Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, but that’s not to say that the natural way always feels natural and goes without a hitch. There are problems many mothers face when starting to breastfeed their child and other problems develop down the road as new developmental stages develop.
A Poor Latch
The first problem many mothers face is a poor latch. When a baby doesn’t hold the nipple correctly in his mouth, it can be frustrating for the baby who can’t get the food he’s desperately seeking and exquisitely painful for the mother. A poor latch can result in painful breastfeeding and even extremes such as cracked and bleeding nipples.
A lactation consultant or pediatrician can show you the correct way to latch your baby onto the nipple if you are having trouble. Resolve latching issues as quickly as possible as this issue can spell the end to breastfeeding if both mother and baby are overwhelmed and frustrated. When latching, the baby should open his mouth wide to take in the nipple. Almost the entire nipple enters the mouth with the point of the nipple facing slightly up. If your baby latches incorrectly, break the seal his little mouth creates by slipping a pinky between your breast and his mouth and try again. Keep trying until you get it right, otherwise, you’ll be in serious pain and your baby might not get enough to eat.
If your nipples pull in instead of pointing out, your baby might have a hard time getting latched on. You can help resolve this by using a nipple shield. This gives your nipple the shape the baby needs for a correct latch. As the two of you get more familiar with the process over time, you can remove the shield to see if he’s able to latch effectively without it.
When you don’t feed your baby fast enough, or when your body steps up milk production, your breasts will swell with milk until they are hard and painful. If they get too hard, your baby will have a difficult time latching on, but the only real solution is to have your baby nurse or to pump away the extra milk. If your baby can’t latch onto your engorged breast, express some of the milk using your palm to apply pressure on top of the breast. This might reduce the hardness. Once he starts feeding the pressure should continue to reduce. Pumping with a breast pump can reduce the engorgement as well, plus you get milk to store, which is always a plus.
After a few days you might notice that your nipples are chapped and possibly cracking or bleeding. This might have to do with a poor latch if pressure is distributed wrongly, but if your latch is fine, it is more likely due to combination of conditions that causes chapped lips. Baby’s little mouth leaves your nipples wet and the abrasion on your bra or breast pad irritates and dries out the tender skin until it becomes chapped. When this happen, don’t use petroleum jelly as it isn’t safe for your baby. Instead use a product designed for this situation. Lanolin is a product that creates a heavy duty moisture barrier that is safe for baby. Once the chapping is resolved, you can prevent it by continue to use just a dab of lanolin or by allowing your breasts to air dry before putting on your bra after a feeding.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can make you feel sick as if you are having a flu. Redness, heat, swelling and tenderness of the breast are signs of mastitis in a breast. It is normally only in one breast at a time, and you are safe to feed your baby while you have mastitis unless your doctor tells you otherwise. In fact it could be your baby who is causing the infection due to the contact of a foreign body.
Use warm heat on the affected area and have your baby nurse more often. Try to empty the breast completely. If this doesn’t work, see your doctor who will give you antibiotics and prescription. Do not ignore mastitis; it can lead to abbesses in the breast which might require surgery to drain together with very strong antibiotics.