Breastfeeding is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life. For the first few weeks, it felt like a horror show. My son wasn't the best at latching, my supply was irregular, and I was exhausted all of the time because I had no idea what my body needed. Thankfully, I had access to a great lactation consultant, but not everyone is that lucky. If you're experiencing difficulty, it might not be as dire as you think. There are some common breastfeeding problems that can be solved easily.
Many breastfeeding problems are complex issues that require a lot of care, compassion, and diligence in pursuing to repair. However, there are a few breastfeeding problems, like biting, engorgement, and hydration that can be resolved without much intervention. While these problems are the minority, they're surprisingly common for breastfeeding mothers everywhere.
That doesn't mean these problems are any less real or painful just for their ease of repair. It's just that these types of problems are the ones lactation consultants can spot at 50 paces and say "Yeah, there's a better way to do that," fix it, and go on about their day, and the mother can finally take a deep breath.
I spoke to board certified lactation consultant and registered nurse Sharon King, and asked her which breastfeeding problems can be solved easily. She tells Romper, "Easily is probably the wrong word." She notes that many of these problems are compounded with others and that can be extremely stressful on the mother. The solving of one problem doesn't necessarily negate the others or even mitigate them in the eyes of a stressed out woman. "Some problems have a straight-forward resolution, where others may not, and many of those are very common."
"Overall, this is the most common complaint other than latch issues that I see," says King. "This is usually a postural issue, with women hunching over their babies while they feed, but it can also be a hold issue. If your baby isn't sufficiently propped up, or if you're nursing in a lot of strange areas with crappy seating, your back will let you know its complaints." She suggests sitting with your back against the wall while breastfeeding for a few days, or with stiff cushions pressed against the wall if you prefer the football hold. "Also, try lying on your back with your legs elevated against the wall for about 10 minutes every day. It helps."
Boobs feel like a painful box of stones? You're not alone. Engorgement sucks. No pun intended. It can also lead to mastitis. King says, "If the engorgement is leading to a flow problem, a warm, moist compress before nursing, along with gentle hand expression can get the milk flowing. Then, cold compresses may be applied during nursing and afterwards for relief. If it's a persistent problem, and interfering with feeding, you may need to pump off some milk before the baby latches. It tends to self-resolve, though."
Babies can be nippy little jerkfaces, but thankfully, even if your child is part vampire, there's a fix for that. "A lot of babies go through a nipple-biting phase," says King. "The fix is to place your baby finger between their back teeth when they do it, and stop them from feeding. They'll still be able to breastfeed, but won't be able to bite down. Whatever you do, don't pull them off when they're biting, because they'll take your nipple with them." Ouch. Duly noted.
This seems like a dream, but if they're waking up an hour later because they're starving — not so much. King says, "You need to start pushing their feedings a bit earlier by measure, and feeding them as soon as they wake, even if they're being adorably smiley and cuddly. This sets the schedule for the day and prevents early stoppage of feeding."
According to King, this is more common than you think, but like that slice of pie I don't think I want after a big meal, if I get a taste of it, I'm going to eat it. The same rule applies here. "Rub some expressed milk on your nipple and squeeze a few drops into baby's mouth. Their salivary glands will start working and the craving for milk will kick in. It's a sweet treat that's hard to say no to, even if they think playing would be more fun."
"I always tell my moms to treat their nipples like a pro sports player treats sore muscles — creams, heat and cool, and compression. I like Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter ($13 for two pack, Amazon) and then rotating warm and cool compresses, along with a firm bra to provide counter pressure to the affected area. The nipple butter does not need to be rinsed off before nursing, either." (Writer's note: it's also great on chapped lips and noses of babies.)
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