August is National Breastfeeding Month — a time to celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. Every family may have their own unique experience with breastfeeding, or some may choose to express and bottle feed breastmilk. While it’s natural and easy for some, it may be more challenging for others. Below are a few common challenges that breastfeeding mothers face along with helpful tips for managing them.
It’s common for moms to experience sore and sometimes even cracked nipples while breastfeeding. This can be a sign that the baby is not latching on correctly or not in the best position for breastfeeding. Try these steps to help your baby latch deeply and effectively:
1. Hold your baby close enough for your tummies to touch and lean back to keep the baby close.
2. Tilt your infant’s head back so that its nose is aligned across from the nipple.
3. Tickle the baby’s upper lip and wait until the baby opens its mouth widely.
4. Bring the infant onto the breast quickly and encourage a deep latch. (A large amount of the areola, the dark area around nipple, should be in the mouth, not just the nipple)
5. Check for lips to be flanged out and not tucked in.
6. You should feel a painless, strong tugging or pulling.
It may take time and patience for your baby to latch on well. You’re both learning and practice makes perfect.
A few additional tips for sore nipples include:
— Try different holds or positions and alternate sides.
— Change nursing pads frequently and allow time for your nipples to air dry.
— Apply a few drops of expressed milk onto your nipples after breastfeeding.
— If still experiencing pain with latch, see an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for further evaluation.
The milk ducts in your breasts may become clogged by an obstructed milk flow or poor milk removal from the breast, often due to breast inflammation. It may feel firm and tender in a small area. To help avoid plugged ducts, consider the following tips.
— Ensure a deep latch or well fitted pump flange.
— Gently massage the affected area during or prior to feedings or pumping.
— Nurse on demand and limit early pacifier use that may interfere with feeding frequency.
— If only pumping, plan to pump often enough to match feeding needs and keep breasts comfortable without over-stimulating.
— Use ice packs or cold compresses on your breasts after a feed or pumping session to help reduce inflammation.
— Wear a bra that is well-fitting and supportive, not tight.
— Gentle hand-express milk after feedings if soreness/firmness continues.
— Get plenty of rest.
Occasionally, symptoms may be signs of an infection in the breast. If you develop a fever over 101 degrees, chills or other flu-like symptoms, call your doctor.
Returning to Work
Returning to work can be a challenge many mothers face. It is important for mothers to have the support from employers and co-workers to have appropriate space and adequate time to express milk when away from their baby. Workplace support ensures mom can protect their milk supply and feeding goals which in turn supports the health of mom and baby. Tips for returning to work are:
— Get off to a good start with breastfeeding/expressing milk to help build a good milk supply.
— Meet with your employer and/or supervisor prior to delivery to discuss goals and find available spaces for expressing milk.
— Contact your insurance company to determine eligibility for an appropriate breast pump.
— Gather support from family and friends.
— Practice with breast pump and feedings with a bottle about three-to-four weeks after delivery.
— Practice workday routine prior to returning to work.
— Find a supportive child care provider.
When you first start breastfeeding or expressing milk it may seem challenging. No one is an expert at first. Do not give up, keep trying and ask for help if needed.
For more information on breastfeeding support offered from UPMC, visit UPMC.com/BreastfeedingNCPA or reach out to our local lactation support team at 570-321-2092.
— — — —
Natalie McCullen, RN, BSN, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant with The Birthplace at UPMC Magee-Womens in Williamsport. She is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding.