4 Challenges to breastfeeding and how to overcome them

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Breast milk is precious. This “liquid gold” provides everything that your baby needs to grow and be healthy. Importantly, it contains antibodies that boosts your baby’s immunity and helps fight off viruses and bacteria.

Breastfeeding also benefits mums tremendously. It helps mums lose pregnancy weight faster, helps the uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size, and reduces uterine bleeding after birth.

A new mum’s breastfeeding journey is never easy. She might be faced with the inability to breastfeed, or produce enough milk for her little one, leading to much frustration and depression.

Recently, in a talk presented by Philips AVENT at the Philips Carnival, Sister Lilian Pong, Midwife and Senior Parent Craft and Lactation Consultant, shared useful tips on breastfeeding and post-natal nutrition for new parents and parents-to-be.

She explained some possible reasons why mummies are unable to breastfeed, and what mummies can do to overcome them.

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Challenges to breastfeeding: Main reasons why mums are unable to breastfeed

1. Poor latching

Sometimes the baby is unable to latch properly on to the breast. This may be due to:

A. Flat or inverted nipples

For mummies with flat or inverted nipples, it might be more difficult for the baby to find a good latch.

To find out if you have flat or inverted nipples, you can do the pinch test.

challenges to breastfeeding

Place your thumb and forefinger at the base of your nipple, then gently squeeze your areola (the dark area around the nipple). If the nipple becomes erect during the pinch test, then it is not inverted and you don’t need any special treatment. If the nipple doesn’t become erect, then it is considered flat. If your nipple still dents inwards or retracts, you probably have inverted nipples.

challenges to breastfeeding

Sister Lilian shared that the Philips Niplette is a good solution for mummies experiencing difficulties in breastfeeding due to flat or inverted nipples. The Philips Niplette pulls the nipple out into a thimble-like cup through gentle suction, enabling comfortable breastfeeding.

B. Tongue Tie

A tongue tie is a condition where a short thick tissue connects the bottom of a baby’s tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth. This restricts the movement of the tongue, making it difficult for a baby to breastfeed and swallow.

challenges to breastfeeding

If your baby is unable to latch on or his feeding is getting affected, doctors generally recommend cutting the frenulum that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The process is usually quick and pain free.

C. Poor positioning

Sometimes incorrect latching might occur because of poor positioning of your baby. Try adopting different positions to make things easier for your little one. Your baby needs to feel supported, comfortable, and be able to breathe in order to feed effectively. Some recommended breastfeeding positions are:

  • Cradle hold

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  • Cross cradle hold

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  • Football hold

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Also, here’s a word of advice for mums from Sister Lilian, “When you are breastfeeding a baby or pumping, don't crouch. Back support is important, or you’ll end up with a bad backache. So, whether you choose to breastfeed in an armchair or on a bed, make sure you invest in a firm pillow for your back.”

2. Breasts are really full and hard

Sometimes, the breasts become really hard, uncomfortable and painful. This may be due to blocked milk ducts. Milk ducts are the tubes that carry breast milk from where it is made in the mammary glands, out to the nipple.

challenges to breastfeeding

If a milk duct in the breast is not drained well, the area becomes ‘clogged’. This causes a build up of milk, often leading to engorgement or an infection known as mastitis (which requires medical treatment).

Sister Lilian shares some tips on how to prevent engorgement and mastitis:

A. “Always wear a bra”

“The first step is to always wear a bra. Breastfeeding mummies might be tempted to not wear a bra because firstly, the weather is too hot, and secondly, it’s too cumbersome to take on and off every 2-3 hours,” she says.

“If you don’t wear a bra, the milk will come down the ducts and accumulate, leading to blocked ducts."

B. Clear blocked ducts through the right breast massage

“The key to clearing blocked ducts through massage is to avoid ‘finger pointing’ (pressing down with finger tips).

“Instead, put your hand at the top of the breast, press firmly inwards with your palm and move clockwise 8-10 times, and backwards 8-10 times. Proceed all around the breast and repeat the motion.

“Doing this helps the milk to be released from the milk ducts. The next step is to cup your breasts, and shake or vibrate them (avoid ‘finger pointing’ again), so that the milk becomes available for your baby to suck.”

Also, here is another useful tip from Sister Lilian for mums who are breastfeeding, “When you are choosing a breast pump, you have to consider your nipple size. Nipple tunnels for breast pumps come in different sizes. Consider how well your nipples fit into the nipple tunnel and how it is pulled into during pumping.”

“The Philips AVENT Double Electric Breast Pump has shorter flanges, and the attachments enable mummies with different nipple sizes to pump milk efficiently.”

challenges to breastfeeding

3. Sore nipples

A poor latch or incorrect positioning are the most common causes of sore nipples. Experiencing sore nipples takes away the joy of breastfeeding and makes it a painful process.

Sister Lilian shared that, “Some mummies are afraid that their babies are unable to breathe while breastfeeding. So they gently try to press their breasts behind for fear that the nose is blocked.

“Please remember that, as long as the chin of the baby is touching the breast, there is a hairline breathing space. If baby cannot breathe, baby won’t be able to suck.

“When you press the breast, you are actually pulling the nipple backwards a little. It will hit the upper palate of the baby. That’s one of the reasons for sore nipples.

Also when your nipple gets pulled behind, baby tries to grab on to it even harder, again causing sore nipples.”

A natural remedy for sore nipples is to pat a few drops of breast milk onto the affected nipple before and after nursing, and allowing them to air dry. Breast milk, because of its antimicrobial properties, promotes healing.

Also, the Philips AVENT Moisturizing Nipple Cream helps in nipple care, and in the treatment of sore nipples.

4. Poor Diet

The post-natal or confinement period is for your body to recuperate and recover from childbirth. It usually lasts from 1 month to 6 weeks post delivery. Mummies should make sure that they eat a balanced diet, drink enough water, and rest well during this period.

Sister Lilian tells us that an ideal balanced diet for a new mum should be:

  • High in protein
  • Rich in iron
  • Contain fish and meat
  • Contain vegetables and fruits
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She also recommended these soups during this period:

  • Fish soup
  • Fish & Papaya soup
  • Chicken soup

The Philips Deluxe Collection All-in-One Cooker and Philips High Speed Vacuum Blender are very useful, when it comes to whipping up quick and nutritious meals and soups for the new mum.

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Lastly, here are some additional tips on post-natal nutrition from Sister Lilian:

  • “If you have leftover prenatal vitamin capsules, it is good to take them during this period.
  • “Ikan bilis” (dried anchovies) are great to boost breast milk supply. It is rich in calcium and protein.
  • “Do drink plenty of water during confinement and restrict your intake of sugary drinks.
  • “You must include vegetables and fruits to your diet during confinement to prevent constipation.”

Sister Lilian’s talk on “A Guide to Successful Breastfeeding and Post-natal Nutrition” was held as part of the Philips Carnival, which took place from 18 May to 20 May 2019. Consumers enjoyed discounts on appliances of up to 60 percent, and learned how to live healthy lifestyles through educational talks and cooking demonstrations from experts during the three-day Carnival.

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Written by

Jaya