There are many challenges when the new baby arrives. You might think that everyone else makes it look so easy and you must be the only ones having issues. I find, however, that a lot of these challenges occur in a majority of the families I see. We as a culture just like to pretend they don’t exist and either suffer through, or quit breastfeeding and blame it on *insert any commonly accepted reason here*. Success often relies on how much the family has access to quality support.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of common issues. Please call for a consult or mini-consult if you are struggling, especially if you continue after trying the tips included here. Payment plans are available. Don’t forget our free Weight Check Clinic on Tuesday mornings where I may be able to provide more personal tips, time permitting.

1. Latch
You’d be surprised how something being just a little bit off can mess with an otherwise amazing latch. You don’t have to use a specific hold. The goal is the hold that allows you and your baby to be comfortable. Whether that is football, cross cradle, or something you made up, a good hold will have the following characteristics:
a. Baby should be stable. If your baby is flailing and seeming to windmill their arms or otherwise bat the nipple away they are not in a comfortable secure hold. Have baby securely held so that their chest and hips are supported. Position baby nipple to nose, or nipple to lips, and bring baby to the parent once baby’s mouth is open wide. This is generally a quick motion as babies aren’t known for their patience. They can breathe. A baby who can’t will let you know immediately by unlatching.
b. The breastfeeding parent should also be comfortable and not hunched over baby.
b. Be careful about getting overly concerned about the way the latch “looks.” If it is comfortable, baby seems to be getting plenty of milk and no one is in pain it doesn’t matter if your positioning doesn’t match the pictures you see online.

2. Pain
Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable, but it should not ever be painful. If you are curling your toes or dreading the next nursing session get help right away. Ignore anyone who tells you that’s just how it is (or worse mention your hair/eye/skin color as a reason for the pain). The pain is an issue with the latch.

3. Edema (swelling)
Childbirth is a workout for your body. Edema or swelling is common, especially if you had an induction, epidural or c-section birth. If your nipple flattens out after birth it is likely edema at play. Pushing the fluid away from the nipple by pressing on the areola gently with your fingers for up to several minutes or using a breast pump may help your nipple come out and be easier for your baby to latch. You may want to add some foods like watermelon and celery to your diet. Electrolyte drinks often help. Please note: if at any point you are drinking a lot and unable to pass urine comfortably or at all see your doctor immediately.

4. The Mature Milk Arrives!
This is the biggest issue I see when babies come out of the hospital latching fine and then things fall apart as soon as the family is home. Often when the mature milk arrives it brings it’s friends inflammation and engorgement. Ice between feedings (up to 20 minutes per hour) can help reduce the inflammation. Just don’t use ice within the 15 minutes or so before a feeding or use heat immediately before a feeding as ice slows the let down reflex. Pumping to reduce just enough milk to make for a comfortable latch can also be helpful, but be aware that this can cause oversupply.

5. Doing Too Much!!!!
Virtually every single breastfeeding parent makes this mistake. You are at day 3 and the baby is napping and that darn bathroom floor is covered in your lovely dog’s fur and you just want to do a bit of cleaning. STOP! Your body is working it’s butt off making milk and healing from childbirth. Resting is imperative. This reduces edema, helps you heal, and gosh darn it you earned it. Lay back and let people do things for you (even if they doing it wrong). Keep a list of a few chores to hand to any visitor. Visitors should always offer to clean, bring dinner, chop wood – anything that makes your life easier. You grew a baby. Bask in the glow of the newborn scent and have other people wash your sheets.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you have looked at all these things and are still struggling please give me (or your local lactation consultant if you aren’t in the larger Hampton Roads’ area). Getting help sooner rather than later will make a huge difference in your life. Make it easy for yourself whenever possible.

Cathy Heinz, BA, IBCLC, RLC
757-839-2857 (texts and calls welcome)

3 thoughts on “Common Breastfeeding Challenges in the First Week

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