How to Treat Common Breastfeeding Problems

As a new mum, you might experience a few hiccups with breastfeeding, especially in the early days. This section of our breastfeeding guide series is designed to help you find easy solutions to the most common breastfeeding problems.

Insufficient Milk

If your milk supply isn’t kicking in the way you’d expect, be sure that you are allowing the baby to feed as long as he/she needs. Even if it is longer than you feel is needed. Avoid giving top-ups with formula for a bit to allow your supply to improve. You could also try expressing some milk after your baby is done feeding, every time you nurse your baby. Make sure you feed your baby with both breasts at each feed and alternate which one is offered first.

Oversupply and Breast Engorgement/Fullness

Too much milk can be just as difficult! If your breasts seem too full of milk and are painful, swollen, or engorged, you can soften the breasts by applying a warm compress and expressing some milk to reduce the hardness. Also remember to breastfeed more often or express milk between feeds so they don’t get engorged. A cold compress(with a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin) may also be used after feeds to ease swelling and discomfort.

Strong Letdown Reflex

To avoid choking your baby, allow him/her to unlatch whenever needed mid-feed. Hold your baby in the side-lying or football hold positions. if you see your baby sputter/choke, immediately unlatch and allow the excess milk to spray into a cloth. You can also hold the nipple using your middle and index fingers to press down on the milk ducts to reduce the force with which the milk is ejected.

Blocked Milk Ducts

If you have blocked ducts on one breast, try and feed your baby on that side every couple of hours to loosen up the plug and improve milk flow. If you position your baby’s chin towards the plugged duct it will help the baby suck from that duct. In addition, the breastfeeding tips given below can help:

  • Ensure your bra is well-fitted as some instances of tight bras can also cause ducts to be constricted. Avoid underwire bras.
  • Massage the affected area gently using your fingers. Take a circular motion moving towards the nipple.
  • Apply a warm compress to the blocked or sore part of your breast.
  • Stress and overwork too can cause this problem, so try and get some downtime and sleep.

If this persists, then consult your healthcare provider.

Trouble Latching

There are multiple ways to hold your baby while feeding them, the most popular being the cross-cradle hold, the cradle hold, the football hold, and side-lying. Try out a few different positions till you find one that is comfortable for your little one. Ensure your chair is comfortable and use a cushion for added support as needed. Also, ensure:

  • Baby’s nose faces the nipple and you and your baby are tummy-to-tummy
  • Bring your baby to the breast and don’t hunch forward to bring the breast to the baby
  • Use a C or U hold to grip the breast and bring it to the baby but take care not to let your fingers be too close to the nipple - this will get in the way of the baby’s latch 
  • The nipple needs to be aimed at the upper lip of your baby and not the centre of their mouth. Touch your baby’s top lip to encourage them to open the mouth and latch on.

Cracked/Sore Nipples and Painful Breastfeeding

Ensure your baby takes in the areola and not just the nipple while feeding. Use a clean finger to break the suction created if your baby only takes in the nipple and get him/her to latch again. Avoid trapping moisture inside your bra by changing your nursing pads more often. You can also add these steps to your breastfeeding routine to help ease the problem:

  • Express some additional milk after your baby feeds and use the milk to gently rub the nipples with a clean finger. The natural oils and healing properties can help soothe the sore nipples. You can also use nipple soothing creams that contain aloe or olive oil.
  • Ask your lactation specialist or doctor about any creams that can help. Do not use harsh soaps on your breasts.
  • After nursing, let your nipples air dry before you wear your bra. Alternatively wear just a top or dress made of soft cotton. 
  • Ensure your bra is comfortable and not too tight and that your clothing is also loose and not constricting.
  • Try switching to a different breastfeeding position. You could request a lactation consultant to observe and identify problems if any and/or suggest a more comfortable position.

Breast Infection/Mastitis

You should always get your doctor to check out any unexplained pain, hardness or fever as soon as possible. It could indicate an infection.  Ensure you keep milk flow normal and prevent fullness on the affected breast by continuing to feed your baby from that side at least once in two hours. Use a warm wet cloth as a compress to ease the pain. Circular massage with your fingers, working from the area that’s sore towards the nipple can also help. Wear a comfortable bra that’s not too tight.

Don’t go it alone as a new mum. Learn more from the vibrant MamaXpert community with our blogs and features that tackle the most common as well as some not-so-common issues that pregnant women and new mothers experience.