Help! I’m having trouble breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding comes naturally to some mothers and babies but for others it can take time, patience and practice to get it right. Sometimes things don’t go as hoped and mothers may need to overcome obstacles to breastfeed successfully. Here are some ways to help manage common breastfeeding concerns:

Low milk supply

Some mothers worry that they aren’t producing enough milk to support the demands of their growing baby. To help increase your milk supply:

  • Breastfeed frequently, as supply tends to equal demand. Try feeding every two to three hours and at least eight times in a 24 hour period.1 Offer your breast at night as well as through the day.
  • Express to provide further stimulation.1
  • Compress or massage your breasts to assist with good drainage.1
  • Ensure your baby is attaching properly (see ‘attachment problems’ below) otherwise they may not be getting enough milk during a feed.
  • Try to avoid extra feeds from bottles or using dummies, as this may reduce your baby’s need to suck on your breast and reduce your milk production.2
  • Consider taking fenugreek, a herb that can help support healthy breast milk supply in nursing mothers.

Attachment problems

If you experience any pain with breastfeeding, it may mean that your baby isn’t attaching properly. To encourage proper attachment, gently brush your baby’s lips with your nipple. When they open their mouth, quickly move them onto your breast. Your nipple should be pointing towards the roof of their mouth. When your baby is attached properly their chin should be touching your breast, they should have a big mouthful of breast tissue, with more areola visible above their top lip than below their bottom one and their sucking pattern will change from short sucks to long deep sucks with pauses.3 If feeding is painful, gently press your breast away from the corner of their mouth to break the suction and try again.

Breast engorgement

Sometimes breasts can feel very hard and painful as a result of milk building up, which can result in blocked ducts or other problems if not addressed early. It can happen at any time but is most common during the third to fifth day after the birth. Try breastfeeding often and allow your baby to feed for as long as he or she likes to remove the milk and keep it moving freely. Also hand express or pump a little milk to soften your breasts before breastfeeding, and use cold compresses to relieve pain in between feeding.4

Sore nipples

Many mums report that their nipples are sore or tender, which may affect their ability to breastfeed successfully. Try not to delay your feedings as it may cause more pain or reduce your supply. Good attachment is important and changing your position may also help. After breastfeeding, express a few drops of milk and rub onto your nipples as human milk has natural healing and soothing properties. Also change nursing pads often to avoid trapping moisture.4

For further ways to help breastfeeding work for you, contact your midwife or a lactation consultant.

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Published December 5, 2014
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