How To Solve The 3 Most Common Breastfeeding Challenges

In Features, Motherhood, Stories by Gemma Dawkins

As anyone who’s tried it knows, breastfeeding challenges are a whole new world. And not in the fun, magic carpet ride kinda way. But before you give up, we’ve teamed up with the experts at Medela to bring you solutions for the three most common issues people face when breastfeeding.

By Mama Disrupt®

The first thing to do before worrying too much is to check your baby’s latch.

When your baby is latching on, aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth. This should help them latch on to the nipple, as well as some of the areola (the circle of darker skin around the nipple) beneath it.

Get your baby’s latch checked by a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist in the first few days. They’ll give you advice on overcoming any problems and may suggest alternative breastfeeding positions to help you feed your baby as painlessly as possible.

Challenge #1: I feel I have low supply 

Babies breastfeed frequently and take more or less milk depending on hunger, thirst, emotional needs, growth spurts etc.

Some babies feed more frequently due to the mother’s breast storage capacity. Other babies may feed less if mama has a larger storage capacity. Both are normal!

  • If you are concerned about low milk supply, seek advice early. A lactation consultant or health practitioner can do a full breastfeeding review, infant review and assessment. They will discuss your feeding schedule, observe a breastfeed, and explore any issues such as painful breastfeeding, nipple trauma, positioning and attachment, tongue-tie, scheduled feeding routine, absence of night time feeds etc. Your practitioner will monitor baby’s growth and plot in your infant health records.
  • If your baby is not effectively removing milk from the breast, use a breast pump to stimulate and express milk in combination with breastfeeding.
  • Introduce more breastfeeds. If there is a long duration between feeds, reintroduce night feeds if these have ceased. The more the breast is stimulated and available milk removed, the more milk is made by the breast.

Challenge #2: I feel I have forceful milk ejection 

This is one of the most common breastfeeding challenges. Accidentally sprayed baby with a face-full of high-speed milk? When baby is overwhelmed by the flow of milk, they may:

  • Come off the breast
  • Gag or choke
  • Experience breast aversion (refusal to feed off that breast)

Firstly, seek advice from your lactation consultant or health practitioner.

  • Try different feeding positions. The biological nurturing (laid back feeding position) is an ideal position for a mum who has a strong milk ejection or let down. It enables her baby to pace the feed.
  • Remove a little milk by hand or pump at the beginning of feed. This allows you to attach baby once the flow has settled.
  • Use a nipple shield. The right size can help baby to pace the flow, with support from your health care practitioner.
  • As baby matures, they may adapt and adjust to milk flow. In this case you may naturally drop the hand expressing or use of nipple shields.

Challenge #3: I have nipple trauma or pain 

Nipple soreness is common in the early days. It is definitely one of the biggest breastfeeding challenges! Breastfeeding mums should be given information and advice to minimise challenges. Mamas should seek early advice from a health care practitioner, and support to help them find the cause of nipple and breast pain. Remember, nipple pain may be common but it is NOT normal, and help is at hand!

  • Try adjusting your position and attachment. Sometimes using a different hold can make a big difference. A lactation consultant can advise on this and show you some options.
  • Nipple trauma? Don’t ignore it. Treat any wounds with Purelan and Hydrogel Pads – you don’t know relief until you’ve tried these babies!
  • Breastshells can help healing, and avoid the nipple wound being in contact with bra and bra pads. Pop them on after a shower for protection.
  • If breastfeeding continues to be painful, nipple shields can be a great solution. You should always use them under the guidance of a health care practitioner, so consult with them before you get started.
  • If nipple trauma gets worse, and breast pain and inflammation are present, make sure you seek help. A GP, lactation consultant or health care practitioner should be your first port of call.

Other Challenges

There are lots of reasons why breastfeeding mamas may experience discomfort. These include dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, vasospasm, raynad’s phenomenon, engorgement, inflammatory and infective mastitis, and more (oh joy!)

If you’re suffering, reach out. Specialist lactation and healthcare support may be required.

Our absolute fav breast care products //

If you’re boobing away, these miracle Medela products will truly change your life (seriously).

In the first few days and weeks of frequent breastfeeding, many women experience nipple soreness and dry skin. Purelan™ lanolin cream gives you fast relief for sore nipples and dry skin. It is 100% natural and safe for your baby. As in, you do not need to remove before breastfeeding. A-maze!

Leaky mama? Change nursing pads frequently if they become damp, to reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal infections, including thrush.

While new mums are often told that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, in reality it may take a while for your nipples to get used to the frequency and length of your newborn’s feeds. This – combined with all the hormonal changes going on in your body in the early days – means you can get sensitive or sore nipples. Hydrogel pads can help by offering instant soothing and cooling nipple pain relief. They can also protect your nipples from clothing rubbing against them, and support the healing process if your skin is damaged.

Always speak with a lactation consultant prior to using nipple shields. With the guidance of a professional, using a nipple shield may assist with reducing nipple pain (perrella). And in turn, this enables you to continue with feeding your baby on demand or responsively. Mamas with flat or inverted nipples may also find nipple shields are your saviour!

If you’ve ever had sore or cracked nipples, you know the pain of trying to put a bra on. Ouch! Medela breast shells protect sensitive nipples and allow the skin to recover by preventing your clothes from rubbing on them.