Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges in the Postpartum Period

Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges in the Postpartum Period

Kate Miller

About Author: Hi, I’m Kate 👋 I’m a Lactation Educator Counselor and the founder of Mighty Milk, a Baby Registry Certified Expert, and a mom of 2. I share info that helped me go from struggling with breastfeeding and pumping to thriving with both! Please note: this blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice!

If breastfeeding feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you are not alone. Many or even most new parents struggle with breastfeeding. And challenges with feeding can color everything about postpartum life. It can impact how you feel about yourself, your partner, your baby, and your new life together. But the good news is, learning a few fundamentals can help you overcome breastfeeding challenges and feed your baby on your own terms. 

Why is breastfeeding so hard, anyway?

Before we dive in, here’s one super important thing you should know. Don’t miss this. Have you ever wondered why breastfeeding is so hard for so many parents? When you understand the reason why so many parents struggle with breastfeeding, it can also unlock that “aha” moment that helps set you up for success. After all, breastfeeding is the most natural thing we do, right? Human milk has literally sustained human life for millennia. But I have a question for you. How many times have you seen breastfeeding happen up close? Under a cover doesn’t count.  If your answer is 0 times, or maybe 1 or 2, you’re in the majority. As formula replaced breastfeeding due to aggressive marketing tactics, we lost generational knowledge for how breastfeeding was designed to work. Most parents in the US and beyond have never seen breastfeeding happen up close before we do it with our own babies. Of course, it makes sense that so many parents struggle! It’s like flying blind. The good news is, learning a few fundamentals about breastfeeding and how to overcome challenges can go a long way in helping you reach your feeding goals. I know because learning these key concepts helped me! 

Mom with newborn baby

Challenge: Low milk supply

There can be one or several factors behind low milk supply. I struggled with low milk supply with my first baby, and thought something was wrong with my body. With my second baby, I knew exactly what to do, and I made plenty of milk! I realized nothing was wrong with my at all–I just didn’t understand the fundamentals of how milk supply works. A quick rundown can be very useful, no matter what may be causing your supply issues.

Babies  have tiny stomachs, and the nutritional makeup of human milk is such that it is designed to be fed to babies very frequently.  The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you’ll make, and the more milk your baby will get. Nursing your baby very frequently is the best way to avoid a whole slew of problems like low milk supply, engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis. How many times a day you’ll need to nurse your baby will differ from person to person, so there’s no one single number anyone can tell you. I fed my newborn baby about 20 times a day for just a few minutes on each side. It’s not that intense forever, but in the early days, knowing that your baby needs to nurse frequently throughout the day and night can help you feel less overwhelmed. In Mighty Milk’s Breastfeeding Your Baby 0-12 Weeks class, which I’ll talk about later, you’ll learn how to tell if your baby is hungry so you know when to feed them. Knowing how to read your baby’s hunger cues can help you prevent stressful screaming and crying.

Genetics also impact milk supply. Some mothers have insufficient glandular tissue (breast hypoplasia) which can lead to not being able to product enough milk. You can still breastfeed your baby even if you have challenges, and even if you need to feed your baby supplemental milk. In Mighty Milk’s Breastfeeding Your Baby 0-12 Weeks class, you’ll learn more about low milk supply and everything discussed here–including what to do and how to continue with breastfeeding if you are struggling with supply. And if you are at all concerned about your supply or your baby, reach out to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or your baby’s doctor immediately.

Challenge: Engorgement, Plugged Ducts, and Mastitis

These are common and painful challenges. I know because I have been there and they are extremely challenging, especially as you are recovering from birth and getting to know the tiny person (or person) who is completely dependent on you.

The best way to avoid these issues in the first place is to keep your baby skin-to-skin on your chest and nurse them baby very frequently in the days after birth. Engorgement can also happen after the initial postpartum period, if you ever go longer than usual between breastfeeding sessions. No matter what stage you’re at, emptying your breasts frequently is the best way to prevent engorgement. This does not mean that you need to panic the first time your baby sleeps longer than two hours in a row. But it’s something to generally keep in mind, as engorgement can lead to plugged milk ducts if it is not resolved quickly. And when plugged milk ducts do not resolve quickly, they can lead to mastitis. It’s like a terrible game of postpartum dominos. If you are struggling with engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis, Lex walks you through what you should know in Mighty Milk’s Breastfeeding Your Baby 0-12 Weeks class. If you are struggling and in pain, definitely reach out to an IBCLC for personalized support.

Challenge: Nipple pain

Nipple pain is miserable. I know because with my first baby, I’ve been there. Many new parents experience nipple pain, and the most common reason is because of positioning. Poor positioning isn’t only uncomfortable. It can also lead to your baby not being able to get milk effectively. Many parents position their babies across their laps, but this position can lead to nipple pain. One position to try is an upright position, which is what we see in nature. In the upright position, your baby has access to the reflexes they use to latch on and nurse effectively. The side-lying position works much the same, where your body and your baby’s body are well supported and comfortable. I didn’t want to shove too much in this video, but the full class shows videos of real moms and newborns nursing in these positions, and you get a laminated printout of a diagram of these positions to keep wherever you nurse your baby as a handy reminder. If you try different positions and are still in pain, reach out to an IBCLC for individual support as soon as possible. 

Breastfeeding for Expectant Parents

Challenge: Overwhelm and anxiety

If you are feeling overwhelmed by breastfeeding, know you are not alone. It is a lot, and it can feel very difficult to succeed in a culture that often does not support breastfeeding. But there are ways to reduce your anxiety and overwhelm. Even just learning how to get out of the house and nurse when you are out and about can be very helpful. Seek out groups of new parents, especially in person. Avoid going to online forums, where bad advice is rampant and can sabotage your breastfeeding relationship.  Our full class teaches you how to calm your overwhelm and anxiety and adjust to life with your breastfed baby. If you are exhibiting signs of postpartum depression or need more support, please reach out for help, either to your OB or pediatrician, or check out the resources on Postpartum Support International.

Reach Out If You Need Help

If your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, you’re in lots of pain, or you have other concerns, that’s a sign that it’s time to get personalized support. Reach out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC, for help if you’re struggling with breastfeeding. IBCLCSs are the lactation experts with the highest credential. Before I gave birth, I didn’t really know what a Lactation Consultant was. And then after my baby was born, I saw my local lactation consultant so frequently I felt like I was living in her office. Many new parents aren’t aware that pediatricians are NOT lactation experts. They get very minimal lactation training. I’m talking like 3 hours of training. IBCLCs can help you with lots of things. Milk supply, nipple pain, pumping, bottle feeding, the list goes on.  Challenges with feeding can snowball quickly. I learned this firsthand with my first baby. Reach out for help early and often if you need to. Many US insurance plans cover IBCLC visits so check with your provider.

Can you imagine what a difference it would make for your postpartum life if breastfeeding was going well, and you felt confident and calm?

One thing that is not talked about enough is how much of an outsized role breastfeeding plays in postpartum life. Feeding your baby IS postpartum life. If you’re a first time mom, maybe you were like me and imagined peacefully rocking your baby in their adorable nursery, everything quiet and calm. But the reality for so many of us is so different. Because when breastfeeding isn’t going well, it can color EVERYTHING. It can impact how you feel about your transition to motherhood. How you feel about your partner. How you feel about your life. But the opposite can also be true. When breastfeeding is going smoothly, the anxiety quiets. The stress and overwhelms drops. Sure, you’ll still be tired and underslept, and you still probably have dishes piling up in the sink, but when you have this confidence, it is a huge shift. And it can make all the difference how you are able to adjust to your new life with your baby.

Maybe you’ll cross your fingers and hope that breastfeeding will go well. Or maybe you’ll comb through Youtube videos or social media groups, trying to piece together advice. But who knows how trustworthy that information will be, and whether it will actually help you. OR you can make the choice to invest in your breastfeeding relationship by following the guidance of an IBCLC who has helped hundreds of families overcome breastfeeding challenges and reach their goals. All of this in just one class, with a few hours of video that can make the difference between whether or not you’re able to reach your breastfeeding goals.

My breastfeeding journey with my babies inspired me to help other families avoid the frustration and difficulty that I felt. I teamed up with the amazing lactation consultant who was literally life changing for me and my family. She is why I was able to breastfeed my second baby successfully. She has worked with hundreds of families reach their feeding goals and now she can help you, too. 

I want to invite you to Mighty Milk’s  Breastfeeding Your Baby for parents of babies 0-12 weeks who are struggling with breastfeeding. This class is exactly all of the information that helped me have a successful breastfeeding relationship. The class is broken down into short videos that you can watch all at once or over time. So you can change the course of your postpartum life, just by sitting on your couch for an hour or two. Grab your partner and watch together, since their support plays an important role in your breastfeeding success.

In this course you’ll learn:

  • What’s normal with a breastfed baby
  • How to avoid AND overcome common challenges, including low milk supply, nipple pain, engorgement, plugged ducts, and/or mastitis
  • All about building your milk supply
  • How to position your baby to avoid nipple pain
  • How to tell if your baby is hungry
  • How to tell if your baby is swallowing
  • How you can tell when breastfeeding is going well—and when to get help
  • Tips for maximizing nighttime sleep
  • How to get started with pumping and bottle feeding
  • Adjusting to life with a breastfed baby
  • How to get out of the house
  • Nutrition, coffee, alcohol, and medication
  • And so much more

Our classes are rated 5/5 stars on Facebook from parents that have been in your shoes.

Mighty Milk Expectant Parents Class

I want to make this extra easy for you. I want you to succeed. I want you to be able to have a rewarding breastfeeding relationship, by the way that includes pumping, for as long as you would like. So I’m offering a guarantee. If you finish the class and you’re not satisfied, let me know, and I’ll make it right. Even if you’ve taken a breastfeeding class at your hospital, take this class. I took one with my first baby and it didn’t teach me in the way I needed to learn. Mighty Milk’s class is different. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Click here to sign up and boost your confidence starting immediately. Hope to see you inside!

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