Monday, 5 August 2013

Challenges in Breastfeeding

While thinking back over my nursing experiences and writing these posts this week, I realized that I have had relatively few problems. I've generally had an easy time feeding my babies after the first two to three weeks.
Obviously I won't be covering every challenge you could encounter in your breastfeeding experience - just some of the more common ones I  have experienced or heard about from others. Also, this post is in no way intended to take the place of medical help if that is your need. It could give you a jumping off point for knowing what you're facing, but I'm not a doctor. So if you need help, please see your doctor.
The first problem I encountered in breastfeeding was thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that is on the mother's breast and in the baby's mouth. It is passed through the milk and can be difficult to get rid of. Your baby will have white patches in his mouth and be fussy when nursing because it hurts him. When my first baby was four days old, she refused to nurse. I was recovering from a C-section and dealing with all the post-partum hormones and now my baby wouldn't nurse - we cried together. Then I called my midwife. After a few questions she said we had thrush. She prescribed Nystatin which I applied to myself before nursing the baby. I also ended up not nursing for two or three days because of cracks and hoping to clear up the thrush. So we finger-fed our baby with whatever milk I could pump and formula to make up the difference. There are various natural remedies that some moms use for treating thrush - gentian violet being one. I believe that we had thrush because of the antibiotics I was given during surgery. In hindsight, I would have started taking a high-quality acidophilus supplement as soon as possible after surgery to help my good bacteria repopulate quickly. Some mothers battle with thrush for weeks so if you suspect thrush is your problem get help right away.
Daddy doing the finger feeding
After a few days of nursing my fifth baby I knew something was wrong. It just shouldn't hurt as much as it did. At the time, we were living in the country and my midwife couldn't come out to check on us so we ended up paying for a lactation consultant to come see us. Right away she saw that my daughter was not properly positioning her tongue. She showed me a technique for starting to re-train my daughter and there was improvement right away. This experience taught me that even though (for me) it hurts to nurse for the first couple of weeks I could tell that this pain was different and looked for help right away. When breastfeeding the sooner you get help the simpler the solution generally speaking.
Another problem I encountered was with baby #6. He was tongue-tied. He could not move his tongue out of his mouth to get a proper latch which resulted in painful nursing sessions and a fussy baby because he couldn't get full. When he was eighteen days old I took him to a breastfeeding clinic where they snipped the skin that was holding his tongue back. It took about four adults to hold him down so he wouldn't wiggle and about one second for the doctor to snip him. I| could tell that he was crying because he was angry that he was being held down. The relief when I nursed him was immediate. There are various kinds and degrees of tongue-tie. If you suspect this, get professional help to decide what should be done about it.
My sister has experienced mastitis many times in the course of breastfeeding her five children. This is a painful condition where you feel like you have the flu and one (or both) of your breasts is hot and painful. You need antibiotics for this and you need to go to bed. Go to bed and get your baby as much as possible to nurse from the affected side. This won't be fun, but it will help your body to heal. There's a lot of information on the internet for treating and preventing mastitis so do a search if you think you have this condition.
I've mentioned a few times that my first two to three weeks are painful. I usually experience this as a sharp pain when the baby latches on which gradually diminishes throughout the feed. It does get bad enough that I dread nursing my baby, but I also know that if I push through this everything will be great on the other side. One thing that really helps me is Lansinoh. Lansinoh is made from the grease that comes off of sheep wool when it is washed after being shorn. You can learn more about it here. I really do find a difference in my pain level when I use this regularly until my body gets used to the baby nursing.
Another challenge is unsupportive family and friends. Give your friends a miss for a while if they can't support you in how you feed your baby. It's not quite so easy with family, but have your husband speak to them if necessary. Prepare your family ahead of time. Try to educate them as to why you want to feed your baby this way. Given time even those most opposed can often be won over when they see how happy and healthy your breastfed baby is.
These are the problems I or my sister have experienced. I know there are lots of others - mom/baby needs surgery for various reasons, medications needed that may not be breastfeeding friendly, post partum depression, various conditions that make it difficult for a baby to nurse (think cleft palate). Generally speaking there is a solution to each and every problem. Don't give up nursing your baby right away. Research your options. It may take some effort but you will be so glad.
What was your biggest challenge in breastfeeding?
Tomorrow I have a special guest post about nursing twins. Please come back and join us for that.
If you missed our first three posts for this International Breastfeeding Week you can find them at...
Also check out our nursing cover giveaway here.


  1. Now that I look back on it I realize that I never had too many problems...just the pain of "after pains" when they were first born. :)

  2. You know, I forgot about those because they peaked with #5 and just haven't been too bad with the last three.