For a mother, breastfeeding can certainly be intimidating. With the right attitude and knowledge, breastfeeding is a great way to provide a healthy foundation for your child to grow. You’re probably wondering what those everyday worries about breastfeeding are. Let’s jump right into it.
1. Am I going to have sore nipples?
Tender nipples can happen when you first begin to breastfeed. Don’t wear bras or clothing that are too tight and will put pressure on your nipples. Once you and your baby find a good latch and your favorite feeding position that works for you both, the tenderness will dissolve.
Read More: Getting a Proper Breastfeeding Latch
Keep in mind your baby should not be suckling from just your nipple but the majority of your areola with the nipple. If your baby is only sucking on your nipple, you will experience tenderness until this stops. You may even experience the dreaded nipple bite.
To help stop this, gently try to break your baby’s suction to your breast by placing a clean finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth and have your baby try again to latch on, this time encouraging your whole areola and nipple. It is crucial to visually note your nipple should not look flat or compressed when it comes out of your baby's mouth.
You may experiment with multiple breastfeeding positions to find the best for you and your baby. Some positions to consider are the football hold, cross-cradle hold, cradle hold, and laid-back hold. If you find something that works for you – don’t feel you need to change things up. High-five, baby!
Read More: Breastfeeding Positions for Mom and Baby
If you are experiencing cracked nipples, use a warm damp compress to soothe. Don’t be afraid to open the fridge and find a chilled piece of veggie to place on each breast.
Avoid hard soaps that contain astringent on your nipples when showering. Focus on just washing your nipples with clean water.
If you are still experiencing sore nipples, contact your doctor. Delaying feeding can cause more pain and harm your milk supply.
2. What if I don’t produce enough milk?
There may come times that you doubt your milk supply. When your baby is around six weeks old, you may notice subtle changes in your breast since the start of breastfeeding. You may experience leaking, breast engorgement, or even tingling sensations. Your breasts will remain enlarged for at least a few months during nursing.
This is normal and is your body, and your baby, adjusting to breastfeeding. Your body is still producing enough milk and nutrients for your baby to continue thriving and growing.
It is essential to take into account your baby’s growth spurts. Growth spurts can make your baby nurse longer and more often. Growth spurts typically occur at two to three weeks old and six weeks, but can occur at any time for your baby.
Follow your baby’s lead keeping in mind that nursing more frequently will increase your milk supply. Also, remember to rotate the breast when nursing to maintain an adequate milk supply on both sides.
3. What is engorgement?
Engorgement is when your milk isn’t entirely removed from your breast. Your breast will feel tender and painful. When breastfeeding, it is normal for your breast to feel larger, heavier, and a little tender than you are used to, but engorgement is taking that feeling to another level. This could also be in the form of a clogged duct.Engorgement can also cause several symptoms such as:
- Flattening of the nipple
- Breast swelling/tenderness
The best solution to help engorgement go away is to continue breastfeeding. If your baby is not nursing enough for the engorgement to go away, express the milk from your breast or pump it and save it in the freezer for later.
While you are expressing the milk from your body, try to massage your breast at the same time gently. During feedings, try a cold compress to help relieve the pain and wear a well-fitting bra that is not tight.
4. Will I get infections?
There is a possibility that you may develop an infection from breastfeeding, such as mastitis. Mastitis is caused when your milk can no longer flow freely. This clog is called a clogged duct with can become infected, leading to mastitis. Mastitis is a common infection amongst breastfeeding women.
The area of your clogged duct will typically look inflamed, red, swollen, and/or tender to the touch. In addition to physically locating your clogged duct, call your doctor if you are experiencing a fever and/or flu-like symptoms. You need to receive an antibiotic to combat mastitis. Another way to contract mastitis is when bacteria enters your breast from your skin’s surface and/or your baby’s mouth through a crack in your skin.
To avoid mastitis, remember to fully drain the milk from your breast while nursing and pumping, making sure your baby finishes the milk before switching breasts and that your baby is appropriately latching on to you.
5. Can my baby receive an infection from breastfeeding?
In a word, yes. It is called thrush. Thrush is a type of yeast infection that can occur in the mouths of breastfed babies as well as on the nipples of the mother. Thrush is the overgrowth of the bacteria candida albicans living on the skin and in the digestive tract. Candida albicans is a naturally occurring organism, but when it multiplies and becomes overgrown is when thrush happens.
Breastfed babies can develop thrush in their mouth and on their tongue. This is called oral thrush. This can make your baby fussy and not feel so great. If you notice your baby is fussy and is not feeding the best, check out the insides of their mouth. If you see white spots in their mouth – thrush may be present.
Oral thrush in babies is common and can be treated easily by an oral gel medicine. Thrush is highly contagious, so ensure you wash anything that comes into contact with your breast, breast milk, or baby’s spit.
Pacifiers, burp cloths, bottle nipples, and toys must be cleaned to stop the cycle of thrush from continuing.
If your baby has oral thrush, chances are incredibly high that you will also catch it. It can start as a yeast infection and spread to your breast. It can also begin in your breast, causing itchy, red, burning nipples and areolas. Anything that touches your breast (towels, clothes, undergarments, hands) can spread this yeast infection. Remain vigilant about proper cleaning of these items.
Plan to see your doctor if you develop thrush. Your doctor will have to prescribe a topical antifungal cream.
Do not stop nursing if you are battling thrush. Stopping nursing during this time could affect your milk supply. We know you don’t want to mess with that.
While the thrush is healing (it may take up to two weeks to fully heal), practice good hygiene to avoid another outbreak and toss out infected milk you may have saved while battling thrush.
6. What is the silver lining with breastfeeding?
Did you know that as your baby grows, your milk will change to meet your baby’s growing nutritional demands? The benefits of breastfeeding do not stop there.
Research shows children who breastfeed have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type-1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Some antibodies in breast milk will help build your child’s immune system and help protect them from other illnesses later in life.
There are benefits for YOU also. When you nurse, your body releases two hormones: prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin provides a nurturing, peaceful feeling that allows you to rest and focus entirely on your child. The hormone oxytocin promotes a sense of love and attachment between you and your baby. Your body does not play.
Breastfeeding can be intimidating, but you are a warrior and can conquer this.