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Common Nursing Problems & Solutions


Many of us have every intention of breastfeeding our baby. We know breast milk is best for them. We know that nursing is good for our bodies and spirit. We look forward to the bonding time with our baby during nursing. Then the problems come. Sore nipples, engorgement, improper latch on: these are some of the challenges we face as nursing moms. Don’t give up! You will most likely overcome your particular challenge. Check out SmartMomma’s solutions to these common challenges we all face.

Sore Nipples

“The first few weeks of nursing were painful for me. As my baby latched on, I gritted my teeth, waiting for the inevitable rush of pain that would consume me for a few seconds.”

Sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples is a common complaint of new nursing moms. The most common cause is improper latching on by your baby. To ensure that your baby is latching on correctly, follow these steps. First, tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple after expressing a few drops of milk to give her a taste. This will cause your baby to open her mouth. Keep tickling until she opens her mouth very wide, and then quickly push her head to your breast. You know she is latching on correctly when her mouth is covering most of your areola and her lips are visible. It is easy to become a little lazy with this technique in the early days, as you are so tired. Don’t fall into this trap. Even a few minutes of an improper latch on can hurt your nipples for weeks.

If your nipples are already cracked or bleeding, apply a lanolin ointment to them a few times a day. You can purchase this where breastfeeding supplies are in your local drug store or grocery.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. In a couple of months, your nipples should callous, preventing any more of this pain.

Engorgement/Mastitis

Within the first couple of months, your breasts may become engorged. Your breasts will feel hard and sensitive to touch. This is common when your milk first comes in and when you have a clogged milk duct. The solution is nursing your baby or expressing the milk. If you nurse your baby and your breasts are still engorged, try placing a bag of frozen peas or ice packs on your breasts to reduce swelling. Most importantly, keep nursing.

If you have a clogged milk duct (Mastitis), other symptoms include fever, chills, red streaks on your breasts, and breast pain. If you cannot unclog the milk duct, it could result in an infection of the breast. To treat Mastitis, get plenty of rest, take some acetaminophen or ibuprofen, drink plenty of fluids, alternate warm and cold compresses on your breasts, gently massage the tender area of your breast, and although it may be the last thing you want to do, breastfeed or pump often on the affected breast. You can also try different nursing positions to be sure that your baby can access all of your milk ducts. If your fever continues to rise and you do not feel any better after a day or two of trying these treatment options, call your doctor. You may need some antibiotics.

Baby Latch-On Problems

Why do some babies latch on with no problem while others have trouble? There could be several reasons for this. However, what is important is that breastfeeding is a natural instinct for all babies for the survival of the human race. Most latch on issues can be corrected by a visit with a Lactation Consultant. Many hospitals will send a lactation specialist to your maternity room to provide an initial consultation. If you are still having problems after your hospital stay, contact your local La Leche League. Click here to find a La Leche League Lactation Consultant near you.

There are some cases in which breastfeeding may be hindered by a physical problem, such as premature birth or illness in your baby, cleft palate, or an unusual oral abnormality in your baby. Other culprits include blood sugar problems, breathing issues, and a quick loss of weight in baby. Talk to your pediatrician about the best course of action for you to take.

Low Milk Supply

A low milk supply is usually brought on by working moms or moms who are away from their babies for long periods during the day. Many moms that go back to work want to continue breastfeeding, so they buy a breast pump. While breast pumps work great when you can’t be there, it is difficult to stimulate your milk supply to produce the same amount of milk as before. Many working moms may get busy at work and miss a few pumping sessions. Some moms experience trouble with milk production, because they do not have their babies there to stimulate let-down. To stimulate let-down while pumping, keep an article of clothing or blanket of your baby around with pictures of him when you are pumping. This may help with stimulating your milk production.

Increasing a low milk supply is often very difficult. There are some herbal supplements that have been known to help some moms. Do not take both of these at the same time. Choose one, and if that does not work, perhaps you can try the other.

  • Fenugreek
  • Mother's Milk Tea- made from these herbs: fennel seeds, coriander seeds, spearmint, lemongrass, borage leaves, blessed thistle leaves, althea root, lemon verbena, and fenugreek seeds.

Nursing problems can be very frustrating. Before you give up, be sure to get some support from your friends that have nursed or are nursing. Many communities have breastfeeding mom support groups, and you can always call La Leche League.

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