Breastfeeding is extremely difficult, especially for first-time moms. People always warned me that it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought it was, and though I took their advice seriously, I still thought I had researched enough to know what to expect. Silly me! As someone who had a rocky breastfeeding relationship that only lasted 8 and a half months, I know firsthand how important it is to start off on the right foot.Today I have a special guest post for you, sent in from my friends at Breastfeedo.com. I can’t recommend these tips enough! There are so many things I wish I could go back and change, and I hope this post will help you avoid the mistakes that cut my breastfeeding journey short. So, let’s get to it!
Before we start, we should highlight some main points regarding painful breastfeeding problems:
- It is common to have some sort of pain, discomfort, and heaviness during the first week of lactation while breast milk supply is in the developing stages.
- Any breastfeeding pain is affecting the breast milk production process. When a mother feels pain, she may escape some breastfeeding sessions and the breast milk drops down as a result. That shortens the breastfeeding journey earlier than recommended.
- Lack of breastfeeding knowledge is the main barrier for lactation, plus breastfeeding is full of myths and rumors. The best option for a new nursing mother is to consult an IBCLC “lactation consultant” if she struggles with any issues or if the problem gets worse.
1. Sore nipple pain due to bad/shallow baby latching
The majority of mothers think that breastfeeding is a natural process and they can breastfeed without learning much about the baby latching process.
But nearly 80% of breastfeeding pain is due to the bad “shallow” baby latching while nursing.
The latch refers to the position of your baby on your breast during breastfeeding. In other words, how your baby catches your breast to get his favorite meal of breast milk.
Both your nipple and areola (the dark ring around the nipple) are the most used parts during the period of breastfeeding.
Remember – Your baby is latching 8-12 times per day in the first month. If we take an average of 10 times, it’s safe to say that your breastfed baby is latching on your breasts around 300 times in the first month.
Your nipple is being sucked, elongated, and squashed all the time. The mild pain or discomfort is something normal and will disappear within minutes after latching.
The problem of sore nipple pain starts when:
- The severity of pain is increased over time
- Your milk supply is diminished
- Your baby is not gaining weight properly
- Nipple change in color after feeding: white-purple-blue
- Or change in nipple shape after feeding: half-rounded or slanted
All of these signs are indicators of bad baby latching. Later, you would feel severe nipple pain accompanied with cracking or even bleeding.
How to correct/fix breastfeeding sore nipple pain?
You can do that by applying 2 essential steps:
- Your baby should open his mouth wide enough to latch on your breast properly.
- After wide opening, insert the breast deeply into his mouth.
Wide means his mouth opening is forming a 120-degree angle.
Deep means your nipple is facing the soft part of his mouth.
Behind your upper teeth, touch with your tongue the upper solid part of your mouth. Then, move your tongue back until the hard palate ends and the soft palate starts.
Now, you know to what extent your nipple should be inserted into your breastfed baby’s mouth.
2. Breastfeeding only when your baby cries is another cause of breast engorgement pain
“Breastfeed every 2 hours” is an old approach which you should neglect. Instead, you should breastfeed upon your baby’s hunger cues.
When your baby is crying from hunger, it’s a late cute. Try to catch on to your baby’s earlier cues, such as:
- Fist sucking
- Lip smacking
- Rooting and searching for the breast.
And in the case of feeding upon baby crying:
- Your breast milk supply is interrupted and milk is entrapped within your breast for a longer time, which is the main cause of engorgement.
- Your baby would suck/bite vigorously onto the breast, which is painful.
Engorged breasts in breastfeeding is something common which is due to the sudden increase of breast milk quantity over the first days of nursing.
Check the next figures for an idea on about how much milk your baby needs in the first month after birth:
- 1st day: 40-50 ml
- 1st week: 400-500 ml
- 1st month: 800-1000 ml
Note: figures are subjected to plus or minus 20% depending on many factors like baby weight.
So, near the end of the first week after birth, your breast milk amount jumps to 10 times more than the first-day amount.
As a result, engorgement can occur. It’s signs are:
- Breast milk retention within your breast
- Breast distension – compression – swelling – warmness
- Breast milk becomes thicker
- Milk channels are obstructed and may cause infection and mastitis.
- As we said before, breastfeed upon early hunger cues not upon crying or upon a fixed time.
- Evacuate the entrapped breast milk by frequently breastfeeding, breast compression, and pumping after feeding.
- Apply warm compression before feeding for no more than 2 mins.
- Cold compression to reduce warmness
3. Pain due to improper breastfeeding position
Generally, every nursing mom has her own different situation.
There is no best nursing position that fits for all.
For instance, football hold breastfeeding position is preferred after c-section birth or in the case of large breasts.
But it is not suitable if your baby is suffering from acid reflux in which case the cradle/cross-cradle position is preferred.
All breastfeeding experts recommend to sit/lie comfortably to make breastfeeding as easy as possible.
Unfortunately, new/busy nursing moms tend to breastfeed without sticking to that standard piece of advice.
For example, the side-lying nursing position is a frequent position to breastfeed in bed. In this particular position, and to avoid pain, you should use more than one pillow.
- One pillow between your knees
- Another one behind your back
- Under your head and neck
By doing that, you prevent back, knee, and neck pain which may represent a strong barrier to breastfeed your baby frequently and successfully.
4. Using inappropriate breast pump shield
I think breastfeeding working mothers are familiar with what I am talking about.
When you decide to maintain breastfeeding after going back to work or study, you have to buy a breast pump and some extras to save the day. So, you focus on the brand, type, bottles and storage bags.
You are missing the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pumping: the flange size of the breast pump.
Normally, breast pumps come with a standard breast pump flanges = 24 mm diameter.
You start the pumping process and time after time the pain is worsened. You feel much more than discomfort which affects either your nipple, areola, or the whole breast.
If this happens, you should check the breast shield size to see if it fits with your nipple or not.
How to tell if the size is too big or too small?
Breast pump shield is too small: You will see that the nipple is rubbing on the inside of the shield tube/tunnel during the pumping.
Breast pump shield is too big: A part of the areola is pulled with your nipple into the tunnel while pumping. Also, you will notice a ring mark around your areola after pumping.
In both cases, the milk is not extracted properly and the pumping process would be painful.
How to fix that pumping issue?
Simply, pick the right flange size by measuring the diameter of your nipple by a ruler. Then, choose the flange which is slightly bigger than your nipple diameter.
If your nipple diameter is 18 mm, go for 21 mm breast shield.
5. Introduce artificial nipples early
Both pacifiers and baby bottles are made from either:
Although huge brands try to mimic your nipple, they are still far from the awesome natural nipple that nursing mothers have.
And what I am trying to say is those artificial nipples are not an evil. In our busy, crazy world they do the job and any mothers pump their milk and feed the baby through a baby bottle.
The problem is in the timing.
Nipple confusion is a phenomenon where your breastfed baby get confused between your breast nipple and the artificial one.
Accordingly, he might treat your nipple the same way he treats the firm, solid nipple of pacifier or bottle teat, resulting in extensive biting while breastfeeding.
Besides, your baby may refuse your breast and seek the artificial one which interrupts your milk supply, leading to milk accumulating in your breasts.
The best timing of baby pacifier/bottle introduction to a breastfed baby:
- Wait until your breast milk supply is established which occurs after 4-6 weeks of breastfeeding
- Never replace a breastfeeding session with a pacifier.
What an awesome post! I want to thank Breastfeedo.com for sending this guest post in, and I hope you all found it helpful. Check out their website for more articles on breastfeeding, and remember to see a lactation consultant if you’re having persistent problems.
What have you struggled with the most on your breastfeeding journey? Leave a comment below!