Although breastfeeding is a normal process, it needs good preparation and sometimes support from a health professional. There are many myths circulating and we don’t often see breastfeeding mothers in our social environment or public space. In Greece, unfortunately, only 51% of newborns are breastfed after one week (1). To a large extent this is due to the lack of properly documented information and guidance of women. Read the most frequent breastfeeding difficulties and how to deal with them!
The most frequent difficulties in breastfeeding
Insufficient attachment of the baby to the breast
Contrary to the popular belief that the baby nurses from the nipple, it actually nurses from the breast. The goal is to get as much of the areola (the dark area around the nipple) in the baby’s mouth as possible while nursing. In other words, you have to wait for that moment when your baby opens his mouth wide, as if yawning. Thus productive and painless attachment will be achieved. Otherwise, you risk injuring your nipples and the baby not being fed properly, leading to reduced milk production and insufficient weight gain.
Try asymmetrical attachment! Make sure to touch the lower lip of the baby to the lower contour of the areola. So the nipple will point towards his nose. As soon as the mouth is wide open, you bring it close to you, letting the nipple enter facing upwards. This way she will reach the soft palate on the baby’s palate and less friction will be created. (2) (3)
Try it in a “rugby” stance which gives you a larger field of view!
Injured or irritated nipples
The most common cause that leads to sore nipples is poor attachment of the baby to the breast. Don’t discount if you’re in pain! Pain while breastfeeding is always a warning sign. Except for the first few intense seconds of a meal, breastfeeding should be mostly painless. You can try letting the breast milk in the nipple air dry and often leaving the breast uncovered. If you prefer wet healing, try Silverette® silver nipple cups . Silver acts preventively, therapeutically and protects against friction with clothing (4). It also has antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties (5).
Discomfort and swelling when “milk comes down”
In fact, milk does not “come down” on the third day after delivery, but is already prepared from the third trimester of pregnancy (2). Breast congestion often seen in the third 24 hours postpartum is due to venous and lymphatic congestion. The breast looks swollen, hot and red.
The most important treatment for congestion is breastfeeding at will. Whenever and for as long as the baby asks for it, but ALSO whenever the mother feels the need to relieve herself. This means you may need to WAKE your baby up to help you. In the long run the best approach is to let the baby regulate the production of milk and not interfere with a breast pump, at least for the first forty days. This would give your chest the message that it has to feed two children !
If congestion makes it difficult for the baby to attach, reversed pressure can be used. In this technique, you place your fingers on the sides of the nipple, pressing towards the sternum, so as to decongest the area around the nipple. Breast massage and hand expression will also provide relief (2).
Clogged duct of the mammary gland
When a duct of a mammary gland becomes blocked, milk cannot come out of that area. This can lead to nipple pain, local redness and swelling or mastitis. Again the key is the correct attachment of the baby to the breast. In fact, it seems to “empty” better the point of the chest where the baby’s chin points, as it massages that point more effectively. For this reason, it is important to alternate breastfeeding positions . Using a warm compress and massaging the breast before breastfeeding can help (2).
If you can’t deal with the most frequent breastfeeding difficulties alone…
If you don’t see improvement within 24-48 hours, seek support from a midwife or an IBCLC-certified health professional. Breastfeeding is a huge capital that in some cases needs the patient and informed guidance of health professionals.