We know that breastfeeding is natural and best for babies and their mums – health guidelines promote breastfeeding exclusively until bubba is around six months old. However some women find it incredibly difficult to get established or maintain breastfeeding and often feel they have to give up.
QueenBeePure founder and former postnatal nurse, Helen Watson, agrees that breastfeeding can be difficult but says challenges can be overcome with preparation and the right support.
“Your midwife and Plunket nurse should be there to support you and if you still have problems, a lactation consultant can be invaluable. But by far the most important thing is to have support at home for the first six weeks after your bubba is born. It really helps if you can focus on breastfeeding during that time – instead of working, looking after a household and other children – so you can establish breastfeeding and work through any problems you may with it.”
Common breastfeeding problems – and how to overcome them
🔑 Engorged breasts: When your breasts become swollen, hard and sore. Try this: Feeding your baby is the best thing to do, along with expressing a bit of milk under a warm shower. You can also massage around your nipple to ‘push back the milk’, and also use a cold compress (refrigerated cabbage leaves can work wonders!) to relieve soreness and swelling. Note: If you have a temperature or flu-like symptoms, you should check for mastitis (see below).
🔑 Sore nipples: This is probably because your baby is having trouble latching on to your breast. Try this: Reattach your baby with their mouth wide open, like they’re about to take a big bite out of a hamburger! Most of the areola should be covered, rather than just the nipple. Keep trying to correctly reattach if your nipples are sore but take care to break the suction by gently sliding your finger into the baby's mouth first. Note: Don’t use nipple creams – you can express some milk before feeding to lubricate your nipple. Sometimes nipple pain will subside about 30 seconds into breastfeeding. If these tips don’t work, ask an experienced breastfeeder or lactation consultant to observe your latching technique.
🔑 Blocked milk ducts and mastitis: This is caused when the breasts aren’t completely emptied during feeding. Try this: If your breasts feel lumpy, you can gently use long massage strokes while feeding to relieve the pressure and to help empty your breasts properly. Feeding regularly should prevent blocked milk ducts. Note: Mastitis is common (about 20 percent of breastfeeding mums can develop this) and it can be caused by blocked milk ducts. If you feel unwell with a temperature or flu-like symptoms, keep feeding your baby and get help from your midwife or doctor.
👼 Thrush: This is a fungal infection that can cause itching, pain, redness and white spots on your breasts. Try this: Antifungal treatments, available through your midwife, doctor and pharmacy, should clear up thrush. Your baby will need to be treated, too. Note: Sometimes thrush can cause a yeast infection on your baby’s bottom but this can also be treated with antifungal cream.
👼 Tricky nipples: Women with flat or inverted nipples can experience difficulty with breastfeeding. Try this: Nipples can often protrude more during pregnancy but it’s important to remember that your baby shouldn’t be sucking only on your nipples – they should be feeding from your breast (around the areola). Note: A nipple shield might help as long as you’ve got plenty of milk but ask your midwife about this.
👼 Problems with milk supply: Some mums feel like their baby isn’t getting enough milk – they may be feeding often, which is completely normal – or seem unsatisfied. If your baby has plenty of wet and dirty nappies and sleeps well between feeds, they’re likely getting enough milk. Try this: Feed bubba more often and express your milk to increase supply. Lots of skin-to-skin cuddle time can also get your hormones going to make more milk! Note: Establishing a good supply of breastmilk is helped by resting, drinking plenty of fluids and eating a healthy diet.
👼 Sleepy bubba: Sometimes babies can be too sleepy to feed, even though you know they really need to! Try this: Remove your baby from the breast if they fall asleep while feeding and wake them up by burping them. You can also rub their hand, which can encourage them to open their mouth, or gently stroking under their chin, which helps them to start sucking! Note: Newborns can be very sleepy but gradually learn to stay away for longer.
👼 Tongue-tie: This is when the skin between the bottom of the baby's tongue and the floor of their mouth is shorter than usual. This condition affects about 4-11 percent of babies and is usually picked up during health checks. Some babies don’t have any problems with it but others find it difficult to breastfeed. Try this: If you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding, ask your midwife or doctor to check for tongue-tie. Note: Most babies don’t need treatment for this condition but in some cases a small procedure called tongue-tie release can fix the problem.
⭐ “Breastfeeding can be a wonderful bonding experience for both you and your bubba and with the right support and perseverance, can be successful in the long run,” says Helen. “Reach out for all the support you need to get through – you can do it!” ⭐Sources: Health Navigator NZ Ministry of Health NZ World Health Organization