Whether this is your first baby or you're an old hand at mothering, it's hard to predict what breastfeeding problems you might encounter. Some mums set out determined to breastfeed all the way, only to discover that their new baby won't latch onto the nipple. Others try hard to follow their healthcare provider's advice, but find that what works for them is very different from what's "supposed" to work, according to the textbooks.
Reassuringly, most mums we spoke to said that, providing your baby is getting nourishment, and neither of you is in pain, it's okay to do what works best for you. That said, it's always useful to find out what's been a problem for other mums, and to find out how they got round it:
Baby won't latch on to the nipple
1) You're both comfortable. Some mums use a v-shaped cushion to support their arms and baby. Make sure you have a nice warm place to sit and relax.
2) Your baby is straight, with head and body aligned - this helps them swallow.
3) You are supporting your baby's head, back and shoulders, and holding them close enough to feed without stretching their neck.
4) You start with your baby's nose opposite the nipple - they actually need a mouthful of flesh from below the nipple to attach onto and to help form a seal while they suck.
Mastitis & engorgement
When your breasts start producing milk, they'll feel heavy, warm and often quite tender - this is normal. But breasts that feel tight, hot or painful usually means a build-up of excess milk, which can lead to mastitis (sore red areas). If this happens, feed your baby more often, and gently express some milk by hand, before and after feeds, to soften the engorged tissues. Making sure you're warm will also help, and avoid tight-fitting clothes and bras.
Once your baby gets teeth, breastfeeding can become a little nippy! Ignore anyone who tells you to "reason with your baby" about it - your baby doesn't understand reason. A loud yelp from you and taking the breast away are the only signals your baby needs to learn that biting Mummy's boob will not produce a nice meal.
You know that vertical line of tissue that connects the bottom of your tongue to the floor of your mouth? In some babies, this is too short, and prevents them from feeding properly. If your baby seems frustrated - for example, waving his arms around or "head-banging" like she's at a rock concert, and milk often dribbles out instead of being swallowed, mention this to your doctor or midwife. Sometimes the condition disappears naturally, but other babies may require a tiny surgical procedure to help them feed properly.
Breastfeeding naturally uses up 500 calories a day! So it's no wonder some mums feel exhausted while they're doing it. This doesn't happen to everyone, but those who did struggle with tiredness improved the situation by:
1) drinking plenty of water; dehydration causes tiredness in anybody, and it's essential to stay hydrated while breastfeeding
2) eating a healthy diet of lean protein (chicken, fish, tofu, beans etc), all kinds of vegetables, and wholegrains, like rice. Again, a poor diet can cause exhaustion even when you're not breastfeeding, so keep yourself well nourished while you are. Sugary foods, stimulants like caffeine, and processed starch like pasta and white bread, are all likely to confuse your metabolism and make you feel tired.
Author's note: you probably don't need me to tell you this, but always ask your doctor or midwife for advice if you have any questions or concerns about your baby.
Emily Sauder is a full time mother of three and part time freelance writer who loves everything about motherhood, shopping, travelling and spending her partner’s money.