Breastfeeding, while seemingly normal and natural, can certainly come with some challenges. Wouldn’t it be nice if people talked more about the struggles associated with nursing their baby instead of painting a picture of ease and comfort?
The most difficult parts of breastfeeding can be getting a successful latch, cluster feeding, finding a comfortable position, or a plethora of other things that come along with this new task. But when you add the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn, it turns a beautiful dream into a breastfeeding nightmare.
As Certified Postpartum and Infant Care Doulas, we are equipped with the training and experience to help troubleshoot difficulties that arise during early breastfeeding. When hiring postpartum support, you can expect the expertise of a seasoned doula who will listen and compassionately assist you in relieving any discomfort.
The top four breastfeeding challenges that we hear most about are:
#1: Sore Nipples
Sore nipples are often seen as a “normal” and expected side-effect of early breastfeeding. The problem, though, is that the sometimes excruciating pain that can come from these sore nipples can cause nursing that new little baby to feel like an unbearable task.
Sore nipples can be healed over time through the use of lanolin creams and even by expressing breastmilk and allowing it to dry on the area. If sore nipples persist after a couple of weeks of nursing, however, it could be a sign of an improper latch or another issue that might need attention.
#2: Shallow Latch
When the baby comes to the breast, it is intended for him or her to open their mouth wide in order to take in as much of the nipple and areola as possible. The deeper the latch, the better. A shallow latch is known to cause frustration for the baby and severe pain for the mother. When baby has a shallow latch, the mother can break the seal of the baby’s mouth against the breast using her finger, which will relieve the discomfort and allow mother and baby to try again for a deeper latch.
#3: Uncomfortable positioning
The best position for feeding your infant is the position that feels most comfortable to you. Pulling your shoulders up and holding your arm in an awkward way can cause additional pain and stress and does not assist in a successful feeding session. Every person is different, and it is best to try several positions to find what feels right for you.
#4: Cluster Feeding
We can’t even count the number of clients who contact us with questions like, “Why does my baby ALWAYS want to eat?” or “How can I make sure my baby is getting enough milk because he/she seems to want to nurse every 20 minutes?” More often than not, these are signs from baby that they are cluster feeding, which is when your baby wants lots of short feeds over a few hours.
It can be very difficult for both mom and baby to deal with cluster feeding because it can cause feeds to feel like a constant, never-ending chore. When clients reach out with questions about this type of feeding pattern, though, we are always there to reassure them that it is very normal for babies to cluster feed, and it is usually a relatively short-lived routine.
This definitely is not an all-inclusive list of breastfeeding challenges, and if we ever find that there is a problem that needs additional expertise to navigate, then we are always happy to refer clients to some wonderful IBCLCs or lactation consultants.