10 facts about breastfeeding that nobody tells you about
Breastfeeding is often portrayed as a natural, effortless experience that every new mum should instinctively master. However, this idealised picture is far from the truth and can give expecting and new mums a false impression.
Many new mothers find breastfeeding challenging and if you're about to give birth or have recently welcomed your little one, preparing for the realities of nursing is crucial. Understanding these common challenges and knowing that you’re not alone in dealing with them can make a world of difference.
Our TummyMommy community is a supportive space filled with mothers who have faced various breastfeeding challenges. We understand what you're going through, so we've gathered our best advice to help you prepare for or navigate your breastfeeding experience.
The first few days
The first few days after giving birth are a whirlwind of emotions and new experiences, and breastfeeding is no exception. It may feel like there are more downs than ups initially, but rest assured, it gets easier with time and practice.
During these early days, your body produces colostrum, a nutrient-rich "first milk" that's incredibly beneficial for your newborn. Aim for frequent feedings—about 8-12 times in 24 hours—to help establish your milk supply. Offer both breasts during every feeding to stimulate milk production in both and to avoid your baby developing a preference for only one of them.
As you start nursing, you might worry about how your body will know to produce enough milk or how to increase milk supply as your baby grows. Your body operates on a supply and demand principle: the more you breastfeed, the more milk the body produces. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby is incredibly important – not just for bonding with your baby, but also for stimulating hormones in your body that boost milk production.
While all of this sounds pretty straightforward, breastfeeding is far from easy. Let’s have a look at some of the most common challenges and how you can best navigate them.
10 common breastfeeding challenges
1. Latching difficulties
While babies have the instinct to latch, they might not know how to do it correctly at first. If it hurts or your baby seems frustrated, it's easy to feel discouraged. But don't lose hope. Many mums face this issue!
Consult a lactation expert or use a nipple shield temporarily. Sometimes a baby is too fussy or too tired to latch properly – to avoid this, try feeding when your baby is calm and not too hungry yet and breastfeed in a calm environment.
2. Finding the right breastfeeding positions
You've probably seen pictures of mums breastfeeding in what looks like perfect harmony. But let's be real—finding comfortable breastfeeding positions can take time and experimentation.
Some babies have a preference for certain positions, and that's okay. The key is finding a spot where you and your baby are relaxed and comfortable, whether it’s you lying down, using a breastfeeding pillow, a cradle hold, a side-lying position or something completely different. It might not look like a scene from a magazine, but if it works for you, it's perfect.
3. Low milk supply
Many mums worry about how to increase milk supply. Signs of low milk supply include the baby needing to feed too often, feeding only for a short time, or your breasts feeling soft.
Hydration and nutrition play an important role here. Only a well-hydrated and well-nourished mum is able to produce enough milk. Some new mums have found success in combating the signs of low milk supply by including specific foods to increase milk supply in their diet: oats, nuts, leafy greens, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, chickpeas, lentils… An easy way to include more of them at the same time is by making lactation cookies, soups, or smoothies.
Another helpful way of boosting lactation are lactation teas, like TummyTox More Milk Tea. This particular blend features sweet fennel and lemon balm, two of the best herbs for naturally boosting your milk supply.
4. Overabundance of milk
Believe it or not, having too much milk can also be a problem, leading to breast engorgement and clogged milk ducts. It can be incredibly uncomfortable, as it’s usually accompanied by a constant feeling of fullness, persistent leaking, and soreness. Certain areas of the breast may become very hot to the touch and you may even develop a slight fever. On top of that, it can make it difficult for your baby to latch or feed properly.
Typically, oversupply naturally settles with time. One thing that can help is leaning back when feeding, which slows down the flow and makes it easier for your baby to latch.
If you’re dealing with engorgement, other mums report that hot compresses before feeding and cold ones afterwards can offer relief. A generations-old technique of pain relief is using cabbage leaves – clean and dry the cabbage leaves, chill them in the fridge, crumple them before use and stick them in your bra.
These same tips can also help with clogged ducts. A plugged duct feels like a tender, sore knot in the breast. It’s also recommended you massage the breast from the clogged duct towards the nipple before and during breastfeeding.
5. Sore and cracked nipples
Oh, the agony of sore nipples! This problem is especially common in the first week of breastfeeding and is often connected to latching problems. As you and your baby get a better hang of it, painful nipples should become less of a problem.
Good hygiene and keeping the area dry after nursing can go a long way. Switching between breasts can help minimise the discomfort as well. Nursing pads can be a lifesaver, and a dab of lanolin ointment and a cold compress can offer relief. Wear a comfortable, cotton breastfeeding bra that offers good support without additionally irritating your nipples.
Keep an eye out for a fungal infection or thrush, and speak to your doctor if you notice pink, flaky, itchy nipples, white spots in your baby’s mouth, and shooting pains in the breast during or after nursing.
One of the most painful breastfeeding complications is mastitis, the inflammation and infection of the breast tissue. It’s often caused by bacteria entering through cracked nipples, going too long between feedings, or not emptying the breasts completely at feedings.
Mastitis might feel similar to the flu and is accompanied by redness and painful swelling of the breast. Since it’s a bacterial infection, mastitis treatment usually requires antibiotics.
7. Baby not gaining enough weight
If your baby isn't gaining weight as you'd expect, it's natural to worry. But remember, babies have their own timelines. They go through growth spurts and plateaus. The best indicator is your baby's behaviour. Are they content, alert, and engaging with you? If so, you're probably doing just fine.
Try breastfeeding more often, and make sure to offer both breasts each time. More skin-to-skin contact can also help your baby feed more often. Your baby will have a lot of checkups in the first year, so make sure to bring up your concerns with a health professional.
8. Nipple confusion
Your little one actually uses two totally different techniques to drink from a breast and a bottle, so it’s understandable that introducing the bottle can cause some confusion and fussiness.
If possible, wait until both you and your baby are fully used to breastfeeding before introducing the bottle. It’s often recommended to wait at least 4 weeks. Use a slow-flow bottle nipple to make the transition easier. If your baby is struggling to latch after using the bottle, try expressing some milk before trying to latch, so there’s an immediate reward.
9. Nursing strikes
Just when you think you've got it all figured out, your baby might decide to go on a nursing strike. Don’t worry – this is usually temporary. It could be teething or simply a change in the environment, like a new smell.
Give your baby a little bit of time to adjust and stay persistent. Switching positions could be helpful or try nursing when your baby is very sleepy or just awakening.
10. Judgment from others
Lastly, let's talk about judgment. Society has a lot of opinions on how you should feed your baby, which can make new mums feel inadequate and like nothing they do is right or enough.
Whether you're breastfeeding, formula feeding, or doing a mix of both, what’s most important is that your baby is fed and that you’re both healthy and doing well. Don’t let societal pressure or judgement cloud your own knowledge and instincts.
So, if you ever feel overwhelmed by what social media, friends, family, and even strangers might be telling you about what you should be doing and how you should be feeling, take a step back and breathe. Remind yourself of the love and care you provide for your child every single day. You're navigating so many challenges, all while keeping your baby’s belly full, and that’s nothing short of heroic.
More Milk Tea – the perfect breastfeeding companion
As you navigate the ups and downs of breastfeeding, TummyTox’s More Milk Tea offers a natural way to enhance the quality of your milk and encourage lactation.
The tea contains powerful herbs – sweet fennel, caraway, anise, and lemon balm – known for their milk-boosting properties, helping you meet your baby's nutritional needs.
And did you know that breast milk is 90% water? Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining a healthy milk supply, and what better way to do it than sipping on our delicious tea?
Buy Tummy Tox More Milk Tea now and take the first step towards a more fulfilling and less stressful nursing experience.