Common Breastfeeding Problems and how to cope

Nearly all new mums choose to breastfeed their baby from birth here in Australia. Breastfeeding can be easy as pie from the beginning for some women yet for others it takes quite a bit of support and help to get breastfeeding off to a good start.

The most common breastfeeding problems some mums struggle with is the pain from sore nipples early on. This is often caused by a baby not yet attaching correctly to the breast. When a baby is not attached correctly they cannot drain the milk from your breast very well, often leaving them wanting to feed more frequently. If the baby is not well attached on your breast, it means the nipple and areola are in a position in the baby’s mouth which causes damage to the nipples.

Incorrect attachment to the breast can happen for a variety of different reasons;

  • Breastfeeding is a new skill to learn for all of us and practice makes perfect.
  • It is definitely normal for there to be tenderness in the first week when starting out with breastfeeding, but this should have stopped by the second week.
  • Getting good help from early on is really important to help you and your baby get into a good breastfeeding pattern without causing further damage or pain to your nipples and ensuring your baby is getting enough milk.

Other mums may need more help and advice when they return to work so they can understand the best way to keep breastfeeding and introduce expressed milk to their baby.

And for some mums, they may have had a difficult introduction into motherhood and are trying to increase their milk supply and get breastfeeding off to a good start. They may have experienced engorgement or a baby who is not yet ready to go onto the breast.

There can be a whole host of reasons why you should absolutely seek out more support. Often many women suffer in silence and only seek help once things get really bad!

As a lactation consultant I’ve had many women ring me for advice and say “you need to fix this today or else I’m stopping breastfeeding!” Some changes with breastfeeding may take a few days or weeks. This can make it super hard for the breastfeeding health professional to help fix the problem.

By sorting out breastfeeding problems early, it means preserving and building your milk supply at the right time, getting babies breastfeeding comfortably before bad damage has occurred to your nipples, and preventing you needing to bottle feed your baby for lots of feeds, and risking them not wanting to go back onto the breast.

Unfortunately we can hear so many horror stories of breastfeeding, it might feel like they outweigh the good ones sometimes. Don’t be fooled breastfeeding is absolutely possible and can be the most amazing thing ever! But as with most issues or difficulties in life, nipping them in the bud early on makes solving the problem so much easier.

Never feel afraid or embarrassed to ask for help as the longer you leave the problem the harder it may be to solve. So utilise all the available help out there. We can all do with a pat on the back to let us know we are doing the right thing every so often and that’s why breastfeeding support groups are not only for when you are having problems; they are who you celebrate the good days with and the challenging ones.

Where can you get the best Breastfeeding Support?

Antenatal Breastfeeding education:

A great idea for all mums-to-be is to find a breastfeeding class through their local hospital or the Australian Breastfeeding Association. It’s always a good idea to be as well prepared as you can before baby arrives!

Hospital Midwives:

Once your baby is born you will get lots of help from the midwives in the hospital or at home. Most hospitals offer midwifery home visits in the first week home as well. Ask your hospital if they have lactation consultants on staff, if they do they probably run a breastfeeding clinic which you can attend once you have left the hospital, for help with any difficulties.

Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) Helpline:

Once you are at home the Australian Breastfeeding Association is fabulous resource. They have a 24 hour helpline (1800 686 268) for access to immediate phone help from one of their counsellors. ABA also run breastfeeding support groups in your local area.

Maternal and Child Health Nurse line:

This 24 hour phone service (13 22 29) puts you in direct contact with a Maternal Child Health Nurse for any concerns about yourself or baby.

Your Maternal and Child Health Nurse will contact you in the first 14 days of your baby’s birth and will inform you about their local centres and clinic which they run for all parents and babies. You can contact your council to find out where your local centre is.

Private Lactation Consultants:

If you would like to have a private International Board Certified Lactation Consultant visit or tele-health consultation you can find one in your local area here.

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