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Top 10+ Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, Edited By: Manisha Gogri, Oct 2020

my baby have a tongue tie

We commonly hear new mums complaining "Breastfeeding is supposed to be a natural process, why can't we achieve it easily?.” They feel so dejected and unsatisfied with their breastfeeding journey that they come to a breaking point.

They are unable to experience this beautiful journey. Hence, they reluctantly switch to other means like giving bottles and formula milk to their infants to ensure optimal weight gain and nutrition.

No doubt breastfeeding is instinctual as the baby roots and latches onto the breast. But sometimes there are lactation problems, and this process requires assistance and help from an expert like a lactation consultant (IBCLC).

Every mother and baby is unique and their struggle with breastfeeding could be different. Based on the encounters and experiences faced by mothers, we have briefly covered the most common breastfeeding problems and the solutions for them.

Problems with Breastfeeding (And Their Solutions)

1) Painful and Sore Nipples: - "It is extremely painful when my infant latches, and I get bruised/bleeding nipples at times"

Most women with this condition report the sensation of pins and needles in the first 30 seconds of nursing, which may continue to worsen if not treated for a prolonged period. There are chances that your sore nipples may heal, but persistent pain can lead to nipple injury. This is vastly due to poor latching or if the nursing position is incorrect.

Solution - A lactation consultant can help you improve the lactation problem and correct the feeding position. This will make your breast less sore and painful. Apply expressed breast milk on the nipples to promote healing. Also, if the symptoms do not subside, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed such as a tight tissue of the tongue or lip .

2) Breast Engorgement (Swollen Breasts): - "I’m engorged with way too much milk and feel like exploding!"

Women may feel breast fullness 3 days after the delivery when the milk production kicks in. The milk is formed in generous quantity, leading to swollen breasts that are often painful. Breast engorgement may make it harder for the baby to latch on to the large, hard breasts. The fullness usually lasts up to a few days/weeks, or up until the body adjusts the milk supply according to the baby’s needs. Engorgement can also happen if there are long intervals during feeding or if the baby isn’t able to empty the breast due to some latching or sucking troubles.

Solution - Gently massage and compress the breasts in between feeds. Try a warm compress before breastfeeding and cold compress after to reduce swelling. Try expressing milk if the breast hasn’t emptied enough. You can switch positions to alleviate pain or switch to a well-fitted nursing bra. Visit an IBCLC or lactation consultant to check for reasons why the baby isn't breastfeeding well.

3) Poor Breastfeeding Latch: - "My baby has latching issues".

This is probably the most common breastfeeding issue that we have seen and heard. The newborn baby needs to find a good latch on both the nipples and the areola so that the milk ducts underneath can maintain a steady flow of milk. The best part, when the baby has a good latch, you would get to know instantly as their chin and tip of the nose would touch the breast, and their lips would be flanged out.

Solution - Adjust the angle and position of the baby to ensure a better latch. Try different feeding positions with the help and advice of a lactation consultant. If this doesn't help, check with a pediatric dentist who specialises in tongue function to check for interference due to tongue ties or lip ties.

4) Leaking Breasts: - "My breast is leaking at odd times!".

The first few weeks of nursing could cause your breast to leak more often as the milk supply & demand runs a little off schedule. Leaking breast is a common problem with breastfeeding and can be triggered when your baby cries or when you think about them.

Solution - This condition improves within the first 5 to 6 weeks after the baby’s milk feeding schedule gets better. During this time, you can try products like nursing pads (use the disposable and cotton ones to prevent irritation). You may also use breast pumps during this period, but this can stimulate more milk. Once the feeding time is set, you can apply hand pressure to express and let go of excess milk.

5) Plugged (Blocked) Milk Ducts: - “My breasts have become red and swollen”-

Plugged milk ducts are small, hard lumps that form inside your breasts. It leads to clogs that block the tiny milk ducts, making the area around it swollen, tender and painfully red. These plugged ducts are harmless and more likely to disappear within a few days.

Solution - An ideal solution to this breastfeeding issue is to correct your baby’s latching, which would help the milk to flow efficiently. Breastfeeding more often can also prevent plugged ducts. Start your nursing from the plugged or clogged duct, as the strong sucking force of your baby, in the beginning, may unplug it. Alternating between breasts may help drain all the milk. Whereas, switching to different position also helps in targeting the particular area where the plugged duct is.

6) Mastitis- “My breast is enlarged, tender and has red dots”

This is a common breastfeeding problem that women experience in the first few weeks after delivery. Mastitis is a breast infection that feels like a clogged duct, but is accompanied by fever or flu-like symptoms. Your breasts may feel warm to the touch and can cause muscle & breast pain. The trapped milk inside your breast may get infected.

Solution - Apply a hot compress to the clogged duct or massage it lightly under a hot water shower and nurse frequently. Try emptying the breast after every feed to avoid engorged ducts. If symptoms do not resolve within 24-48 hours, contact your doctor for further examination and treatment.

7) Thrush Infection - "I can feel a shooting pain in my breasts".

If your nipples are turning pink or burning or turning crusty, there is a high possibility that you may be suffering from a yeast infection. While it is still not certain if you may transfer the Thrush to your baby, one of the early symptoms of Thrush to look for in your baby's mouth would be yellow or white irregularly shaped patches on the gums or the roof of the mouth.

Solution - If you suspect Thrush, contact your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor would suggest an anti-fungal ointment or gel for the infection. After applying, remember to clean the ointment completely before nursing the baby. You could also try out the anti-fungal pills while breastfeeding and get your baby’s Thrush treated.

8) Baby falls asleep while nursing - "My baby falls asleep during nursing".

When babies fall asleep during nursing, the mother always wonders if they are properly fed. Newborn babies tend to sleep a lot during the first few weeks. However, even though it's common, it may be a sign that they are not getting enough milk (due to insufficient sucking, etc) as the process of nursing tends to keep the baby active.

Solution - Ensure your baby is comfortable and not overdressed in layers as warmth + breast milk can induce sleep. Gently stroke your baby's face/ear during breastfeeding to activate sucking. If the nursing continues for long hours and the baby still gets tired & frustrated at the breast, get the baby examined by the IBCLC for any tight frenulums. These may prevent the baby from getting his reward (i.e the milk) despite him/her trying their best to suck, leading to tiredness that results in falling asleep while feeding.

9) Milk Bleb/blister - "I think I have a milk blister".

A milk blister/bleb is a growth of a small area of skin over the milk duct opening. These are caused when the nipple pores get clogged, causing the milk supply to become hard and thick. This, in turn, blocks the flow of breast milk near its opening. These blisters are usually white & yellow spots over the nipples, and the surrounding area may turn red & inflamed, causing a pinpoint sensation during nursing.

Solution - The blisters may disappear within the first two days. To heal faster, you could use a damp warm cloth on your breast before nursing. This helps the bleb to open up while suckling. Also, do not try to open the bleb by yourself as this could cause an infection. If these steps don’t work out, visit a doctor who would clean the blister via a needle.

10) Baby keeps biting - "My child constantly chews on my nipples".

A baby tends to bite if he isn’t able to get a good latch. As the kids grow, they will try out their newly developed gums and teeth on the breasts. While this is normal, not many are aware that a baby can’t bite while actively breastfeeding. Biting usually happens when they are taking breaks during nursing or if they want your attention.

Solution - Continue working on getting a good latch and correct the feeding position. Many breastfeeding experts also recommend that when a baby bites, you could gently take them off your breasts and calmly tell them not to bite. If you continue doing this every time the baby bites, the baby will soon stop this habit during feeding. If this doesn't help, book an appointment with a lactation consultant or paediatric dentist who specialises in tongue function to check for interference due to the tongue ties or lip ties.

11) Low Milk Production - "I have a reduced milk supply".

A common breastfeeding issue, one should understand that breastfeeding is a demand and supply process. A low breast milk supply can also generate fear and frustration in new mothers.

Solution - If you truly have a reduced milk supply and your baby's weight gain is a concern, you can consult with a lactation consultant, who might suggest taking supplements to increase the supply. To adjust to the demand-supply process, avoid using bottles and formulas. Another reason might be the baby is not suckling right to withdraw enough milk. For this, get the baby examined by the IBCLC for any tight frenulums, which may prevent the baby from suckling well..

12) Baby is restless and gassy - "My baby is very restless and gassy".

If the baby is swallowing in more air due to a poor latch or sucking quality, it may often cause air induced reflux and a colicky baby. Babies also have an immature gastrointestinal (GI) system, which may lead to frequent gas issues. Due to this, the baby may become restless. However, the gas may be harmless.

Solution - Since this generally happens when your baby swallows more air than milk, you need to burp your baby after every meal. Also, get the baby evaluated by the IBCLC for any other underlying issues. Please avoid giving any reflux medicines as they have proven to be harmful to the baby's bone density.

Conclusion

These are a few common problems with breastfeeding that mothers face during their early breastfeeding journey.

NOTE: This list can be treated as a resource and not a self-diagnosing tool.

If you have breastfeeding issues, the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND DO NOT LET THIS GET YOU DOWN!

We encourage you to reach out to a lactation consultant or a paediatric dentist with advanced specialisations in tongue or lip ties and have a holistic and team approach towards you and your babies breastfeeding problems.

We would be more than happy to help and assist you through your breastfeeding journey!
#breastfeedingawareness