Do you have flat nipples? Breastfeeding could be a problem
Breastfeeding is the next natural step in the process of pregnancy and childbirth. But what if it's not as easy for you? Read on
Those nine months of playing ‘the carrier’ has ended. You’ve finally delivered your bundle of joy and a string of other emotions you associate with your baby. Your body is finally yours. Or so you’d like to believe.
Now starts the process of nursing. How bad can it get anyway? Breastfeeding is something so natural and like all things natural, this should be effortless as well. Just as effortless as natural delivery! Before you usher me to hell with brickbats, in my defence, it was pure sarcasm coming from a mum who had a ‘normal’ delivery. And who has been through the pains of breastfeeding a hungry infant who had no idea how to latch on.
“Mother and baby together, with practice and time, learn the art of breastfeeding. However, during the learning process, some mum’s face a few hurdles,” says Anjali Raj, childbirth educator and lactation consultant, Fortis MammaMia, Delhi. These hurdles range from too much milk supply to too little. Some of the common breastfeeding problems and their solutions have been listed below:
This is an issue that most new mums face. Considering the colostrum (the first thick milk that the mum produces post child birth) is said to be the best nutrition one can feed the new born, the fact that the baby can’t latch on, in itself is stressful. And then the starved baby tries to grab on to the nipples whichever way he can. Or cannot.
Usually the latching pain occurs because of incorrect latch and positioning of the baby at the breast. First step towards solving this would be to check your latch and positioning. When the baby has his mouth open and ready for a feed, hold your nipples and place it in the baby’s mouth with more of the bottom part of the areole in it, than the top. You could also just visit a professional lactation consultant to help you with this.
Inverted or flat nipples
These are literally a problem 'area' for some nursing mums. The nipples, like all things human, are different for different women. In case yours are flat or inverted, the baby will find it difficult to grasp on to the nipples and thereby find it difficult to take feeds.
Most often, with proper positioning and latch most babies are able to breastfeed. If not, there are lactation aids like nipple pullers or nipple shields which can be used to aid easy breastfeeding sessions for you and your baby. You could also use a breast pump immediately before putting your baby up for feeds. This may help draw out a flat or inverted nipple in certain cases. Alternately, you could speak with your lactation consultant for help regarding inverted or flat nipples.
My friend and I had delivered our babies within a week of each other. While I had latching issues, hers was that of engorgement. What didn’t get her worked up was when her gynaecologist said that most women feel engorged around the third to fifth day after delivery. According to Raj, “Engorgement occurs when the production of milk exceeds the consumption. The breasts feel heavy, tender, full and hot. It will appear to be tight and shiny. It is difficult for a baby to latch on an engorged breast.”
My friend’s lactation consultant advised her to use warm compresses and massage the breast before feeding or pumping sessions. “Mothers should nurse the baby on demand. If nursing is not conducive to the circumstances, milk removal through pumping or hand expression is the next best alternative. Application of cold compresses and chilled cabbage leaves for 10-15 minutes on the breast post the feeding or pumping can help relieve the pain,” suggests Raj.
Continue reading for more on breastfeeding problems with their solutions
Clogged or plugged ducts
Milk flows from your milk producing glands to the nipples through ducts. At times, due to reasons like tight bras, missed feedings or baby carriers pressing on the breast, these ducts gets clogged.
The milk plug can vary in size depending on the location of the plug. To remove the plug, try and empty the clogged breast first, either by offering that breast to the baby first or by pumping. While it may be painful, that’s the fastest way to unclog the duct. Also, Raj says, “To remove the plug, it is advised that you avoid wearing and underwired bra, massage your breasts, apply hot compress prior to feeding and nurse the baby with his chin pointed towards the plug.”
It is a condition in which you have a warm, sensitive and red area on one breast. Quiet rarely does it affect both breasts. It happens when sore or cracked nipples let bacteria in. You will run a slight fever and flu like symptoms, as it could be an infection.
Just keep emptying the breast by feeding the baby or pumping it out. And no, it won’t be easy. In fact, you’ll feel miserable because of the pain. But if the milk is not expressed out at regular intervals, the mastitis will get worse. Again, if the situation lasts longer than 24 hours, please visit your doctor for medication.
Thrush or yeast infection can sometimes occur when antibiotics were prescribed to the mother or the baby to treat an underlying infection. Symptoms of thrush in the mother will be that of shiny, flaky, pink and painful nipples; burning, itching, stabbing or shooting pain in the breast and/or vaginal fungal infection. As for the baby, inside his cheeks and gums, white patches can be seen.
The only solution here is to visit a doctor for anti-fungal medication. But don’t worry as you can continue to breastfeed while on these medicines.
Low milk supply
And best (*shudder*) for the last, one of the most common breastfeeding problems is low milk supply. After the initial few days post birth, milk production works on demand and supply. However, if your baby is feeding often but urine output is not adequate, check latch to see if baby is taking enough milk. There are also some medical scenarios like previous surgery to the breast and thyroid when the mother will have low supply.
The more the baby feeds, the more milk the mother will make and vice versa. You must also avoid pacifiers and bottles as the baby’s sucking needs must be met by the breast alone. Adding pumping sessions between feeds also may improve the breastmilk supply. Lastly, (or may be you could just begin your breastfeeding journey with these) you could also try these foods to increase breastmilk.
While these are not the only breastfeeding problems new mums experience, these are seven of the most common ones. As if the nine months of carrying the baby in your womb wasn’t enough, even post-delivery issues like these, stress out the new mum. Ironically, too much stress also affects milk supply.
So, as much as we want to focus all our attention to the squirmy little bundle in our lap, lets just try to enjoy the moments than focus on the hitches as, towards the end of the day, there is no problem that doesn’t have a solution, least of all breastfeeding.
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