Baby won’t breastfeed? A certified lactation counselor answers questions about the most common breastfeeding problems for new moms.
What can you read in this article?
- Common breastfeeding problems and how to overcome them
- Breastfeeding facts or myths
New moms have a tendency to stress out, overthink, and worry about everything regarding their babies. Can you really blame them? They’re new to this parenting thing, and they only want the very best for their babies. Their anxieties are coming from a good place, especially when it’s about their child’s health and safety.
One of the earliest problems women encounter as new moms have to do with breastfeeding.
They say that breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world (almost like breathing, they say) and that women’s bodies are built to breastfeed their babies. But why is it that a lot of new moms experience a lot of problems at the start of their breastfeeding journeys?
Common breastfeeding problems like engorged breasts, cracked nipples, low milk supply, or simply because baby won’t breastfeed might hinder a woman from having a smooth nursing session with the baby to the point that some even decide to give up right away.
So to help mommies get a better grasp at their new role of being their child’s primary provider of nutrients, we’ve compiled some of the most pressing concerns about breastfeeding and some ways on how to address them.
We’ve also asked Ms. Abbie Yabut, a mom of 5 and a certified lactation counselor in the Philippines (with 17 years of experience and training under her belt) to clue us in on breastfeeding facts and myths, and what to do when we encounter these common breastfeeding problems.
Common breastfeeding problems
Image from Pixabay
1. It hurts when the baby latches on
Your breast milk is a baby’s primary source of nourishment, so, it’s not surprising that your baby is a little overeager to latch on. It’s only natural that your baby would be a little “aggressive” when trying to get food. As a result, you may feel a little pain when the baby latches on.
While you needn’t worry about a slight pain when breastfeeding, there are some ways to make your baby’s quest for nourishment a little more efficient. According to Dr. Diane L. Spatz, Ph.D., a professor of perinatal nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and nurse researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,
“The mother should feel a rhythmic vacuum pressure. The baby has to have a good mouthful of breast.”
Essentially, you should make sure your baby is getting the nipple and breast in the mouth properly.
Fact or myth: You will really feel some discomfort when you breastfeed.
Fact. It will hurt, but it gets better with practice. According to Mommy Abbie, the discomfort in breastfeeding is actually just in the early weeks because the baby’s mouth is small and they’re still learning how to latch, and you as the mom are still new to the whole thing.
But as you become more informed with the proper way to hold baby and guide him on how to latch, you and baby will get the hang of it. Your nipples also shed skin and replaces it with skin that’s more flexible. Mommy Abbie added that the best position for baby to get a good latch is tummy to tummy.
2. Sore/cracked nipples
As a result of nursing, you may find that your nipples have become cracked or sore. This can be due to the fact that your baby isn’t latched on properly. This is completely normal and you certainly aren’t the only one who’s experienced this problem. That said, the problem can be easily resolved.
One way to fix the problem is to rub breastmilk on your nipple and let it air dry. If problems persist, Marianne Pastore, R.N., a nurse and certified lactation consultant at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that nipple creams that contain Lanolin and gel pads can serve as an alternative. Though, her “first recommendation is mom’s own milk.”
Signs that baby is latched on properly
How do you know if your baby is latched on properly (to prevent having sore and cracked nipples) to your breasts? Mommy Abbie describes some of the signs to look out for:
- The upper lip is flanged (some moms describe it as fish lips)
- Cheeks are puffy and round
- The back of the ears are moving, to signify that the baby is swallowing
- The upper throat and lower throat are moving
3. Low milk supply
Many times, moms struggle to produce as much milk as their babies need, or even as much as they expect. Pastore claims,
“Women think they have a problem—baby is eating a lot and they don’t seem to get a break, so they incorrectly think they’re not producing enough milk.”
In cases like this, moms will supplement their baby’s diet with formula. This isn’t a good approach because your body produces milk at an “as needed” pace. So, by switching your baby to formula, you’re actually perpetuating the low supply problem.
If you feel as though your breastmilk supply is low, you should immediately consult your doctor. Don’t cause any more stress to yourself by assuming something’s wrong, though.
When does the body start making milk?
According to Mommy Abbie, the mother starts producing milk in her 20th week of pregnancy. So even if your baby was born premature, your body can already supply her with milk.
“The important thing is the hormone that produces milk is inversely proportional to the pregnancy hormone which is progesterone. It’s automatic – when the baby comes out, the progesterone levels drop and prolactin hormones go up. That’s why you already have milk from day 1 even if you don’t feel it yet,” she explained in Filipino.
How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk? Mommy Abbie said that your baby should be able to pee or poop every day for the first five days after birth. At least one poop and pee every 24 hours to make sure that he is getting the nutrients he needs from breast milk.
Fact or myth? Your pre-pregnancy breast size affects milk production
Myth. According to Mommy Abbie, the size of our breasts has nothing to do with our body’s capability to breastfeed our babies.
“Our breast size depends on fat content. But our lactation modes, our milk producing cells, they are all the same.
They come in different shapes and sizes, but our capability to produce milk is all the same, depending on how often your baby latches and how many kids you have. Even if you have quadruplets, you can still breastfeed them,” she explained.
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4. Engorged breasts
After days of wondering if you actually have enough milk and exhausting all possible ways to increase your supply, milk suddenly comes in overflowing proportion. Before you know it, your breasts start feeling full and heavy, causing you some discomfort and making it harder for baby to latch.
Mommy Abbie recommends expressing your milk (through hand express) when you feel that it’s getting full, and more frequent feedings to prevent engorgement.
“When you feel your breasts getting hard or like there’s some sort of electricity when you touch it, you have to express your milk right away.
Don’t wait for it to be engorged because when that happens, your milk won’t come out because you’re already feeling stressed. So you want to breastfeed regularly to prevent that from happening,” stressed the breastfeeding expert.
Mastitis, in case you didn’t know, is the inflammation of the mammary glands that may result in a feeling of pain and soreness in parts of the breast. It’s a very common occurrence and is certainly no need to overreact.
Like the previous breastfeeding concern, the best way to deal with this problem is to prevent it. Dr. Spatz also recommends avoiding ill-fitting bras and ones with underwires. More importantly, you should be expressing your milk as much as possible to empty out your supply.
“Don’t ever skip breastfeeding or pumping sessions,” she suggests. “The most important thing is to get the milk out—don’t stop breastfeeding.”
If problems persist, speak with your doctor who can prescribe antibiotics that can relieve the problem and is safe for your breastfeeding baby.
Fact or myth? You can’t breastfeed if you’re taking medications
“This is a myth, even if you’re taking medications as long as you tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding, they will give you a breastfeeding safe medicine.
If your doctor feels that he’s not sure (if the medicine is safe for breastfeeding), make sure to contact a lactation professional,” said Mommy Abbie.
Pro-tip: You can check out the medicine tool on our app, which tells you if a medicine is safe for breastfeeding or not. Download theAsianparent app for free on Google Play and the Apple Store.
6. Inverted or flat nipples
One of the common breastfeeding problems why a newborn is having trouble latching is when the mother has flat or inverted nipples. But according to Mommy Abbie, why this may make nursing extra challenging, it’s still possible to breastfeed your baby and thrive at it.
“Latching can be a little difficult, but we have to remember, this is breastfeeding, not nipple feeding.” she reminded.
“Regardless of the shape of your nipple, you can still succeed if you persist. You just have to guide your baby to latch properly. Don’t worry if your nipple is inverted or flat. Give it a week, your nipples will come out and it will definitely be easier.” she added.
Image from Unsplash
Like other things about motherhood, breastfeeding comes with some challenges. However, it’s not a reason to give up right away. The benefits surely outweigh all of the problems that you may encounter at first. Also, remember: it’s a fact that babies naturally know how to breastfeed and that your body is capable of producing milk. So stay the course, mommy. You’ll get there.
And if your baby won’t breastfeed right away or you have other breastfeeding concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your child’s pediatrician for help or consult a certified lactation counselor in your area.
Additional information by Camille Eusebio
Glamour, The Bump, What To Expect
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