Choosing to breastfeed is a big commitment, and it's an amazing journey for mom to have with her child. The World Health Organization recommends women breastfeed exclusively for at least six months and encourages them to continue nursing for two years or longer.
However, no matter how long mom nurses, every little bit helps her child's immune system develop and enriches the already incredible bond between mom and baby.
The problem is that many moms think since breastfeeding is natural it's easy, and that's actually pretty far from the truth. Yes, babies instinctively want to nurse, but it doesn't mean they are great at latching.
Moms who have been looking forward to nursing may also find that the transition from pregnant mom to breastfeeding mom is full of unexpected problems she didn't anticipate. Milk supply, chest infections, and the overwhelmed feeling that comes with providing sustenance for a child can be hard to deal with.
Luckily, most breastfeeding problems can be solved if both mom and baby want to stay the course and keep on nursing. There are exceptions, and every mom has to decide if it's worth overcoming the problems she's faced with or if it's time to throw in the towel.
For moms who decide to continue nursing, there are plenty of tips and tricks to try at home to make the journey a bit less bumpy. Here are some common issues with solutions that can be applied immediately.
At some point, a child will either choose to test their limits or simply not understand what they are doing, and mom will feel a sharp pain shoot through her chest. The cause? Teeth.
That's right, during the breastfeeding journeys that continue to the point where a child has teeth, a child will turn the beautiful ritual of nursing from her mother's chest into a biting war. Most children don't know what they are doing and will bite by accident while eating. Others will decide to see what happens when they use their chompers on mom. Either way, the experience is unpleasant.
Some women may be tempted to let the beginning of biting signal the end of breastfeeding. However, mom doesn't have to wean just because baby has picked up a bad habit.
If mom was already feeling tempted to pull the plug on nursing, it's fine for this too push her over the edge, but for moms who want to keep breastfeeding, it is possible to work with a child to correct this behavior. If the child wants to keep nursing, they may be more than willing to do whatever mom asks to keep access to the chest.
People will give advice for how to treat this problem, and there is a range of thought on how to deal with a biter. Obviously, mom needs to make sure her child knows this behavior is unacceptable and not for play.
A child may think biting playfully is innocuous because they don't feel the pain, but mom needs to be firm. Pulling her child off and saying, "No, mommy doesn't like it when you bite. It hurts me," is a good way to make sure a child is receiving clear communication that the behavior is not okay.
Most of the time, kids who love to nurse will not like having the milk taken from them when they're in the middle of a nursing session. Once they realize their behavior is causing the milk to be taken away, many will fall back in line to make sure they receive the satisfaction they get from nursing.
That's why telling a child firmly to stop biting and taking the milk away while you're telling them is the first step.
12 Blocked Duct
The chest changes a ton when mom is breastfeeding, and most of the changes are not a sign of problems. Sometimes chests are extremely full, other times they feel completely depleted. They may look and feel lopsided, and mom will not know when she looks in the mirror what to expect.
However, if mom notices a small round lump that may be starting to turn red, she needs to pay attention. It's not a reason to freak out, but blocked ducts can lead to an infection in the chest area called mastitis, and that is something mom wants to avoid at all possible costs.
Blocked ducts occur for a variety of reasons. The chest may have gotten too full, and if baby didn't empty them out, a duct may get blocked trying to let the milk down. Whatever the cause, mom will likely notice fairly early on since blocked ducts can be painful.
The good news is mom can immediately start dealing with a blocked duct situation from the comfort of her own home. While a full-blown case of mastitis will likely require a doctor's visit and a heavy dose of antibiotics, blocked ducts can be relieved in a variety of ways.
The first step is to try to empty the first side. Mom can rely on baby to do this, though it may be painful at first. Placing baby on the breast to feed and trying to keep him there and awake long enough for the one side to empty is essential. If the little one fails at this task, mom can grab her breastpump and get rid of what is left.
If this doesn't work completely, there are a few other tricks to try. Applying heat can help loosen up the area and get milk moving again. Massaging can have the same effect. As long as the condition doesn't worsen, mom can try applying heat before she breastfeeds and massaging the blocked duct while her baby feeds to try to move the milk herself.
Mom should not quit breastfeeding while the duct is blocked. That can lead to a vicious case of mastitis.
10 Sleeping Baby
Imagine, mom and baby are sitting in a comfy recliner and baby latches on to start nursing. The baby has been showing signs of hunger, and mom is more than happy to meet his needs. Baby latches and the feeding session starts, but mom looks down when she realizes she no longer feels the soft suckling of a baby at her chest anymore.
Why has the suckling stopped? The baby passed out cold and is snoozing more soundly than he ever does at night.
This is a common scene in the life of a breastfeeding mom. She is hoping to fill her baby's belly so he or she will sleep better, but the sweet little one is so comforted by nursing and the closeness of mom's body that sleep is the default mode and they can't finish the feed.
While this scenario sounds cute, it is really hard for a mom who can't get her child to eat a full meal so she can stop sitting around being the nursing train all day long.
Conventional wisdom says don't wake a sleeping baby. In this case, go against that advice. It's perfectly acceptable to wake a sleeping baby if they are passing out during feedings because mom knows the minute she tries to lay the baby down for a nap, he or she is going to immediately wake up because of hunger.
Remember, if the baby ate a full meal before going to sleep or is still nursing while napping, that's fine. However, if baby falls asleep a couple of minutes in and stops eating, that's when it's time to wake them. Mom should gently wake her child and try to get her to latch again, making sure her latch is proper so she is getting enough milk to stay on.
If that doesn't work, mom should wake her baby and switch sides to see if the baby will stay awake this time.
Some moms also have luck with stripping the baby down to their diaper and having skin-to-skin contact while feeding. It's also acceptable to gently tickle a baby, or to grab an arm or leg and move it around until the baby awakens and starts eating again. The goal is to make sure the baby gets through a full feed, at least ten minutes, so they will receive proper nutrients and sleep better.
8 Bad Latch
A bad latch is the pits for everyone involved. For the baby, they don't receive enough milk if they are not latched on properly, so they may be cranky or angry because all of the work they are putting into nursing isn't offering much sustenance.
For mom, a baby who is not latching practically causes her pain, literally. A child who is just barely latched onto the end of the feeding session can cause mom to experience sharp, shooting pains through the chest area the child is trying to feed off of. It's also emotionally difficult to deal with the reality that a mom can nurse for hours and her child is still walking away hungry. Many breastfeeding relationships have ended before they even got a chance to start because of an improper latch.
It's possible to call a lactation specialist or ask for help from the La Leche League, but mom can also handle this problem on her own at home.
When baby wants to latch, it's a good idea for mom to use techniques that will make this as easy as possible. Mom should hold her chest with her hand and squeeze around the area the baby will be latching onto. If the baby is not opening his or her mouth, mom can gently rub the baby's nose and lips against her chest so the smell will encourage the baby to open the mouth as wide as possible.
Once the baby's mouth is opened and he or she is ready to go, mom can gently guide baby's mouth. To do this, gently grasping the back of a child's neck to guide their head is helpful. Mom won't push the baby's mouth onto her, but she will guide the baby, chin to nose, while she latches.
That means mom will make sure baby's chin makes contact first and then she will roll the mouth on until the entire mouth is latched onto the areola and baby's nose is near the side of the chest.
This sounds like a lot of work, and it is at first. However, this won't be necessary forever. Once a baby realizes this is the way to get the maximum amount of milk, they will start instinctively latching this way on their own. Mom just needs to hang in there and help guide her child until that happens.
6 A Child Who Wants To Nurse Constantly
Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience where a mom gets to bond with her child and provide for her baby's needs from her own body. It's also a job, one that doesn't offer vacation, sick days, or incremental breaks throughout the day. Nursing moms are milk machines that are always supposed to be ready to go.
Again, it's a great gig, but for the mother of a child who wants to nurse 24/7, it's also an exhausting one. The first months of a child's life, mom can feel like her body starts to become the shape of a recliner and that she doesn't own any clothes that don't smell like breastmilk.
One reason a child wants to nurse frequently is comfort. Babies are comforted by being close to mom and by the motion of sucking. However, another reason baby might be eating all day is because he or she isn't getting enough milk.
If mom has a constant eater on her hands, it's necessary to determine why. There are a few ways to do this, and the first is assessing how well the baby is latching. Does the baby take a large portion of the areola into the mouth when they nurse instead of just the nipple? Can mom feel pain when the baby nurses? If not and the latch is okay, it's time to move on to the next step.
Some women produce tons of milk, while others have trouble making enough from the very beginning of their nursing journey. For a mom who fears she may be in the latter category, one solution is more nursing.
I know, mom already feels like her child never stops nursing, but if she is only allowing the baby to nurse at certain times, what feels like constantly to her may feel like not often for the baby. She needs to drop the scheduled feeding plan and instead nurse on demand.
Since breastmilk flows on a supply and demand basis, nursing more often will cause mom to make more milk. Once more milk is coming down at each feeding, mom should notice her little one nurses longer during breastfeeding sessions but that the baby will nurse less often due to being full.
4 Too Much Milk
In certain circumstances, mom may notice her child having a hard time feeding because she has too much milk. How can it be a problem for mom to have a milk oversupply? For a baby, it can be too much at one time.
A sign that mom is letting down too much milk at once is that her baby seems to be choking or gagging while feeding. Babies may also pull away from the chest altogether, even if they are hungry, and mom may notice their tiny hand squeezing to stop the milk from coming out so fast. Moms may also notice their child is gassy or is upset after every feeding time.
While having some milk to spare can be a bit easier than not having enough, it can still make it hard for a child to nurse comfortably, and that may mean they eventually give up on nursing at all. To keep that possibility at bay, try the following tips.
A mom who notices signs of her milk coming down too fast or too much milk being offered at once can change the baby's position while nursing to see if there is any improvement.
Allowing a child to sit up while nursing helps them control the flow of milk better and helps them not choke if milk does let down too fast or in too large of a quantity. The football hold is also a popular position. Mom sits her baby facing her, and she supports his head while he nurses in the sitting up position. This lessens the chance of gagging.
Another solution is to nurse often. If milk is allowed to accumulate for too long, the avalanche of liquid that spews forth at the next feeding can overwhelm a child. By nursing more often, a baby can drain the amount in the chest before it's too much too handle.
Plus, a baby who is nursing more often won't be starving when they latch. This ensures a calmer sucking motion that won't bring milk down in droves.
2 Cracked Nipples
Cracked or bleeding nipples can be normal when mom is breastfeeding, but they can be very painful and signal a larger problem in the breastfeeding relationship. While it's normal for there to be some pain during the nursing journey, such as those first days when milk is coming in or when the baby is learning to latch and not getting it just right, mom's main memories should not be of pain, bleeding, and nipples that are cracked.
When breastfeeding is going well, it should not be painful for either party involved.
Cracked nipples aren't dangerous or unusual when mom breastfeeds, but they do need to be taken care of and the cause for the cracks discovered. Most of the time there is a simple fix, but mom needs to start investigating at the first sign of a problem. In some cases, baby may have developed thrush, which is a yeast infection, and that can also be a cause.
One of the greatest things about breastmilk is that it can be used to cure many ailments. When mom notices her nipples are cracked, she can actually express some of her own milk and dab it on her afflicted areas for healing. It's pretty cool to make our own medicine, right? Just remember to apply a small amount so the chest isn't oversaturated with moisture. Also, this is a no-no in the case of thrush.
Keeping up good hygiene also helps mom avoid cracked nipples, so showering or bathing regularly is a good idea, even in those early days when it's hard to practice self-care with an infant in tow. Ask for help.
There are all-natural creams that can be used to help heal cracks and bleeding, and mom can start using these at any time. As for long term solutions, mom needs to assess the latching situation to make sure that is not the cause of cracked nipples. Often times it is, so working with a child until they master latching is essential to curing this problem permanently.