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They say you’re not supposed to cry over spilled milk… unless it’s spilled breast milk, right? That stuff is liquid gold.
While you may not have spilled any breast milk, you’ve likely shed a few tears over the breastfeeding process. You’re not alone — and you’re certainly not the first to wonder whether breastfeeding should be this dang difficult and if it will ever get easier.
Let’s look at some common frustrations you may have about breastfeeding — and no, voicing your frustrations doesn’t mean you love your precious little one any less. It just means you’ve come to the right place for help.
There are many potential causes of pain during breastfeeding, from poor latch to mastitis. So is it normal? Not in the sense that you shouldn’t get it checked out. But it is common.
If you’re feeling pain during breastfeeding, it may be helpful to attend a breastfeeding support group or visit a lactation consultant who can help with latch and identify other possible problems and solutions for your pain.
If you’re running a fever, have a hard lump, or are otherwise showing signs of infection, see your medical provider. They can diagnose any potential illnesses and provide medications if necessary.
Letdown is a normal reflex that releases milk from the breast. Some women find that they have a very strong letdown reflex, while others find that they struggle to let down their milk.
If you have a stronger letdown, using a laid-back position while nursing may help the flow of milk come a little slower. (Bonus — what new parent doesn’t want to take every opportunity to recline?)
Also, using a Haakaa or other milk storage device on the breast not currently being nursed may mean you can store milk without pumping at other times.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling to achieve letdown while using a pump, try looking at pictures of your baby or get a massage and some extra sleep if possible. Anything that gets you relaxed and feeling the love will get your milk flowing, too!
A tongue tie (think band of tissues under the tongue) may be limiting the ability of your infant’s tongue to move around and get that perfect latch. In this case, it’s important to talk with a lactation consultant and your doctor.
The lactation consultant may be able to help you find breastfeeding positions that work for you and your child. Your doctor may be able to remove the tongue tie or help develop a plan to supplement your child’s food intake while you work with the lactation consultant on latching.
Just like breast pain, there are many potential reasons for sore nipples from poor latch to thrush to a tight bra that rubs (remember that the girls have grown!).
If you have sore nipples, consider meeting with a lactation consultant to discuss your nipple pain. You can also try some breast milk or nipple balm on your nipples after feeding sessions in the meantime.
It’s important to remember that breastfeeding is a learned skill for mom and baby! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the perfect latch isn’t always immediate, either.
Getting the right latch can require patience, practice, and the right position. Without the right latch, breastfeeding can be painful and milk may not transfer well.
If you’re having trouble with getting a pain-free latch, consider seeking out a local breastfeeding support group or contacting a lactation consultant. Your body and baby will thank you!
Leaking milk is a common result of the letdown process — and you may feel like it just isn’t a good look if it happens out in public. So how can you limit this?
Letdown can be brought on by a bra rubbing on the breasts, milk volume increasing in the first few weeks, or even just going longer than usual between feeds. Finding a comfortable bra can help, and you may need to pump between feedings.
But if you find yourself leaking, don’t fret it — you can quickly cross your arms across your chest, applying gentle pressure to the breast area. Another option is to pop breast pads into your bra to soak up the extra milk. (And believe us when we say this happens to most breastfeeding mamas on occasion and is no cause for shame.)
A major reason for low milk supply is that milk isn’t being drained out of the breast often enough. Breasts produce milk on a supply and demand theory — so the more often your baby or pump is demanding the milk, the more your breasts will supply!
To help make sure your breasts are draining, you can pump after breastfeeding your baby or add extra pump sessions to your day if exclusively pumping. We know extra pumping may not be what you wanted to hear, but your efforts will be rewarded.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast that frequently develops when milk ducts become clogged — that is, when milk stays in the breast for a prolonged time. It can also occur if bacteria enters through cracks or sores on the breast.
Redness and hard swelling in the breast along with fever are indicators that you may have mastitis or another type of breast infection. See your doctor if you develop these symptoms, because you may need antibiotics to be good as new again.
You can also get thrush — a yeast infection — on the breast and nipple region during breastfeeding. Symptoms include pain, itchiness, and white or shiny skin around the breast and nipple area.
Because thrush can be passed back and forth between the breast and baby’s mouth, it’s important to get treatment from the doctor for both you and your little one.
This will likely involve an antifungal medication, sterilization of anything going into baby’s mouth (we’re looking at you, binky), and possible lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of future yeast infections.
By now you probably know that engorgement — swelling of breast tissue due to increased milk supply and blood flow — isn’t just likely, it’s expected in the first days after giving birth.
This is the natural result of milk volume increasing to feed your baby. So it’s a good thing, we promise. But it’s also uncomfortable.
Engorgement can also occur at other times if the breast isn’t being emptied of milk frequently enough. And if breasts remain in an engorged state, pain and clogged milk ducts can develop. Unlike the expected engorgement immediately after delivery, this isn’t a good sign.
To help with engorgement, you can apply hot packs to your breast before feedings to help draw out the milk and cold packs after the feeding to help with swelling. Draining the breasts more regularly and making sure to empty milk from all parts of the breast can also help with engorgement.
Bottle feeding and breastfeeding require different tongue movement, so it’s no surprise that some babies start to prefer one or the other.
To help ensure that your child doesn’t develop a preference (sometimes called “nipple confusion“), keep both types of feedings intimate, calm, and similar in process. It’s also a good idea to avoid bottles and pacifiers for the first 4 to 6 weeks of life — if you can — to help establish breastfeeding.
Does your kiddo already prefer the bottle? It may be necessary to decrease the amount of bottles you offer to encourage breastfeeding. If they prefer breastfeeding, you may want to try having someone else (your partner, a trusted family member or friend, etc.) offer them the bottle.
As we’ve already alluded to, if your milk gets stuck in a milk duct, you may have pain and swelling. A bra that fits you too tightly or not fully draining your breasts frequently enough may lead to this. It can also happen outside of your control.
Luckily, increasing the frequency of feedings or pumping sessions — particularly on the breast with the clogged duct — and some massages in a warm shower can usually do wonders to solve this problem. If the clogged duct doesn’t improve, talk to your doctor.
All babies have an occasional meltdown, but it can be hard when it seems like your baby is being extra fussy during breastfeeding. This fussiness may be due to tiredness, hunger, poor latch, and more.
Try to soothe your baby before attempting a latch and seek help from an expert if you feel like your baby is struggling to get the right latch. If the fussiness is falling during a growth spurt for your baby, your baby may just need to cluster feed. In that case, remember that this too shall pass!
Babies need a lot of sleep! But if your baby keeps falling asleep mid-feed, it’s important to try to keep them awake — both so they get enough milk and also so your breasts have the opportunity to clear out the milk ducts.
To keep your baby awake, try to make them slightly less comfortable — by gently blowing on them, raising their arm and kissing their hand, changing their diaper, or even undressing them.
If your baby is falling asleep, refusing to eat, and not producing wet diapers, check with your pediatrician right away.
While breastfeeding can be empowering and offer special bonding time with your child, there are times when it can feel frustrating and just plain overwhelming. It’s important to know that there are supports and resources to help in these moments.
Local breastfeeding support groups offer the opportunity to come together with other breastfeeding moms who understand.
And of course, whenever anything just doesn’t feel right, reach out to a lactation consultant or your doctor — they’re there to help.