Although breastfeeding is natural and beneficial for you and your baby, it is a learned skill and may take a little time, patience and encouragement to help you succeed. But being aware of possible pitfalls and common problems can help you to negotiate these minor bumps and continue on the road as a happy, confident breastfeeder. We have highlighted some of the most common queries and worries here – hopefully you won’t encounter many difficulties but being forewarned is forearmed as the old saying goes!
Oversupply of Milk: Some Mums find that their breasts can feel uncomfortable and heavy as they produce too much milk. This usually settles between 6-12 weeks as your body becomes used to the amount of milk your baby needs. Try expressing a small amount at the start of the feed before your baby latches on if your baby finds the flow is too forceful for them. Don’t express too much as this will encourage more milk production – remember it is demand and supply that affects your milk production.
Low Milk Supply: Many Mums worry unnecessarily about not having enough breast milk. Remember, the vast majority of women can produce enough milk to feed their growing baby. As breast feeding is based on a system of demand and supply, the more your baby feeds the more milk you produce – it’s that simple. Your supply may be reduced if your baby is not attached properly – they may be on the breast for a long time without actually feeding. Do get in touch with your public health nurse or breastfeeding support group for advice if you are concerned.
How to know if your baby is getting enough milk: This is a common concern as it is difficult to know if your baby is getting enough milk when you cannot see how much is being taken at each feed. Rest assured that all is well if your baby is gaining weight and is healthy. Also, 6-8 wet or soiled nappies per day and a baby who is eager to feed when put to the breast are all signs that your baby is being satisfied and is thriving.
Breastfeeding when Mum is unwell: There may be times that you are under the weather and perhaps even taking medication to help you get better, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop breast feeding. Always let your doctor know you are feeding so they can prescribe a medication which will be suitable. Don’t worry about your baby getting sick too as your breast milk will contain antibodies which will help to protect your baby from infection. If you are unwell, try to have someone there to help and to let you sleep and rest between feeds.
Engorged breasts and Mastitis: Thankfully, most Mums won’t experience these problems but in case you do it is worth being aware of a few tips to help ease the discomfort and also to know that you should continue to feed through mastitis – in fact the baby can help to drain the breast and to aid recovery. Usually only 1 breast is affected and it may be due to a poor feeding position and the baby not draining the breast fully or tight fitting bras causing pressure on the breast and leading to a blocked duct . Early signs are a red, hot area on the breast and you may also have flu like symptoms and a high temperature. If these symptoms appear, do give your GP a call as you may need antibiotics.
If you do develop any of these symptoms, some self-help measures can help to treat the condition at an early stage. Try breast feeding in different positions so your baby will drain milk from different parts of the breast. Also, taking a warm bath and holding a hot facecloth over the sore area and gently massaging may help to unblock the ducts. Or is you are lying down in bed hold a wrapped hot water bottle against the breast may also help.