As any new mom knows, nursing is hard. Here, Diane Spatz, a registered nurse and professor of perinatal nursing at University of Pennsylvania, weighs in on five common breast-feeding pitfalls and how to combat them.
PROBLEM: You have low milk production.
SOLUTION: The most important thing is to establish your milk supply early, Spatz tells Us Weekly. “The first hour and the first two weeks are so important,” she says. “If you have a healthy, full-term baby, all you should do is eat, sleep and breast-feed those first few weeks. And if your baby isn’t healthy or full-term, all you should do is eat, sleep, pump and visit your baby.” Your milk supply should reach full volume within the first two weeks after giving birth, and it should stay consistent for six months, until you start introducing solids into your baby’s diet. Though Spatz points out, some women experience a dip in their supply after going back to work or when their baby starts sleeping longer through the night. In those cases, pumping and breast-feeding every few hours is crucial “You can’t magically make your supply go up,” she says. “Only regularly emptying your breasts will boost milk, so pumping or breast-feeding at night is critical, even when it is challenging.” As for foods or supplements, such as beer and oatmeal, that are rumored to boost supply, Spatz says only fenugreek might have some benefits, noting that four small studies have shown this.
PROBLEM: It hurts when your baby latches.
SOLUTION: Warning: There will be some discomfort when you start nursing. “You have to work through the first weeks of nursing until your breast tissue gets conditioned to the pressure of a sucking baby,” Spatz says. But you should not feel so much pain that you cry or can’t speak. Visit a lactation consultant if that is the case. Common issues include a baby who is an extra strong sucker, is only sucking on the nipple (aka has a “lazy latch”) or has a tongue tie. “Between 2 and 13 percent of babies have tongue ties,” says Spatz. “And 44 percent of those cases are due to a short frenulum, which a doctor can assess and fix.”
PROBLEM: You get a clogged duct.
SOLUTION: A clogged duct doesn’t sound like a big deal, but they hurt—and can lead to mastitis (more on that below). According to Spatz, there are a few reasons you can get a clogged duct. One is because of milk statis, which occurs you aren’t emptying your breasts enough. Other reasons include a bra that is too tight or has underwire, both of which can restrict milk flow, or pumping shields that are too small. If you do have a clogged duct, “The most important thing is early management,” says Spatz. “Put a hot pack on the tender spot and massage it while nursing or pumping to work out the clog.”
PROBLEM: You develop mastitis.
SOLUTION: Mastitis is when a clogged duct gets so inflamed it becomes infected, resulting in a fever, chills and sore breasts. “A lot of moms say it makes them feel like they were run over by a truck,” says Spatz. To treat mastitis, take ibuprofen, drink lots of fluids and express milk as often as you can. The worst-case scenario includes antibiotics or a visit to the hospital.
PROBLEM: You or your baby get thrush.
SOLUTION: Thrush is an infection of the mouth that is caused by yeast. Moms and babies can get it if mom or baby is on antibiotics and breast-feeding. You have to be careful to watch for the symptoms, which include baby having a thick white residue on his or her tongue and mom experiencing a burning sensation on her nipples. “Mom and baby can be the culprit, and they can pass it back and forth to each other,” says Spatz, “so being treated at the same time is critical.” Along with making sure all bottles and pump parts are sterilized, your doctor can prescribe an antifungal mouthwash or ointment, such as Nystatin or Lotramin.