Breastfeeding is universally recognized as the best way to feed an infant because it protects mother and infant from a variety of health problems. Even so, many women who start out breastfeeding stop before the recommended minimum of exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Often women stop because common problems interfere with their ability to breastfeed. Luckily, with sound guidance and appropriate medical treatment, most women can overcome these obstacles and continue breastfeeding for longer periods.

Latching pain

It’s normal for your nipples to feel sore when you first start to breastfeed, especially if you’re a first-timer. But if baby has latched and the pain lasts longer than a minute into your feeding session, check the positioning.

Solution

Try to achieve an asymmetrical latch where baby’s mouth covers more of the areola below the nipple rather than above. To reposition him, place your index finger inside baby’s mouth to take him off your breast. Tickle his chin or wait until he yawns so his mouth is wide open and seize your opportunity. (Sandwich the breast as described in the video clip below to shape it to the baby’s mouth.) When he is correctly positioned, his chin and nose touch your breast, his lips splay out and you can’t see your nipple or part of the lower areola.

If baby’s position is correct and latching on still hurts, your nipples may be dry. Make sure to wear loose clothing and avoid washing with soap.

Cracked nipple

Cracked nipples can be the result of many different things: dry skin, pumping improperly, or most likely, latching problems. During the first week of breastfeeding, you may have bloody discharge when your baby is just learning to latch or you are just beginning to pump. 

Solution

Check baby’s positioning — the bottom part of your areola underneath your nipple should be in baby’s mouth. Also, try breastfeeding more frequently, and at shorter intervals. The less hungry baby is, the softer his sucking will be.
As tempting as it is to treat your cracked nipples with anything you can find in your medicine cabinet, soaps, alcohol, lotions, and perfumes are no good — clean water is all you need to wash with. Try letting some milk stay on your nipples to air dry after feeding (the milk actually helps heal them).  If all this fails, try an over-the-counter Mamalait Granules, specially made for nursing mothers.

Clogged/plugged ducts

Ducts clog because your milk isn’t draining completely. You may notice a hard lump on your breast or soreness to the touch and even some redness. If you start feeling feverish and achy, that’s a sign of infection and you should see your doctor. Most importantly try not to have long stretches in between feedings. A nursing bra that is too tight can also cause clogged ducts. Stress (something all new mommies have an over abundance of) can also affect your milk flow.

Solution

Do your best to get adequate rest and try applying warm compresses to your breasts and massage them to stimulate milk movement.

Clogged ducts are not harmful to your baby because breastmilk has natural antibiotics. That said, there’s no reason why you have to suffer. Breastfeeding should be enjoyable for mom and baby.

Engorgement/high milk supply


Engorgement makes it difficult for baby to latch on to the breast because it’s hard and un-conforming to his mouth.

Solution

Try hand-expressing a little before feeding to get the milk flowing and soften the breast, making it easier for baby to latch and access milk. Of course, the more you nurse, the less likely your breasts are to get engorged.

Mastitis

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in your breasts marked by flu-like symptoms such as fever and pain in your breasts. It’s common within the first few weeks after birth (though it can also happen during weaning) and is caused by cracked skin, clogged milk ducts, or engorgement.

Solution

The only sufficient way to treat the infection is with antibiotics, hot compresses, and most importantly, frequent emptying. Use hands-on pumping, making sure the red firm areas of the breast and the periphery are softened. It’s safe and actually recommended that you continue breastfeeding when you have mastitis.

To be continued in the next Vol.
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