Breastfeeding is healthy for both mom and baby. More often than not, it’s a baby’s natural instinct to latch on and gain nutrients, though occasionally this comes with some problems. Most can be worked out, but that doesn’t come easy to mom. As trouble free and natural as the process seems, it can be quite scary. Many women don’t know what’s safe and what’s not while breastfeeding- for example: Is is okay to get back on birth control? Is it okay to eat sushi or drink wine with dinner? What’s even scarier, however, is when mom seems to be suffering from complications that can also affect her baby.
Some minor things like teething babies or cracking nipples have simple fixes and are no cause for concern. But when problems like painful red spots or overactive let down arise, it would most likely be a good time to go back and visit with the doctor. Babies should be able to breastfeed with little to no issues, and mom shouldn’t be in any pain, even when baby isn’t feeding. So if this happens, it’s best to not try to self diagnose. Many breastfeeding complications have very similar symptoms, and some even overlap. Whatever the problem may be, here are 13 breastfeeding problems other moms just wouldn’t understand.
13 Slow Starters
Having a baby who doesn’t seem to latch on is one of the most common, and frustrating problems mothers have to deal with. It should be understood that many women are back home from the hospital before their milk comes in, and most babies don’t have a big appetite on their first day or two. So, wait a bit before deciding if the baby has problems latching.
Children who don’t latch immediately are just a little slower starters. It’s a learning process, and the child will get the hang of it. Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s also a skill. Baby needs to learn that they can get milk from mom's breast, and mom needs to learn how to hold her baby in a comfortable position. If it’s been quite a few days and still nothing, try bottle or syringe feeding, and speak to a doctor.
12 Painful Latching
Breastfeeding should not be painful, especially when the baby is only a few weeks old, and hasn’t begun teething. Sometimes, painful latching can be caused simply because there’s too much milk. Once milk starts coming in, it can often times come rushing in all at once. This causes painful swelling, and becomes even more painful when baby latches on. Some simple solutions are the use of nipple guards to prevent further damage, or using a breast pump to empty the excess milk when the baby isn’t feeding.
Another common cause is improper latching. This is where the baby starts off at the tip of the nipple (which is quite painful) and works their way down to the areola. The best way to solve this is by making sure baby’s mouth is sufficiently wide before latching, and aiming the nipple towards the roof of baby’s mouth.
11 Cracked Nipples
An improper latch is also a common cause of cracked nipples. Though this is common for breastfeeding women, it should not be a persistent problem. Finding the cause to correct the issue is usually necessary, as breastfeeding should be as comfortable as possible. An improper latch can cause cracking and in severe cases bleeding, which can oftentimes be solved by the slightest of position changes.
The improper use of a breast pump can also cause cracked nipples. Many women accidentally set the suction too high, and breast pumps usually have nipple guards that are too small. Essentially, they do the opposite of what they’re supposed to. Women who have severely dry skin or eczema are also more prone to cracking nipples. If using anything to ease the cracking, make sure that they’re safe for babies and breastfeeding, as accidentally harming baby is much worse than dealing with cracked nipples.
10 Painful Red Spots
Cracked nipples usually don’t turn into anything worse than a little pain and frustration. However, occasionally an untreated bleeding and cracked nipple can cause a breast infection. A common symptom of an infected breast is red areas of the breast that appear swollen and is painful or tender to the touch. If the infection is left untreated, it can lead to a condition called Mastitis, which feels like the flu on steroids.
These painful areas can also be caused by plugged ducts. This means that the milk flow has been blocked, and cannot exit the breast normally. The trapped milk swells up in some areas, causing the painful red spots. Even though it’s painful, try gently massaging the areas with a warm washcloth to get the milk flowing again.
9 Milk Blister
A white dot on the end of the nipple that is painful to the touch is known as a milk bleb or milk blister. These occur when layers of skin form over the opening of the nipple, preventing milk from flowing out. Many women state that it feels like there’s a big piece of glass or grain of sand stuck in their breast, which is really painful. The milk blockage may also cause the breasts to swell painfully, as milk can not exit.
Try to message the blister out of the breast. It will usually look similar to the head of a pimple being popped, and it’s not uncommon for a gush of milk to start flowing. If the milk bleb feels hard to the touch, it may be necessary to sterilize a needle and pop it. It sounds bad, but it’ll only feel like a tiny prick.
8 Extremely Tender Areas
Plugged ducts can also be the cause of the breasts being extremely tender in some areas. For most cases, this means that the milk is blocked up is more than one place, causing uneven and excessive swelling. The breast may appear to have lumps in some places, and they will feel both tender yet firm at the same time.
Plugged ducts can be caused by a number of things. Some preventative measures can be taken such as getting plenty of rest, trying to reduce stress as much as possible, and feeding often. Try not to go long periods without feeding or using a breast pump, as breasts produce milk quickly, and need to be emptied frequently. To get milk flowing again, try to compress a warm towel on the breast to stimulate feeding, or try actually feeding.
7 The Girls Having A Spasm
White, throbbing nipples after a feeding can cause a vasospasm, which is a sudden constriction of the blood vessels in the breast. This happens because the sudden temperature change from a baby’s warm mouth to the cold air makes the blood vessels spasm. It’s the same reason people really should not take a cold shower after being in a sauna.
Frequent spasms are marked by a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is where parts of the body feel cold or tingly under certain circumstances. The sudden rush of cold air causes blood to flow out the nipple. The whiteness and cold tingling is due to this. In severe cases, medication is needed. But otherwise, rubbing olive oil with a warm cloth to get the blood flowing again works sufficiently well.
6 High Milk Supply
Engorgement is caused when a woman’s milk comes in. For the first few days after childbirth, the breasts will remain soft, and the perfect amounts of milk is produced. After those first few days, however, the “milk comes in” and the breasts swell up. When a woman has an abnormally high milk production, her breasts will swell excessively. This is both painful and causes trouble breastfeeding. Babies often have a difficult time latching on to engorged breasts, and moms find it incredibly uncomfortable.
A high milk supply may call for the use of a breast pump. Try to feed as often as possible, and use the breast pump in between feedings to get rid of all the excess milk. When milk is pooled inside the breasts and not released, the body releases hormones to decrease milk production. This may lead to an insufficient milk supply before weaning.
5 Baby's Yeast Infection
Thrush is a very common, and thankfully harmless, yeast infection in baby’s mouth. Babies are generally introduced to yeast during childbirth. Many women get vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy that can still be present during childbirth, which is then passed on the baby. Antibiotics that are given after a cesarean can be passed through breast milk, causing thrush. So can the antibiotics given to moms for group B strep.
This happens because antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria that keep yeast in line, and, though it’s not very harmful, an overabundance of yeast causes a thrush infection. Thrush can cause the nipples to be red, dry feeling, and sore. Usually, a case of thrush will clear up on its own within a week or so. Medications can be taken if the infection lasts.
4 Low Milk Supply
Breastfeeding is an amazing process. The hormones in the body allow the milk supply to adjust itself to meet baby’s appetite as time passes. It’s normal to feel as though the breasts are “empty” or not producing milk like they used to. This is because the breasts have adjusted to sufficiently meet the demands of feeding, and no longer will produce an excessive amount of extra milk. So, good news! No more painful swelling or engorgement.
For some, however, the empty feeling in the breasts may mean a low milk supply. If this is suspected, speak to a medical professional and closely monitor baby’s weight gain. If he or she is right on track and gaining weight at a normal rate, then it’s probably all good. But if baby doesn’t need a diaper change as often, and appears underweight, it may be a good idea to begin bottle feeding.
3 Things Get Inverted
A simple squeeze test can determine if the nipples are flat or inverted. Grab the areola between the thumb and index finger, and give a gentle squeeze. The nipple should protrude outwards. If they retract inwards or remain flat instead, then they’re considered inverted or flat. This means that baby will have a much harder time latching and feeding. Thankfully, breastfeeding is still entirely possible, it just takes longer to get the hang of it.
A good way to make feeding easier for baby is to use a breast pump right before feeding. This gets the milk flowing, and sometimes the suction can pull the nipple outwards, making the problem go away entirely. It’s usually an easy fix, but in some cases, severely inverted nipples can sometimes obstruct milk flow.
2 Pins And Needles
Sometimes, breasts get that pins and needles feeling, not unlike the feeling when a limb falls asleep. The most common cause of this is overactive letdown. Letdown is a natural reflex that makes breastfeeding a little easier. Anywhere from a few seconds to a whole 10 minutes before feeding, the body readies itself for milk production by kicking itself into overdrive. A tingling sensation followed by a bit of lactating happens. When this reflex is too strong, it’s known as overactive letdown, and it brings with it the pins and needles sensation.
If the pins and needles feel more like daggers and knives, it may be a sign of a breast infection that should be looked at by a medical professional. Sometimes this feeling is brought on when a woman has too much excess milk, and feeding or using a breast pump can help ease it.
1 When Baby Won’t Latch
Many women will not understand the problems that come with breastfeeding if they don’t have any. They’ll think it’s a breeze that goes off without a hitch. For the rest, though, who do experience complications, it’s nice to know they’re not alone. The one thing that a woman who breastfeeds without any problems will never know, however, is the emotional duress that comes when a baby won’t latch.
No matter how many times they’re told it’s an incredibly common problem that most new moms deal with, a woman whose child won’t latch will most likely still feel as though they’re doing something wrong, or they’re not connecting with their child properly. These feelings can sometimes be so severe they bring on postpartum depression. Women are at an extremely vulnerable emotional state after childbirth, so it’s understandable that they would feel the way they do.
Sources: TheBump.com, TodaysParent.com, BabyCenter.co.uk, FitPregnancy.com, HealthyChildren.org