We have a guest post from Neve Spicer on common breastfeeding issues and solutions. She and husband, Keane, have two children, advocate respectful parenting, and blog together at WeTheParents.org where she empowers women, supporting them through breastfeeding, and he gets nerdy reviewing the gear that (apparently!) mums and dads need.
“Over the past ten years, there has been a super successful public health campaign letting mums know that “breast is best”. We all know it, right?
What is less well communicated is this: Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. It rarely goes exactly to plan and you’ll invariably face challenges. Sometimes, even the most strong-willed mother will be pushed to the brink of despair.
I am currently breastfeeding my second child. For my first, breastfeeding was a massively stressful ordeal. My milk supply ran low, my baby would scream inconsolably, and then she lost weight. I tried everything. Thankfully, with some great advice and lots of support, I managed to stick with it, exclusively breastfeeding for six months. We got through it!
For my second child, breastfeeding has been a breeze. I put this down partly to nature’s mysterious ways but also to the confidence and experience I gained from my first attempt.
Here are five of the most common breastfeeding problems mums experience – myself included – and the solutions that worked for me.
5 Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions
“My Baby Isn’t Latching Properly”
If your baby is trying for the first time, then skin-to-skin is the most important thing. Get naked! Strip from the waist up and have him just in a nappy. Now recline with him resting on your chest. His natural instinct will be to shuffle down and begin to feed. (If he’s taking a while, you may want to express a little colostrum first and feed him with a syringe until he’s figured it out.)
If your baby has been feeding but you’re not convinced he’s latching properly, then try this: Wait till his mouth is fully open, with his chin pressed into your breast and head tipped back. Direct your nipple to the roof of his mouth. He should now have a good mouthful of areola, not just the nipple. There are plenty of good latch videos online. Take a look and keep practising. I didn’t get it straight away but did eventually.
If you’ve tried all this and it’s still not working, then don’t hesitate to contact your health visitor and arrange to see a lactation counsellor.
“My Nipples are Cracked and Sore”
There can be quite a few reasons for this. First on the checklist is latching. Keep practising. It’s quite normal for you and your baby to take a week or so to get that hang of it.
Another contributing factor could be dry nipples. Remember to wash them only with water. The first remedy to try is breast milk; cover your nipple and leave it on. Your milk has incredible healing properties. If you feel you need something extra, then I recommend trying an organic nipple cream. Don’t put an everyday moisturiser on your nipples as it won’t be suitable for your baby to ingest.
If your cracked nipples persist, then see your GP. It might be thrush which you’ll want to treat quickly.
“I Have Clogged Ducts”
Clogged ducts are caused by milk not draining properly. They often appear as lumps or sore areas on your nipple. It’s important that your breasts are getting drained frequently. Feed on demand and don’t let it go more than two hours between feeds.
Thankfully, blocked ducts are not harmful to your baby as your milk contains natural antibiotics. It can be really painful for you, though. Try a hot compress and whilst the skin is warm give your boobs a good massage.
If you feel achy or feverish, then this is a sign of infection. Contact your doctor straight away.
“My Leaking Boobs are Embarrassing”
Your boobs are finally fulfilling their function as miraculous milk machines! Great, but I’m afraid they now spurt and leak. This means embarrassing wet patches on your chest. Don’t worry though, the solution is simple: breast pads.
Avoid cheap disposal ones. They can get sweaty and are no good for the environment. Mama Designs have bamboo washable breast pads which are ultra-absorbent and very thin. They are soft and discreet, and won’t create waste.
“I’m Nervous About Breastfeeding in Public”
I was too. But trusset me, after a couple of months you won’t give a hoot. You’ll be whipping your boob out in the middle of Tesco without a second thought.
That said, if you’re just starting out, or perhaps you’ve had a funny look from a grumpy shop assistant, then your confidence may be low. Don’t worry, with a bit of planning and practice, you’ll soon be a covert breastfeeding pro. No-one will even notice.
- Master ‘sling feeding’. If you have a baby carrier or sling (which I highly recommend), then practise feeding your baby whilst they are in it. It’s extremely convenient and can be done with complete discretion;
- Cover up (if you want to). Mamascarf is a breastfeeding scarf and nursing cover which allows you to feed with confidence and privacy. It also helps that it is comfortable, offers support and is stylish, to boot;
- Invest in a selection of decent nursing tops. Nowadays, you’ll find them in all styles, for all occasions. They allow you to feed without awkwardly rummaging around and exposing your postpartum belly. Always go for breathable cotton rich tops;
- Practice at home, that way when you’re out and about, you’ll pull breastfeeding off with a smooth and steady confidence.
Breastfeeding is profoundly awesome on many levels, but it can also be tough. It requires dedication, practice and, sometimes, courage. No doubt you’ll be faced with problems and setbacks, but stick with it and keep talking to other mums. Together, we can do it.”