struggling to breastfeed baby

Struggling to breastfeed baby? Solutions to common breastfeeding struggles

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I remember it like it was yesterday, I was one of those “struggling to breastfeed baby” moms with no hope in sight. I had NO idea breastfeeding would be so challenging.

I constantly thought things like, “Isn’t this supposed to be natural?”, “Why doesn’t my son want my milk?”, “Maybe I’m not meant to breastfeed”.

If you are faced with these questions daily, please know this: BREASTFEEDING IS NOT EASY!

Repeat it 10 more times if you need to.

If you find yourself struggling to breastfeed your baby, it could be due to one of the issues on this list.

Keep reading for some practical breastfeeding solutions so you and baby can finally enjoy that special bond together.

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Struggling to breastfeed baby: Practical solutions

Often times, we go into breastfeeding with this preconceived notion that it’ll be easy.

However, it’s not always easy & is sure didn’t feel natural for me with my first son, but why?

If you or your little one are dealing with the following, you may find yourself struggling a bit more:

  • Baby has a lip, tongue and/or buccal ties
  • Mom has NO postpartum support
  • Mom has an oversupply causing a fast/powerful let down
  • The baby had to spend time in the NICU
  • Mom wasn’t able to nurse or pump for baby after birth, in turn causing a lower supply
  • Mom is using the wrong size flanges for her breast pump

Lip, tongue, and buccal ties — what are they?

Lip, tongue, and buccal ties are all in different parts of the mouth, but essentially correlate to the same thing: a thick piece of tissue that prohibits appropriate movement (for instance of the tongue or lips flanging open).

These cause a problem because they usually directly impact your baby’s ability to latch (or at least to latch efficiently)

THE SOLUTION?

Have them released!

Releasing the tension in those ties thus allows the mouth and/or tongue to function normally again.

This means they’ll be able to latch and nurse at peace which then means NO MORE UNCOMFORTABLE PAIN FOR YOU MAMA!

If you find yourself dealing with lip, tongue, or buccal ties that you don’t want to get fixed, you can try using the items below to possibly help with latching or at least reduce the pain while nursing:

However, Lip & Tongue ties are NOT the only breastfeeding challenge postpartum moms could face!

Sudden drop in breast milk supply

Some moms experience a sudden drop in breast milk supply. I did with my first!

It started when three months into being postpartum, I had FINALLY built up my supply, just to get my dreaded period back. I mean, really?

Here’s the troublesome part, it TANKED my breast milk supply!

Sadly, this significant drop lasted almost 1.5 weeks total.

Getting your period back is only one small part of having a low breast milk supply and more often then not, it’s pretty rare to have a low supply in general.

THE SOLUTION?

  • According to one of my favorite breastfeeding websites, KellyMom, she shares that supplementing with 1500mg Calcium + 750mg Magnesium BEFORE & during your period can help combat the drop in milk.
  • Try power-pumping. A reliable method to tell your body that demand for milk is ramping up so it needs to bring up your supply!
  • DON’T ignore baby’s need to cluster feed! Cluster feeding is your baby’s natural way (like power pumping) of telling your body it wants more milk. It’s a pain, but stick through it and you should notice a difference within a few days!

Breast pumping isn’t working for you

Whether you’re an exclusive pumping mom or a nursing mom that pumps intermittently, if you’re struggling to get milk out, there could be a good reason why!

Are your flanges the right size?

Pumping with a flange that’s too small or too big can cause inefficient milk removal. You want to make sure you are pumping with the absolute PERFECT flange size fit for your nipples.

A great way to ensure you’re using the correct size is to use a nipple ruler to measure your nipple size!

If you end up in between sizes, using a BeauGen Clearly Comfy Flange Insert could make all the difference!

Even if you aren’t between sizes, I highly suggest Beaugen’s inserts simply because they make pumping 10x more comfortable!

Have you replaced your pump’s parts?

Believe it or not, breast pumps need to be maintenanced routinely.

Here’s a general guideline of when to replace pump parts:

  • Membranes: replace every 2 weeks – 2 months (depending on usage)
  • Duckbill valves: replace every 1-3 months (depending on usage)
  • Backflow protectors: replace every 3-6 months (depending on usage)
  • Tubing: replace every 3-6 months
  • Flanges: replace every 3-6 months (depending on usage)

For the most accuracy, read over your original pump manual to see when parts need to be replaced and when.

Lastly, there could be a small change you have a defective breast pump. If you suspect your pump isn’t working correctly, make sure to seek help from a lactation consultant to help you check your breast pump!

Oversupply Breastfeeding & Forceful Let-Down

If you’re not sure whether or not you have an oversupply or forceful let-down of your breastmilk, these are the signs to look out for:

  • Clogged Milk Ducts
  • Breast Engorgement
  • Baby pulling off the breast when nursing (milk spraying when unlatched)
  • Baby clamping down on breast during nursing
  • Gassy baby
  • Coughing and gagging when nursing

Because I didn’t personally suffer or deal with an oversupply or forceful let-down, I’d really encourage you to seek out help from an IBCLC (International Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Consultant).

If you’re looking for some quick tips, you can check out this page here by Kelly Mom who provides a wealth of knowledge regarding all breastfeeding topics!

Mastitis / Plugged Milk Ducts

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast due to possibly a milk duct clog or infection.

Signs and symptoms of both Mastitis & Plugged Ducts can be very similar, however, with mastitis, a fever is commonly present & symptoms progress vs going away.

After having my 2nd baby, I experienced mastitis for the first time and it was NOT fun!

I remember waking up one morning feeling like my breast was sore. I figured it was just a clogged duct and began nursing my son primarily on that side along with warm compressing and massaging.

Within 4 hours I started to feel like I was catching a flu. I developed a fever greater than 102.5, has horrible body aches/chills, and began feeling nauseous.

That being said, you will DEFINITELY know when you have mastitis in comparison to just a clogged duct.

Despite symptoms being similar, you feel 10x worst with mastitis.

Common signs & symptoms:

  • Enlarged and hard lump (clogged duct)
  • Redness around area
  • Breast tenderness
  • Hot to the touch
  • Sharp pain where the lump (clogged duct) is at
  • Low to High-grade fever

Ways to prevent or ease the symptoms:

  • Seek out professional help from an IBCLC!
  • Pump or nurse often to try and unplug the clogged duct!
  • Use warm compressing and massages to break up the clog and help it to pass.
  • Try using Sunflower Lecithin – a breastfeeding supplement used to help emulsify the milk so it can pass more smoothly through your ducts and help prevent clogging.
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing. Wearing tight clothes can dig into your breast ducts and cause then to become clogged.
  • Of course, see your doctor if you keep having symptoms that don’t go away!

Nipple Pain during Breastfeeding

Painful nipples during breastfeeding are seriously no fun.

Painful nipples, in general, is no fun LOL.

You can experience painful nipples throughout your breastfeeding journey for a couple of different reasons such as:

  • an improper latch
  • unlatching baby before breaking the suction
  • wearing tight bras
  • thrush infections
  • using the wrong flange sizes
  • and others…

THE SOLUTION?

  • Use a nipple butter/balm to keep the skin moisturized to prevent drying/crasked skin (my personal favorite is Earth Mama’s Nipple Butter I found instant relief with this nipple butter when my son was struggling with his latch)
  • Use a hydrogel pad to cool, soothe, and lock in moisture for your nipples from discomfort.
  • Make sure your flange sizes are correct if/when pumping.
  • Ensure your baby has a solid latch & unlatch.

The bottom line with nipple pain is this: during your early days of breastfeeding you will experience pain as your baby learns to latch and breastfeed, but it does go away.

If you’re experiencing nipple pain that does NOT go away or is becoming unbearable, you should seek help from an IBCLC or your doctor immediately!

What does a breastfeeding schedule look like?

You may be wondering what a breastfeeding schedule looks like.

Whats normal vs. whats not.

The thing is, ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT.

That means one baby could be a chronic cluster feeder while another hardly ever cluster fed and sleeps all night long.

For the sake of sharing an example, you can see what our schedule looked like when my oldest was around 5 months old.

Sample breastfeeding schedule:

Here is a sample breastfeeding schedule that worked for us when our son was around 5.5 months old:

•Morning feed after wake up

•(30 mins later) Pump x 15-20min

•2nd feed after 1st nap

•(30 mins later) Pump x 15-20min

•3rd feed after 2nd nap

•4th feed after 3rd nap

*if he takes the 4th nap then will do another feed when he wakes*

•Feed before bedtime (bedtime 7-8pm)

•Pump after bedtime (between 9-10pm)

•Middle of night feed around 3-4am (then hand express for 10 minutes after the feed)

Please know we have had plenty of hiccups here and there while breastfeeding.

It’s not an easy task and I wish you and your baby the most successful breastfeeding experience possible!

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