Breastfeeding is such a controversial topic these days. Should you breastfeed? Should you not? Does it really even matter? There are lots of Surprising Benefits of Breastfeeding. But, we’re not here to talk about that today! This article is for you if you’re a breastfeeding mom or an expecting mom planning to breastfeed; these are the breastfeeding challenges you need to know about!
My breastfeeding challenges & struggles
When my son was born, we had the rockiest start to breastfeeding. And truth is, before his birth, I was on the fence of breastfeeding. Although it was a natural process, the thought of it felt far from natural.
After my son’s birth, he spent some time immediately in the NICU while I was stuck in my own room, admitted, on IV Medications every couple hours. I was pumping like crazy to get any milk to come in & trying my hardest to see my son whenever I could.
He wouldn’t latch and needed to eat in order to get off of his IV therapies so we gave the OK to start formula feeding. And please know, I have NOTHING against formula feeding! I was just very determined & saddened by the thing I was afraid to from the get-go – and felt like I was completely failing at it.
Cue the culprit: The Tongue Tie In Babies
We went 12 long weeks of my son not wanting to breastfeed, or he’d latch but constantly unlatch, he’d fall asleep at my breast, and make lots of clicking sounds. He even started clenching his gums so tight I developed bruises and lots of pain. We’d been seeing a Lactation Consultant through our insurance who sadly, didn’t provide much help.
During the 12th week, I had noticed my breastfeeding supply wasn’t much & that I mentally couldn’t do it anymore. I sought help from an outside IBCLC as a last-ditch effort. She helped us discover that our son had a Tongue Tie & a Lip Tie! I had never even heard of that before this finding.
After much research & consulting with our IBCLC, we opted to get it repaired. After the laser frenotomy and 4 long weeks of recovery, we FINALLY mastered our breastfeeding latch!
This my story about my biggest breastfeeding challenge, however, I’ve faced many other common breastfeeding challenges along the way; such as:
- Breast engorgement
- Painful breastfeeding (due to latch issues)
- Breastmilk supply drop
- (ALMOST) Mastitis
That’s my story. My struggles. My triumphs with breastfeeding and I’m happy to share at 10 months were still going strong! But ENOUGH about me and my story, let’s move into some tips to help you tackle these breastfeeding challenges!
Common Breastfeeding Challenges
What is Breast Engorgement?
Breast engorgement is simply when your breasts are extremely full of breast milk. It’s much more common during the beginning stages of when your breastmilk comes in and in the early few weeks until a breastmilk supply is established.
The most common feeling is a feeling of heaviness, throbbing or sharp throbbing throughout the breast which can extend to the armpit region.
My best tips to relieve engorgement (and what worked for me best) is to place a very warm towel or heat pack across the top of your breast and leave it for 5-10 mins. After, hand express some of the milk out to “soften your breast”. Then either pump or latch baby to breastfeed.
I never tried this other tip, but I’ve heard you can take a Haakaa Hand Pump, fill it with warm water and Epsom salt, attach it to breast and allow the suction and water mixture to draw out any clogged ducts, or thick milk stuck inside.
Dealing with a painful breastfeeding latch
The first couple of weeks of breastfeeding were by far the worst, in my opinion, when it comes to pain. Baby is still trying to establish an efficient breastfeeding latch and it can be pretty rough on your nipples!
Some hacks I did to get me through the “painful” stages were using cold compresses or cooling hydrogel pads directly on the nipple. I also swear by Lansinoh’s Lanolin Nipple Cream! Lastly, I made sure I had very soft, breathable nursing bras!
If the pain doesn’t subside, you notice cracked skin, or you find that the pain actually worsens, you should get evaluated by your doctor or an IBCLC right away!
How to handle a Breastmilk Supply Drop
Only 3 months into the postpartum stage and I got my dreaded period back. On top of it coming back with a vengeance, it also tanked my breastmilk supply. Since that day, we’ve been on the barely keeping up or barely getting by struggle bus, but I’m determined to make it to one year!
So what can we do to help bring up our breastmilk supply? My personal holy grail for increasing my breastmilk supply is to add 1-3 extra feedings/day (I did this with my Spectra breast pump). The added pumps increase your body’s demand for milk, and within a couple days you should notice an increase! I like to add my extra pumps 30 minutes after our morning feed, 30 minutes after our second feed and 30 minutes after my son goes to bed.
Other things you can try would be getting help by an IBCLC, consider galactagogues (legendairy milk supplements are my FAVORITE), and hand expressing an extra 5-10 minutes after nursing.
If you’re using a pump – make sure you’re using the correct flange size and make sure your pump parts are being changed out per the manufacturer directions!
Managing mastitis while breastfeeding
Mastitis occurs when your milk ducts become clogged & tough to empty. This causes a lot of swelling, inflammation, redness and hot to the touch breasts. You may develop a fever and physically feel sick as if you had the flu!
Mastitis is brutal, from what I’ve heard! I had one episode of horrible engorgement during the early weeks when I was convinced I’d have mastitis, but luckily I was able to express frequently & began taking sunflower lecithin to help clear any clogs, I barely avoided that curveball.
The most important way to prevent mastitis is by making sure you’re emptying your breasts fully and frequently! However, if you feel like you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of mastitis, it’s important to see your doctor immediately to make sure you don’t need antibiotics!