Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your newborn and ensure they’re receiving all the right nourishment for this stage of life. If you, like many mothers, are experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding, know there are resources and professionals out there to help you overcome this hurdle and keep your baby fed and healthy.
Attaching is instinctual, but is not always successful in practice. Cracked or sore nipples are a sign your baby may not be attaching properly. If latching proves difficult for your little one, talk to a lactation consultant. They may teach you about different positions and angles to try when breastfeeding.
‘Baby-led attachment’ may help your little one’s instincts kick in. When calm, lay baby against your chest and let them find the nipple on their own. You can learn more about this process on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website.
Rejecting the breast
Your baby might reject the breast – don’t worry, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them. This could be happening for many reasons. If rejecting is a hurdle for you, talk to your GP or lactation consultant.
A helpful approach could be trying to feed before your baby is too hungry. Learn their early hunger cues, such as putting hands to their mouth, wriggling around, sticking their tongue out or turning their head side-to-side. Crying is a late-stage hunger cue.
Feeding in a relaxed, quiet environment where you and baby are both calm may help with finding and attaching to the breast. Try some deep breaths. Remember your baby is not rejecting you, they may just be fussy eaters!
Breasts may be engorged if they feel heavy, sore, tender or warmer than usual. This is normal, though sometimes uncomfortable. Engorgement is caused by milk and other fluids building up. Try holding a warm compress to your breast before feeding to help with flow. Gentle massage during feeds could also help.
Take your bra off completely for feeding when you can. In the meantime, a fitted and supportive bra may help alleviate discomfort from engorgement.
When milk build-up becomes stuck in the milk ducts of your breast, the breast tissue can become inflamed. The breast may feel hot and sore and look read and streaky. This is called Mastitis. If you think you may have Mastitis, consult your GP.
Mastitis is manageable. It can lead to infection and feelings of illness, so it is important to monitor your breasts and handle this early. In the case of Mastitis, breastfeeding can be made easier by using a warm compress before feeding and cold compress between feeds.
Much like engorgement, massaging the area and nursing in a relaxed environment can help. Always consult your medical professional about breast pain.
Be kind and patient with yourself
Sometimes, trouble with breastfeeding is a ‘phase’. Breastfeeding is a skill that mum and baby both need to practice. Breastfeeding is not a reflection of your value as a mother. Nor does it measure the quality of your connection with your child.
Always consult a GP or lactation consultant if you have any concerns or questions with breastfeeding. Alternatively, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a 24-hour helpline for free access to breastfeeding consultants. Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 whenever you need guidance or support.