The decision to breastfeed offers many benefits for you and your baby. But it can also come with a few challenges along the way. Especially in the first weeks after your baby arrives, it’s normal to have questions or need a little help adjusting to breastfeeding.
Some challenges have simple solutions. Others may signal a need to visit with your OB GYN or a lactation specialist. With the right support, you can often overcome these common concerns and settle into a healthy breastfeeding routine.
While breastfeeding may be a new feeling, it shouldn’t be painful. Sore nipples are often a sign of an issue with getting a proper latch. If your baby’s latch is painful, gently release the latch, reposition, and try again. When difficulty latching continues to be an issue, often a lactation consultant can help.
Low milk supply
Many new moms worry about their baby getting enough breast milk. According to the La Leche League, the two best ways to know if your baby is getting enough milk are the number of diapers and weight gain. In general, once your newborn is a week old, you should see about six to eight wet diapers a day and around three or four dirty diapers. If your baby isn’t producing enough diapers, contact your baby’s doctor so he or she can get checked out.
Engorged breasts mean your breasts feel very full, become larger, and may feel hard or warm. This is especially common a few days after birth. In addition to feeling uncomfortable, engorgement can make it harder to get a correct latch. To help your baby properly latch, Kelly Mom suggests using breast massage, hand expressing a little milk, pumping for a few minutes, or relatching your baby during feeding after the breast has softened.
It’s normal to leak milk, especially during the few weeks after birth. Feeding your baby consistently can help, and many moms choose to wear reusable or disposable breast pads. You may also consider breast shells or milk collector shields that fit inside your nursing bra to collect leaking milk. This can be a great way to save a few precious extra ounces of milk without pumping and build up your freezer supply for later.
Thrush is the name for a yeast infection in your newborn’s mouth. When you’re breastfeeding, you can pass this infection back and forth between your breast and your baby’s mouth. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says it’s common in breastfeeding because yeast grows best in moist and warm areas of the body. A thrush infection requires medication, so if you think you may have an infection, call your OB GYN for care.
It’s good to get to know your baby’s cues that he or she is hungry and feed your newborn on his or her schedule. On average, a newborn will breastfeed every two to three hours. However, you may have times where he or she wants to eat every hour or 30 minutes. Often called cluster feeding, this is normal behavior and won’t last forever. WIC Breastfeeding Support says to follow your baby’s cues, and your milk supply will adjust to keep up with his or her needs.
Sometimes one of your milk ducts won’t fully drain or will become clogged. This can leave a hard, sensitive spot on your breast. Usually, new moms can resolve a clogged duct on their own at home. To help unclog it, try a warm compress, massage the affected area while you breastfeed or pump, and regularly empty the breasts.
Occasionally, clogged ducts can lead to mastitis—an infection in the breast. Along with a painful, red, swollen area on your breast, you may also have symptoms like fever or body aches. If you have these symptoms, it’s time to call your OB GYN. Mastitis typically needs medication as treatment.
In addition to these common concerns, you may have other questions as you and your baby get started with breastfeeding. One of the most important things you can do if you choose to continue to breastfeed is to reach out for support. By addressing challenges in these first few weeks, you’ll be more likely to have a smooth, successful breastfeeding relationship in the months to come.