Breastfeeding: Sometimes not so simple

Breastfeeding seems like it should be an automatic action – the baby is born, becomes hungry and cries, and is automatically brought to the breast and fed. Most new parents think it should be natural, it should be easy. However, often times it is not quite as simple as that.

The truth is, while breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby and an incredible way to bond, it is often not easy – especially at first. There is support out there to help you, from the millions of mothers who have gone before you, to the support groups and lactation counselors who can help you find the best possible way to breastfeed for both you and your baby. Often, a mother just needs some assistance in getting through a challenge or two and breastfeeding then becomes a natural, easy and lovely way to be with her baby.

As a lactation counselor, I see many women dealing with breastfeeding obstacles every day. Here are some of the most common ones and a few ways to handle them:

Low milk supply

This is a common concern for women – and often makes them afraid that they will not have an adequate supply to feed their babies. Fortunately, there are many solutions to this problem – including increasing hydration, providing more skin to skin contact, and increasing calorie intake. In fact, a breastfeeding woman needs to take in an extra 500 calories a day in order to provide the milk needed for her baby.

Latching issues

Another common problem – and not just for first-time moms. Think about it, no baby is born with breastfeeding experience. Every baby is different in terms of how he or she will be most comfortable eating. Sometimes it’s a matter of trying different holding positions and finding the one that works best for the two of you. It’s easy to get nervous when reading in books or talking to your friends about some popular position that works for most babies. However, it’s important to remember that what works for one baby may not work for another.


This isn’t as common as low milk supply, but still a problem many mothers face. Over-supply is especially common when babies are premature and/or have trouble latching right after being born, leading the mothers to pump more frequently. The pumping can then sometimes cause oversupply and engorged breasts, which then make it hard for the baby to latch and eat – creating a cycle that can be hard to stop. However, there are ways to decrease the supply without weaning the baby completely. This involves a bit more than I can fit in here, but you can start by talking to your doctor or lactation counselor about your own personal situation.

Pain and discomfort

It is normal to experience some discomfort with breastfeeding, especially as your nipples get used to the regular pulling of a baby’s mouth. However, if you are experiencing excruciating pain, it may be caused by a latching or position-related issue. There are different ointments you can use to ease some of the pain. There are also infections to consider, such as mastitis and breast yeast. All of these situations have solutions so don’t be afraid to seek support from a lactation counselor or your provider.

Challenges with getting back to work

This is always a concern for mothers, even if you are in a breast feeding-friendly workplace. Just getting the plan together of what to bring to work for pumping; how, when, and where you should pump and store your milk; and how to discuss your plans with your boss and co-workers, can be quite challenging. But these challenges are not insurmountable. In fact, it has gotten easier and more accepted to pump at work. There are even laws to protect your right to pump at work. So, talk with your employer and you’ll most likely find the situation not as hard as you may think.

Lifestyle change

The truth is, with every baby you have, you’re entering a whole new world of breastfeeding. If your experience with one was easy, it doesn’t necessarily mean your experience with your next will be easy – and vice versa. It’s important to accept that you will be thrown different challenges. However, there are solutions to those challenges and support is available.

In the end, you are not alone. If you talk to any mother, they most likely have faced issues just like you. However, breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby and there is great support available to make it work for you.

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