About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
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Common Breastfeeding Challenges

We’ve all heard stories about the challenges some women have with breastfeeding –sore nipples, plugged ducts, low milk supply, fungal infections, and so on. Especially when you’re a first-time mother getting used to everything that new motherhood entails, breastfeeding can seem overwhelming. Suddenly these body parts, your breasts, seem to have a life of their own and getting used to their new functionality can take patience, along with a bit of trial and error.

It is important to remember that you are not alone. While breastfeeding is a natural function, it is still a learned skill. Whereas in earlier times, women may have learned from other women in their families, nowadays, more often than not, lactation consultants are filling that purpose for modern mothers.

Sore Nipples

Sore nipples can make breastfeeding painful. There are a couple of key factors to avoiding the problem: making sure your baby has a good latch, and finding positions that enable you to rest comfortably while you’re nursing.

How do you know if your baby has established a “good latch”?

  • The latch will feel comfortable to you, without any pinching.
  • Your baby’s chest is against your body and she does not have to turn her head while drinking.
  • You will see little or no areola.
  • Your baby’s mouth will be filled with breast; she won’t be sucking on just the nipple.

Common Breastfeeding Challenges

You may experience a bit of pain in the beginning, while you and your baby adjust to one another and you find your most comfortable positions. If, after a day or two, you are still experiencing pain, be sure to consult with your lactation consultant. She can help you make the minor adjustments that will ensure your baby is latched on correctly, and help you avoid causing yourself unnecessary abrasions.

Low Milk Supply

Some new mothers become concerned that their babies are not getting enough milk, but this is very rarely the case. You may not be able to judge for yourself, but the key is to let the baby’s own appetite determine how often she is fed and for how long. Regular visits to the pediatrician to check her weight and growth are the best way to determine if your baby is getting enough to eat.

Early on, your breasts may feel engorged, but as you and your baby adjust to each other, your breasts may not feel as full. This does not mean that you aren’t producing enough milk, simply that you and your baby are adjusting to breastfeeding and getting good at it. When your baby experiences a growth spurt, you may find that she is eating more often, or spending more time at the breast. Breast feed often and let your baby decide when she is finished.

Plugged Ducts

It is not unusual to developed a plugged duct at some point when breastfeeding. A plugged duct will feel like a tender lump in the breast. It is not accompanied by fever. It can happen when a milk duct doesn’t drain properly and usually occurs in one breast at a time.

You can help unplug the duct by breastfeeding often on the affected side. This will help loosen the plug and keep the milk flowing freely. You can gently massage the affected area, or apply a warm compress. Get extra sleep or relax with your feet up to speed healing. Often a plugged duct is one of the first signs that a new mother is doing too much. And finally, be sure you have a supportive bra that fits well and is not too tight.

Breast Infection

If you are experiencing soreness with fever or flu-like symptoms, you may have a breast infection, or mastitis. Your breast may feel warm to the touch or appear reddened. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a plugged duct and an infection. Follow the same steps for overcoming a plugged duct, and if you do not experience improvement in a day or two, see your AOA physician.

Fungal Infections (aka Yeast infection or Thrush)

Candida is an organism that exists in our body and is kept in balance by natural bacteria. When this balance is upset, the Candida can overgrow and cause infection. If you develop sore nipples that last more than a couple of days, or if you suddenly get sore nipples after several weeks of pain-free breastfeeding, it may be an infection.

Thrush can be transferred from your baby’s mouth to your breast, or can be caused by a course of antibiotics or steroids. Certain chronic illnesses, like HIV, diabetes or anemia, can also cause thrush.

Candida infections may take several weeks to cure, so it is important to take steps to avoid spreading the infection.

  • Change nursing pads often
  • Wash towels or clothing that comes in contact with the yeast in very hot water
  • Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often
  • Boil pacifiers, bottle nipples and any toys that your baby mouths daily. Discard used items frequently and replace with new ones.
  • Boil daily all breast pump parts that touch milk
  • Make sure the rest of your family is free of any yeast infections. If they have symptoms, make sure they get immediate treatment.

Nursing Strikes

In some cases your baby may have been breastfeeding well for an extended period and suddenly begin to get fussy at the breast, or refuse to nurse altogether. This doesn’t mean that your baby is ready to wean; it is more likely that your baby is trying to let you know that something is wrong. There could be a variety of causes:

  • She could be feeling pain from teething or an infection
  • He may be reacting to a long separation from you or another major change in his routine
  • She could have a cold or stuffy nose that makes it hard to breathe while nursing
  • You could have a reduced milk supply from over-supplementing with bottles or overuse of pacifiers
  • She could be reacting to stress or over-stimulation

How to Cope With a Nursing Strike

  • Try breastfeeding while rocking and in a quiet room free from distractions
  • Try various positions with your bare skin next to your baby’s bare skin
  • Give your baby your undistracted attention and comfort her with extra touching and cuddling
  • Temporarily try another feeding method, such as a dropper or spoon
  • Don’t persist when your baby is frustrated. Stop and try again later.

Most often these are minor challenges that with a little patience and some support from your AOA doctor, pediatrician, or lactation consultant can be overcome. Just keep in mind that while breastfeeding is natural and a great boost for your baby’s immune system, it is a learned skill. Listen to your body and be mindful of your baby’s responses. Get plenty of rest and spend your breastfeeding time with as few distractions as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is a wonderful time for bonding with your baby and with a little help you will be much better able to enjoy the experience.

Learn more about breastfeeding: