10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them
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10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them

Having all the breastfeeding essentials is already a pretty good thing. But sometimes, you just cannot help but encounter some breastfeeding challenges. Indeed, breastfeeding is a journey with ups and downs. Please remember, though, that you are not alone. Most mums, especially first-timers, also have gone through these challenges at one point to another. In this article, we will share 10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them.

This post was last updated on 24 January 2023. 

10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them

1. Sore/cracked nipples

Sore/cracked nipples 10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them

This happens often to breastfeeding mums (especially when you are just starting out) and it can be really uncomfortable. Sore nipples usually occur because your baby is not well-positioned while feeding, or it has something to do with your pump.

What to do
  • Apply nipple cream – the Earth Mama’s Nipple Balm is super soothing! Use Silverette nursing cups/Medela breast shells to protect your nipples from rubbing against your clothing.
  • Make sure that your nipples are healed first before continually latching. Otherwise, the simple soreness may lead to thrush (a fungus/infection in your breast that can be passed onto the baby). Other signs of thrush include pink, flaky, shiny, itchy nipples or deep pink and blistered nipples. When this occurs, it is better to consult with your doctor.

2. Clogged ducts 

Sometimes, milk ducts get clogged because of poor drainage, causing milk to back up and leaving your breasts tender and sore. 

What to do
  • Apply hot compress – the one from Lansinoh is just fantastic! You may also use the Lavie lactation massager
  • Do get a postnatal massage and ask your therapist to help massage your breasts to relieve the engorgement. See the benefits of postnatal massage here. I recommend getting your massage from Pamper Me Jamu Wellness (ask for Kak Jes and say Jocelyn from TWV referred, she is really good!). You can also join our PNSG group buy here

3. Breast engorgement

Breast engorgement 10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them

Breast engorgement is when your breasts feel extremely full. They feel swollen and tender and may even be painful to the touch. This is because of increased blood flow, lymph fluids, and milk production which can start a few days after you give birth. I remember experiencing it with both babies and it was quite difficult, but the good news is that it’s temporary and will get better when your body adjusts milk production to what your baby needs! 

What to do: 
  • The solution would be to release the milk – you can latch your baby in different positions, or hand express/manual pump out the milk. But if it gets too painful, you may want to place a cold compress to relieve the pain. 
  • Your postnatal masseuse can also help in relieving this with breast compressions. 

4. Mastitis 

Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast when clogged ducts do not relieve. This often leads to the mum feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms and/or fever. 

What to do: 
  • It’s really hard and tiring but please do carry on with nursing/pumping to avoid this. Basically, you need to “unplug” the clogged ducts so you’ll likely need to nurse more. Start your feeds with the more swollen breast and don’t skip pump sessions! 
  • If you are feeling unwell for more than 24 hours already or if the pain is too much for you to handle, please contact your doctor. You may need to take some antibiotics to relieve the pain.

5. Low milk supply

Low milk supply can be the result of many things. Perhaps you’re not pumping enough or pumping too soon right after feeding. It could also be because of your diet or your pump. 

What to do: 
  • Make sure that your baby is latched on and positioned well when feeding. Read here for the most useful breastfeeding holds. You may also offer both breasts to your baby every feeding session.
  • Take your breastfeeding supplements (i.e., fenugreek, Legendairy, etc.) or try to munch on lactation cookies to increase your supply. I especially love lactation cookies as they are not only helpful, they taste really great as well. Cookies from Cookie Dealer are my absolute favourite!
  • Try power pumping. This is like cluster feeding where your baby feeds often at specific times, except you’re using a pump. A sample power pumping scenario would be pumping on and off at an interval for an entire hour. The interval is totally up to you.
  • If your milk supply is really low, try not to worry too much as you can always supplement with formula in the meantime. Remember: the most important thing is to keep your baby well-fed. If you are really concerned, you may ask for help from a lactation consultant.

6. Too much milk 

Too much milk 10 Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them

Too much of anything is also a bad thing. Too much milk flow causes milk rush, a breastfeeding challenge where your baby latches on and may choke. 

What to do: 
  • Try to hold the baby in a more upright position to prevent this or switch sides from time to time to equalise flow in both breasts.
  • Cold water or ice on nipples can also reduce leaking. If your breasts leak often, you can use breast pads to soak milk up so that your breasts do not show through your clothes.

7. Unable to pump out milk 

There could be many reasons why you are unable to pump out milk even if your breasts feel full. 

What to do: 
  • Check your flange if it’s the right size for you (most pumps come with the standard 24mm). You can do this by measuring your nipple and then adding an extra 4mm to your initial measurement.
    Remember: The pump needs to stimulate the areola, not be abrasive against the nipple.
  • Check your vacuum settings and try using a different mode.
  • Check your pump entirely since some parts may already be too old to function. Replace parts if necessary or invest in a new pump that’s more long-lasting. You may check out the Baby Express Be Free or the Spectra S1 – which I am both using.
  • If everything relating to your pump is working fine, your milk supply might be low or you’re not getting letdowns. For the latter problem, you may try placing a warm compress on your breasts and then stimulate milk flow using your hands. You may also try to watch a video of a baby breastfeeding to help trigger reflex, or try listening to soothing sounds to help you relax.

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8. Baby not latching on properly 

Maybe your baby is chewing, biting on your nipple and not in the areola. When this happens, try to encourage your baby to open his mouth wider with a massage, then bring him closer to your breasts and make sure that his mouth covers both the nipple and areola. 

What to do:
  • If you feel quite lost, you may also get a lactation consultant or a paediatrician to help, especially if your baby has a tongue or lip tie. Babies with tongue or lip ties will have a harder time latching as they are not able to move their tongues (or lips) properly. Fortunately, these conditions are easily treatable.
  • You may also consider using a nipple shield to help your nipples to withstand better. I find the Medela breast shells really helpful!
  • Alternatively, exclusive pumping could be an option. It’s alright, most mums now prefer to opt out of latching due to many personal reasons, especially if they are busy at work.

9. Is my baby getting enough breast milk?

If you are latching, it’s not possible to measure how much your baby is feeding. That said, I prefer pumping so that I can measure my baby’s milk intake, but ultimately, it’s up to the mum. There are always pros and cons to latching versus pumping.

Bowel movements and wet diapers are how you tell whether a baby is feeding enough. Usually, infants wet 6-10 diapers a day and soil at least 3 with poop. So, if your little one is doing that, you have nothing to worry about! Your baby’s weight should also be increasing (note that it will drop after going back home from the hospital but it should increase right after).

10. Nursing strike 

Nursing strike

A nursing strike (your baby refusing to breastfeed) could mean many things. It’s normal to be upset, but please be patient with your baby and just keep offering him your breasts.

What to do: 
  • Try other breastfeeding positions or transfer into a more quiet room with fewer distractions for your baby. Based on experience, this always works!
  • If the baby still refuses to latch, use the time to pump so that your breasts won’t get engorged. In the meantime, you may try feeding your breast milk using another method (bottle, cup, dropper, spoon, etc.).

Additional tips:

1. Invest in a hospital-grade pump

This will be your best bud for months (or years if you’re planning to have another baby!), so make sure that your pump is durable and fits your needs perfectly. I use the Spectra S1 and it’s been really great for me. 

2. Have your contacts on standby

Especially your doctor, lactation consultant and masseuse! Learning from my first breastfeeding experience, I made sure to contact my therapist in advance to book a slot since she’s really good. If you are experiencing breastfeeding challenges, do reach out to Mdm Iza at +6590918274 for help.

3. Avail services from Thomson ParentCraft Centre

Thomson ParentCraft Centre

A one-stop maternity care centre, mums can learn all about childcare from Thomson’s professional and experienced lactation consultants in a 1-to-1 manner. Do check Thomson’s website or contact +65 6250 2222 for more information.

4. Have a pumping schedule

Having one really helps in incorporating pumping into your daily routine, especially if you are doing exclusive pumping. I personally am exclusively pumping, and I managed to drag my pumping sessions to only 4 times a day (from 7 sessions/day!). This took time – I had to undergo ‘levels’, which I wouldn’t be able to survive without the help of Mdm Iza. She guided me as I progressed to every level, and eventually, I was able to establish my milk supply and could shift to reduced pumping sessions with longer intervals. 

Pumping schedules vary from one mum to another, so it’s better if you test it out first before you find one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Here’s the pumping schedule I followed: 

Pumping schedule

We hope that our guide on the Common Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Solve Them will help you out in case you run into some breastfeeding challenges in your journey as a new mum. If you found this useful, please share it with your friends and family!

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