs to produce for your growing baby. Typically, they start to produce milk according to your baby’s feeding schedule at around three months. However, until that happens, alleviate the pressure by taking a warm shower, using a heat compress or by pumping the milk. You can still feed and pump through engorgement, but it may be slightly uncomfortable.
If you are engorged months into your journey, it is possible that your baby is not draining the milk completely during feeding. Here are the reasons why your baby may not be draining each breast properly: teething, night suckling, improper latch and not feeling well. Until you are able to pinpoint the reason behind engorgement, pump the excess milk to prevent a decrease in your supply.
Thrush is an infection caused from the overgrowth of Candida, or yeast. It is the most common oral infection in babies. A small amount of candida is in the mouth and kept in check by the immune system. As you are aware, a baby’s immune system is not mature. Therefore, their ability to fight the infection is limited. Thrush can go away after two weeks and/or your baby’s pediatrician may prescribe an oral gel.
To prevent thrush, ensure that your baby’s tongue is kept clean. Wipe your baby’s tongue softly with a moist baby rag. Do not wipe their tongue immediately after a feeding, but once every few days or so. Next, check your diet. As recommended in my Breastfeeding 101: The Basics post, eat a well-balanced diet. Check to make sure that your diet is not primarily comprised of sugars. Candida thrives off of sugar. Thirdly, keep all pacifiers and bottle nipples sterilized and clean. Wash all toys and teething toys with baby safe soap frequently.
Another key place people do not check for the possible source of candida: breast pads. Breast pads have the perfect conditions for yeast growth: warmth and moisture. Personally, I stopped wearing breast pads because I noticed that my nipples were itching when I used them. So, I threw away all of my breast pads and I rarely wear bras as well. Yes, my laundry load was a monster due to me constantly having to change shirts from leakage, but I would rather extra laundry than thrush.
Blocked Milk Duct
One of the most painful breastfeeding problems is that of a blocked duct! Whew, the pain is no joke ladies! Blocked milk ducts arise when engorgement is not handled. If you have not already, scroll up and see the possible reasons that you may be engorged. Deal with the blocked duct immediately! If you baby is too small to fully drain your breast during feeding, then make sure to pump out the rest of the milk. Afterwards, take a warm shower and wear loose fitting clothing. Do not wear tight clothing or bras that are not the correct size (or for breastfeeding mothers). Your breasts need as much room and air to breathe during this time in your mommy journey. Take care of them, so that they can continue to deliver that nutritious potion to your beautfil baby.
Low Milk Supply
If you feel that you are not producing enough milk for your baby, then first relax. Stress can greatly impact your supply. Yes, if you are highly stressed, then you can decrease your milk supply. Secondly, check your diet. If your diet is not well-balanced and deficient of what your body needs to make milk, then you are not going to produce the milk. Third, ensure that you are pumping and that your baby is emptying each breast during feeding. If your baby is not emptying the breast, due to small stomach, teething and etc., you will have to pump out the rest. You want to make sure that you are not telling your body that it doesn’t need to continue to produce breast milk.
If you need to up your supply, pump both breasts for 10 minutes, wait 30 minutes, then do it again. Do that three times a day for a few days and document your results. Feed your baby as often as s/he wants for as long as they want. Also, feed your baby skin-to-skin.
After passing the meconium, your baby’s poop should be a rich yellow color and seedy. However, you may notice that as your baby gets older, their poop is changing color and is now more green. There are multiple reasons why this may be the case. Check your diet. If you eat lots of greens, then it is possible for your baby’s poop is mirroring the color of your foods. Ensure that there isn’t a milk imbalance. Your milk is separated between foremilk and hindmilk. Check out the Breastfeeding 101: The Basics to read an in-depth explanation about it. If your baby is getting too much foremilk, then your baby is getting too much lactase and not enough fat.
Make sure that your baby empties one breast before offering the other breast. At one point, I would only breastfeed my son from one breast and pump the other the whole day. As expected, his poop went from green to yellow. It was then that I knew he was not fully emptying each breast before I offered him the other. Another possible reason your baby has green poop is because of saliva. A teething baby swallows large amounts of saliva while teething and it changes the color of their poop. Mucusy, green poop is from an intestinal virus, so have your baby seen by their pediatrician, if this is the case. Starting solids may change the color of your baby’s poop too.
Too Much Milk
Congrats mama! You have a good problem on your hands! If you find that you have too much milk, then do not panic. You can alleviate the milk by pumping your breast for roughly five minutes before feeding your baby. I would wake up to pump before feeding my baby boy or pump a bottle to be warmed in the middle of the night. It can be tiring, but your baby’s growing body will love you for it.
If it is the middle of the night or early morning and you do not feel like pumping (been there before!), then feed your baby on a recline. Sit in your breastfeeding chair leaned back to go against gravity. This way your baby can have better control of the milk. Also, ensure that your baby is emptying (or you are pumping) the rest of the milk from the first breast before offering the other. If you are not doing that, then your body will keep producing more milk than what you need for your baby.
Baby Has A Lip Blister
If you are not familiar with this common breastfeeding problem, please Google “breastfeeding baby lip blisters” and view the images. You have no reason to worry. Babies can get lip blisters from a bottle or breast nipple. It happens from sucking vigorously and your baby’s lip skin is attempting to toughen up. Apply a little of your breast milk onto the lip that has the blister.
If you need a lactation specialist, check out this ICBLC Finder.
If you need to speak with someone as soon as possible, try calling the Women’s Health hotline for a breastfeeding counselor.