Common Breastfeeding Problems and how to cope

Breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding experiences of new motherhood, but it can also be difficult.

Unless you’ve experienced breastfeeding, you might think it’s going to be all smooth sailing, but that’s not always the case.

It’s important to get as much information as you can so you know what to expect and how to deal with potential early breastfeeding issues, in order to try to avoid further difficulties down the track.

Midwife and lactation consultation Lois Wattis sheds some light on some of the more common breastfeeding problems and how to cope them.

The most common problem encountered by new mothers is nipple tenderness, pain and unfortunately, nipple injury.

Every mother and baby are a unique pair.  No two mothers have identical breasts and nipples, and babies’ mouths, tongues and appetites vary too.

It only takes a short time having a baby breast feeding with a “not quite perfect” latch to cause the mother nipple discomfort and injury.

Once the nipple is hurt the mother naturally becomes anxious about latching baby again and needs good guidance, support and reassurance to ‘trouble shoot” and overcome nipple pain and attachment problems.

The second most common time for breastfeeding problems to arise is when the mother’s milk comes in.

Women are often unprepared for how full and tender their breasts become for a day or two, and latching baby to release the milk can be problematic if parents are not aware of appropriate strategies and techniques to employ.

Over-the-phone advice is often all that is needed in this scenario but if over-fullness is not effectively managed it can quickly lead to blocked ducts and mastitis.

Not nice, and very debilitating and discouraging for the vulnerable new mum.

Other problems that commonly arise are “delayed lactogenesis II” or the milk coming in later than expected, which may lead to supplementing the baby with formula in the interim.

Expert help from a Lactation Consultant can assist the establishment of a good breast milk supply even when the mother and baby get off to a slow or wobbly start but starting ‘formula top-ups” without expert support can also be the beginning of the end of a fledgling breastfeeding relationship.

Where should Mums turn when they begin to have trouble?

Mums-to-be will benefit by attending a breastfeeding session with a breastfeeding expert such as a Lactation Consultant or ABA Counsellor before baby is born.

This provides an understanding of the fundamentals of positioning and attachment and prepares parents for the normal physiological adaptations which both mother and baby go through in the first week or so.

When baby is born the midwives in hospital are there to help with essential breastfeeding skill development, and most maternity hospitals also have a Lactation Consultant to advise about complex problems.

If problems arise after discharge from hospital the ABA Helpline is a good frontline resource 1800 686 268, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are available to attend private home visits or provide Skype consultations for mothers in more remote areas.

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