5 Common Breastfeeding Problems – And How To Fix Them

While breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing, it can come with it’s challenges if a mother doesn’t get the right support at the right time.

8 out of 10 women in the UK stop breastfeeding before they want to* and it’s often due to facing feeding challenges and not knowing how to deal with them. 

*2010 Unicef UK Infant Feeding Survey

Read on to learn about five common breastfeeding problems and how to get the right help and fix them:

Painful/Cracked Nipples

While this is common, any pain when breastfeeding or cracked sore nipples is NOT normal, and is often caused by a shallow latch. 

The reason why it’s common in the early days is because new mums are learning how to breastfeed. No one is expected to be an expert in feeding straight away – it’s a learned skill, and takes a little time to understand how to hold your baby correctly and help them to latch effectively. 

It's a common misconception that breastfeeding is supposed to be painful, and many new mums expect it and soldier through painful feeds, thinking it’s normal.

While it may feel a little uncomfortable initially as you get used to a baby sucking on your nipples so frequently, it shouldn't be painful, and there certainly shouldn’t be any nipple trauma.

This is always a sign that something needs tweaking or improving, and so getting skilled feeding support can help to reduce and remove any pain you’re experiencing.

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A Shallow Latch

Achieving a deep latch is so important to get right. If your baby is not latched well at your breast, they won’t be able to transfer milk effectively.

This not only means that your baby may be slow to gain weight as they aren’t consuming enough milk, but it can also reduce your milk supply. The more milk you remove from your breasts, the more you continue to make. The less milk you remove from your breasts, the less you make.

So it can become a slippery slope of making less and less milk, but the good news is that it can be rectified with the right support. A feeding specialist can conduct a feeding assessment and help you to improve positioning and latch to ensure your baby is feeding effectively and thriving.

Incorrect Positioning

Without the correct positioning, babies can struggle or find it impossible to latch deeply at the breast. They don’t have enough muscle developed to hold them close enough to latch, so they need a lot of help.

There are many recommended positions, and I advise giving a few a go to see which works for you, as all mothers are different. But there are specific principles in positioning, regardless of which one you use, that support a deep latch, so learning how to hold your baby correctly whilst breastfeeding is crucial to breastfeeding successfully.

1-to-1 support in the first hours, days and weeks to assess you and make sure positioning is correct is incredibly beneficial to not only feeding effectively but also for boosting your confidence and increasing knowledge. There are lots of helpful images online, but having someone with you to make suggestions for improvement is invaluable.

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Low Milk Supply

Sadly, concerns about milk supply are a very common reason why so many mothers stop breastfeeding before they want to. A common phrase I hear is: “My milk just disappeared overnight”, but it’s often an unaddressed feeding challenge that caused your breasts to make less and less milk. 

There’s always a reason for the low milk supply, and sadly many mums never find out what that reason was; they just think they couldn’t make enough. I strongly recommend seeking feeding support if you have any concerns about your milk supply to help you find the root cause of your supply issues.

It could be something as simple as a tweak in positioning to help your baby achieve a deep latch and transfer milk more effectively. But, it could also be something that requires further referral and investigation, such as a tongue tie that is preventing your baby from maintaining a good latch. Regardless, you deserve the right support to get to the bottom of your low milk supply.

Oversupply

There are several reasons why you may have an oversupply. When you give birth, your body doesn’t know if you’ve had one, two, three or more babies, so in the early weeks, it’s common for your breasts to make more milk than you need. Frequent, responsive feeding is the best way to settle your supply back down to match your baby’s needs.

An oversupply can also happen if you’re additionally or solely pumping and you’re removing far more milk than your baby needs – this often happens when a mum is trying to grow her freezer stash, especially if she’s planning a period of time away from her baby. 

But, unfortunately, with an oversupply comes an increased risk of developing uncomfortable engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis. So it’s important to listen to your body and remove a little bit of milk when you feel engorged – not huge amounts that will overstimulate your milk production, but just until you have relieved your discomfort. 

An oversupply can also cause a forceful let down and a faster flow of milk due to the breasts being so full of milk, and this can be overwhelming for your baby. Achieving a deep latch can really help your baby to manage the flow of milk until your supply settles, as well as leaning back when feeding to help the milk flow to work against gravity. If you don’t see any improvements within the first few months, seek skilled feeding support to help you with your oversupply.

If you are trying to grow your freezer stash, don’t go overboard and picture just a few additional containers of milk rather than dozens and dozens. If you do need a specific amount because you’re going to be away from your baby, try to grow your freezer stash slowly with one or two additional pumping sessions a day rather than a rapid increase in milk removal in a short period of time.

Lydia Emmanuel-Desir is a speaker at The Baby Show, find out more information here

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