When my husband and I took the breastfeeding class at our local hospital, I remember him saying, “I have NO idea why everyone doesn’t breastfeed. It’s so great!” I tried telling him that it’s difficult, some people just can’t, and that it’s painful.
While all of what I said is true, I had no idea what I was in for.
Needless to say, after a few months of learning to breastfeed and even 15 months later facing trials, we both understood why not everyone breastfeeds. Both of us have a lot of respect now for moms that breastfeed AND equally for moms who don’t after experiencing it firsthand.
I mean seriously, for something that is natural, it can be just so dang difficult and painful. If we are completely honest, I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I wanted to quit and how many hours were spent crying from exhaustion, pain, and hormones. So here’s a list of some common things I have faced personally and some ways I got through it.
With baby #2 on the way and being 15 weeks, I finally decided to wean my daughter. It was a tough decision but it’ll be a nice break before we do this all over again. This list is for YOU and for ME to remind me later on. 😉
COMMON BREASTFEEDING ISSUES:
1. Sore nipples: Let’s just start here first because this is one of the first things you will face in your breastfeeding journey. When your little is a newborn (or simply a boob-addict) it makes sense why your nipples hurt. You have someone sucking on them for HOURS a day. Once, I timed how long I breastfed my baby. 8 HOURS. Literally an entire work day of breastfeeding.
Solutions: I highly recommend using The First Years Nursing Butter for when your nipples are throbbing. I liked Lansinoh but found it was super painful to spread because it was soo thick. This nursing butter spreads like melted butter and is not painful at all to apply. I would also try to air my nipples out as often as possible to not keep them trapped with moisture making it worse. Express breastmilk onto nipples after feeding. Breastmilk naturally has healing properties.
2. Engorgement: Again, something you may likely experience and it’s very common in the first week of breastfeeding as your milk regulates.
Solutions: Express A Little: This is important. When you are engorged it can be incredibly painful. Sometimes baby has a difficult time latching because your breast is too full and their mouths are too tiny to get a good latch. Sometimes you hurt sooo bad and it’s not yet time to nurse. Express as little as necessary to make it easier for baby too latch or to where you are comfortable.
Keep in mind, the more you express, it triggers your body to produce that milk you expressed. Some people recommend pumping before nursing but I found that to be tricky as I continued to overproduce and be engorged. My suggestion is to hand express only and slowly reduce the amount you express each time you express. You will find that over time it will balance itself out!
Ice. This helped tremendously. I thought heat would help. Silly me. It did the opposite and kept signaling to my body to continue to produce more! So thanks to my Lactation Consultant (I highly recommend you find one! They are an amazing resource!) I used ice after nursing sessions to help balance out my engorgement and reduce swelling. I recommend the Lansino Therapearl Heating and Cooling Pads. These have been amazing and I have milked them (pun intended) for all that they are worth and then some.
Time. This usually subsides within a day or so. It’s all about your body finding the balance of how much baby needs and how much to provide. This typically happens within the first week of your breastfeeding journey. One of the roughest weeks, but you can get through it!!
3. Back Pain: My chiropractor calls this “nursing mother’s back”. It’s intense back pain that happens during breastfeeding due to hunching over while breastfeeding.
Solutions: My biggest tip is to see a chiropractor for regular adjustments. Be away of your posture and bring baby to you. Invest in a nursing pillow!
4. Overactive Letdown: This was me and it was awful. Thank goodness my LC diagnosed it early and it was resolved fairly quickly. It was so painful for me and I felt so bad for my daughter! I had both engorgement and overactive letdown at the beginning. I believe this was due to my use of heating pads frequently to help with the pain but it kept signaling my body to produce more than necessary.
My milk flowed SO fast that my poor daughter was essentially choking on it when nursing. She would cry and I would hear a “click”ing sound when she would swallow. It was painful for her because was being forced to swallow milk too quickly and painful for me when my milk would letdown.
Solutions: Basically the same thing for engorgement. I expressed milk first that way the letdown wasn’t too intense. I iced after nursing. I nursed in the cradle position so it was more of an uphill position to avoid gravity making the letdown stronger. Once I solved engorgement, my overactive letdown went away. 🙂
5. D-MER: Until recently, I didn’t know there was a name to what I had been feeling. I thought it was just me. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting breastfeeding women that is an abrupt flood of negative emotions that occur just before a letdown and continues for just a few minutes. Guys, it’s the craziest, most awful thing I think I had to face while breastfeeding. I wish I had known I wasn’t the only one.
Solutions: For me, it went away after a few months and my hormones regulated some. The scariest thing for me was thinking it was an emotional problem not just a normal, medical problem. It was pretty terrifying to feel so depressed for those 2 minutes with no explanation.
Knowledge for me was key. Knowing it was normal and I was okay, helped tremendously. Talking to fellow breastfeeding moms helped as well as I discovered I wasn’t alone. Who would have thought my sister-in-law knew EXACTLY what I was talking about. It’s something so difficult to describe but she completely understood.
Others with more severe cases will want to consider other natural remedies and lifestyle changes. This is something that, unfortunately, there aren’t many resources out there for yet because it’s something that people have been slowly opening up about. There is currently an organization raising awareness for D-MER at d-mer.org.
6. Leaky Breasts: When your breasts get too full or you hear a baby cry/miss your baby your breasts may start leaking. Woops! But it is your body’s natural response telling you it is time to breastfeed/pump soon. Also, my other breast would also letdown when I was nursing on the opposite side.
Solutions: To avoid wet spots on clothing (embarrassing-been there!) nurse frequently and regularly to avoid overly full breasts. Wear disposable or reusable nursing pads! I recommend Target’s brand “up and up” for disposable! Very affordable, last for HOURS, and are comfortable. If you consistently letdown milk on the opposite side during feedings, I recommend a milk saver to catch that milk! Save it and store it to create a backup stash!
7. Clogged Duct: When milk is in your breast too long it can create a clogged duct. This can be characterized by a sore spot, reddened area, or a tender lump on your breast. I got my first one when Isla was 6 months old and let me tell you, you will know if you have a clogged duct. She had just started sleeping longer stretches so my milk had been sitting for longer than it was used to resulting in a clogged duct. Also, wearing too tight of bras/tanks can cause this too!
Solutions: Frequently nurse your baby even though it hurts. Massage the breast and lump while nursing, massaging towards the nipple. I have also heard that using an electric toothbrush to help massage does the trick! Using heat/taking a hot shower can help stimulate milk flow so use that to your advantage as well! What really worked for me was nursing on all fours. It was embarrassing and I felt like a cow but gravity did the trick and I was able to get rid of the clogged duct within a few feedings.
As you can see: I have had my trials of breastfeeding. I am glad I did it but man, it can be painful. This is why some people quit breastfeeding. Breastfeeding hurts and comes with a ton of obstacles! There is no shame in quitting (or shouldn’t be). You do what you need to do to take care of that sweet baby of yours.
I get tired of seeing people glamourize breastfeeding as the most wonderful thing ever. It is difficult, exhausting, emotionally draining, and painful. If we truly want to normalize breastfeeding, we need to be real about the challenges and offer tips and support to fellow moms. I hope some of these tips come to use for you.
Remember, being a mom is tough. You are a rockstar. Let’s work together and cheer eachother on. YOU GOT THIS!!
DISCLOSURE: I am not a doctor. I am simply a mom sharing things that worked for me. Do not use my blog posts over your doctor. Ask your doctor for any medical advice! ❤
One Merry Mama