Even for those planning on combination feeding of both breastmilk and formula, sometimes the breastfeeding journey can prove to be bumpy.
Contrary to the popular saying that breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon that comes easily to every mother, the reality is it can be far from this.
These are some of the most common breastfeeding challenges that can hinder breastfeeding and prove to be overwhelming for some new mothers:Sore nipples
Nipple soreness is the most common reason for discomfort during breastfeeding. In the initial days right after birth, hormonal changes post-partum (up to 20 days to a month) makes it natural for the breast nipples to feel some discomfort. However, if this discomfort is prolonged you should reach out to a lactation specialist.
Pro Tip: Sore nipples are often a result of an underlying reason. Ensure you rule out any nipple cracks to prevent future breast infections. Applying breast milk itself is a great way to help heal sore nipples!
Improper latch of the infant
A latch is the way the baby's mouth holds onto the mother's breast to be able to suckle. A correct latch is the key to a successful breastfeeding journey and this is often the reason behind most breastfeeding challenges. It is imperative to ensure a good and deep latch by keeping the baby as close to the mother's body as possible with majority of the areola in the baby's mouth which should be wide open.
Pro tip: A correct latch will ensure adequate milk supply. The more you latch the baby on to the breast, the more breast stimulation there will be which will eventually help in amping up the milk supply.
This is common with infants especially during growth spurts. It is a time where the infant wants to feed often at the breast for short durations. An overwhelming exhaustive period for the new mother, one must remember that it is temporary and will definitely end.
Pro tip: Look at power pumping for days when you are exhausted from cluster feeding. The process of power pumping is similar to that of cluster feeding and tricks the body into producing more breastmilk for the increased demand.
Blocked duct/Plugged duct
Most women face this breastfeeding challenge at some point during their journey. A blocked duct results in a milk bleb being formed in the breast channel resulting in improper drainage of milk, therefore causing the breasts to feel tender and even lumpy. It also hampers the milk supply and may result in the baby being fussy at the breast.
Pro tip: The more the breast is drained and emptied the better the milk supply will be. Avoid letting the breast fill up to a point where it may get engorged and result in a milk bleb. Always drain the breast completely before switching over to offer the other side while feeding.
A situation when the baby refuses to take to the breast. A nursing strike can be faced by new mothers for several reasons that include: baby being unwell, low milk supply/a milk flow that is too fast, an experience that may have startled the baby, change in smell, overstimulation of baby, change in taste of milk due to hormonal fluctuation/medication of mother to name a few. Eventually the baby will go back to breastfeeding once the problem is identified.
Pro tip: When facing a nursing strike, it is best to pump and express milk to ensure the supply is maintained. While the breast must be offered to the baby to end the nursing strike, the expressed milk can be used at a later stage and stored instead.
Low milk supply
Hormonal Fluctuations, an upcoming menstrual cycle, stress, lack of sleep, exhaustion, improper latch, certain medications/birth control are common reasons that impact the breastmilk supply.
Pro tip: Breast milk production depends on the simple concept of demand and supply. The more you latch the baby on to stimulate the breast the more the body gets tricked into making milk for the baby. So, keep trying till you succeed!
(Vanshika Gupta Adukia, Founder of Therhappy is a Pregnancy/Childbirth and Lactation Specialist and a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist)