As an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (I.B.C.L.C) with over twelve years of experience I know that mothers can feel overwhelmed as they navigate their breastfeeding journey. I also know that with good support this journey can be full of joy and meaning.
Read on to find out how you can work to overcome the top three breastfeeding challenges!
Problem #1: Finding Reliable Breastfeeding Advice
Well-meaning friends and relatives, Google, and health care providers can offer advice that may not be reliable.
I urge mothers to seek advice from a qualified source. Look for an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. An I.B.C.L.C has gone through thousands of hours of clinical work, dozens of education credits, and lots of exams. It’s the Gold Standard for health professionals who work with breastfeeding women. I also recommend making sure you choose someone who has had experience with your specific concerns. If you cannot find someone in your area then consider a virtual visit with an I.B.C.L.C!
Problem #2: Dealing with Sore Nipples
Breastfeeding should never be painful. In my personal and professional experience, I absolutely acknowledge that there may be tenderness and sensitivity during the early days of breastfeeding.
Babies arrive wanting to feed eight to twelve times per day, many will cluster feed within the first seventy-two hours, and some may need to work through the challenge of nursing on more full, engorged breasts when the milk transitions.
Chances are your breasts and nipples, while designed for this, may not be used to this kind of action. The fibers and tissues of the nipple get pulled and drawn out as both mother and baby learn this newly acquired skill. This type of sensitivity or soreness could last several days but it will ease with time.
However, true pain, the kind of pain that makes a mother anxious about breastfeeding, the kind of pain that involves cracks, bleeding and burning, is not normal.
A good latch is the key to pain-free nursing.
Nursing a baby is called breastfeeding, not nipple feeding. The nipple needs to go deep into the baby’s mouth where it’s protected. We want to bring the baby on from underneath the breast so they’re reaching for it and taking more of the lower areola versus the upper. Looking down at baby, mother should see that the chin is firmly into the breast while a finger can fit between the nose and breast.
Positioning aside, there are a few reasons why baby can’t latch well. Sometimes babies have a tight frenulum or a “tongue tie”. Baby may have had birth trauma or been in a sub-optimal positional lie in the uterus, affecting how they use their mouth and jaw. If they aren’t using their oral anatomy correctly this will cause you pain.
If you are experiencing cracked and bleeding nipples, nipples that change colour after you nurse, or small white blisters on your nipple, I urge you to reach out to an I.B.C.L.C. A Lactation Consultant can guide you to position your baby to breastfeed without pain. They can also assess oral anatomy and direct you towards resources that may be helpful.
Problem #3: Experiencing Low Milk Supply
The number one reason why mothers give up breastfeeding is because they feel they don’t have enough milk for their babies. It’s also why they begin to supplement with formula or move to bottles.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The better the nursing experience and the more milk the baby draws out of the breast, the more milk will be made.
There can be other reasons that milk supply is low. Mothers may have hormonal imbalances, insufficient breast tissue, or other underlying health issues. Mothers may have experienced traumatic birth, or babies may not be latching well, may have oral anatomy issues, and may not feed as often as they need to be fed, all of which can lead to decreased milk supply
Ensuring good milk supply is all about having baby latching well at the breast. It’s also important to stay hydrated and well-nourished when nursing. Nursing demands an additional 500 calories per day!
I urge you to reach out to an experienced I.B.C.L.C. if you are experiencing low milk supply. They can suggest herbal remedies and medications that may also help increase supply.
I hope that some of these solutions to breastfeeding challenges will help you along your journey! Happy nursing and please reach out if you need guidance.
Taya is a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the Toronto area. She is passionate about prenatal breastfeeding education and sees mothers at home, the hospital and in a clinic setting postpartum to help them to reach their breastfeeding goals. She also teaches pre and postnatal pilates and really can’t get enough of babies! She has two daughters, whom she wishes were still babies! Alas, they are growing up too quickly!