Mothers who choose to breastfeed are actually giving their babies the best start in life. Breast milk contains not only the right amount of nutrients, but more importantly, it has antibodies that can boost a baby’s immune system. Breast milk is definitely a complete package for babies. However many new or experienced mothers, may encounter breastfeeding problems at some point. Here are three of the most common breastfeeding problems along with ways on how to address them:
1. Breast Engorgement
A few days after birth, the breasts normally produce milk for the baby. When the milk comes in, your body also pumps extra blood and other fluids, which then cause swelling of the breast tissue. Early engorgement is common because a newborn may still have an irregular breastfeeding routine. Basically, breast engorgement occurs due to the imbalance of milk supply and infant demand. Aside from initial engorgement, it can also occur when you suddenly do not breastfeed, or pump as much as usual.
What you can do: Start breastfeeding the soonest time that you can. When you can’t express milk due to engorgement, apply cold compresses to decrease swelling and to open ducts. Before nursing, apply warm compress to your breasts for a couple of minutes, to promote milk flow. You can also try to empty your breasts with each feeding. When your baby is no longer sucking eagerly, it is already an indication that you need to move to the other breast. Manually express milk from your breasts, if your baby is already full before your breasts are empty.
2. Sore Nipples
Aside from sore nipples, a lot of women may notice that their nipples are red and pointy after each feeding. This is actually an indication that your baby is not properly latched on. When your baby has difficulty feeding, he or she will try to exert more effort at sucking. This may result to damaged and sore nipples.
What you can do: Always make sure that your baby is properly latched on during every feeding. With proper latch on, your nipple should end up in the back of your baby’s mouth. It is recommended that your baby should at least take in one inch of your areola into the mouth. When you feel pain the moment you start breastfeeding, break the latch on by inserting a finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth. Then try to latch your baby properly on your breast. Wash your breasts with plain water and avoid the use of soaps. Soaps may cause drying and further irritation. You may also use creams that are indicated for inflamed nipples.
3. Painful Lumps or Plugged Ducts
Even with proper latching on, you may still notice plugged ducts. A plugged duct is a part of your breast, where the flow of milk is obstructed. A woman may feel a hard lump on her breast, which is accompanied by pain, tenderness, or swelling. Some women may only feel the discomfort, without any noticeable lump on the breast.
What you can do: Warm showers may help unblock milk ducts. You may also apply warm and wet compresses on the area affected, for at least 10 minutes a couple of times a day. Massage the affected area before and while you are breastfeeding. Try to nurse from the affected breast first, and use different positions for breastfeeding. It is also very important to breastfeed more frequently.
Since mastitis is an infection which may be caused by a blocked milk duct, you need to consult your health care provider, especially if you notice that you have fever, fatigue, or your may be exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Although an infection may sound alarming, it is completely safe to continue breastfeeding during this time.
If you are encountering problems with breastfeeding, consult a lactation counselor so that you will be guided accordingly. Breastfeeding problems can indeed occur, but it is still worth all the effort. After all, breast milk is still nature’s best food for babies.