For me, breastfeeding was hard, painful, and nothing like how I envisioned. And because nursing is something you have to experience to understand, I didn't know which parts were normal, which symptoms were not a big deal, and when I needed to get professional help. To make matters worse, I received different and sometimes conflicting information from the internet, my friends, and my baby’s doctor about what was normal and what shouldn't happen when you’re breastfeeding. Yay parenthood, right?
Fortunately, once you get past the first couple of months, breastfeeding does — at least in theory — get easier. You also have a larger opportunity to figure out what's normal for you and your baby. In the meantime, though, it's helpful to know what red flags you should look out for, especially in terms of overall breastfeeding health and wellness. For example, according to the Fed is Best Foundation, while your baby might eat frequently when they are going through a growth spurt or during their "fussy" time of day, in the early days this so-called cluster-feeding can be a sign that they aren't getting enough to eat. And while the Mayo Clinic notes that pain during breastfeeding can be normal, they also tell new moms that if their breasts are red or hot to the touch they might have mastitis — a condition that requires medical treatment. Having some anxiety as a new mom is super-common, too, but if you feel dread every time you let down, you might have Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER), according to D-MER.org — a condition caused by changes in hormones during nursing.
While all of these potential diagnosis sound scary and overwhelming, the good news is that many breastfeeding problems are temporary, as long as you know what to look for and when to get help. And if you decide to stop breastfeeding, that's totally OK, too.