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Top Breast-Feeding Problems Solved

Even though most new moms intend to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least 3 months, only about a third meet their goal according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration. The reasons for this discrepancy aren't clear-cut, but some experts believe women need more help and guidance to be successful. "It's more normal to have problems breastfeeding than it is to have it be easy," says Sara Chana, international Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If you're not part of the lucky few who master nursing right away, try these solutions for overcoming five common breastfeeding challenges. If you're still struggling, don't hesitate to call a lactation consultant or your pediatrician.

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Problem:My baby won't latch on properly. Lots of moms hit this roadblock before they can even start breastfeeding. Latching is the way your baby positions your nipple in his mouth to drink milk. When your baby is latched on correctly, he should have more than your nipple in his mouth, he should suckle the areola too.

Solution: Sometimes latching problems are due to the shape of your nipple—if they're flat or inverted you may need to use a breast pump or breast shells to pull the nipple out. But often, latching issues are a matter of improper positioning. "A lot of new moms use breastfeeding pillows and leave half an inch of space between their body and the baby's," says Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and author of Breastfeeding Made Simple. The skin-to-skin contact is a primary trigger for babies' breastfeeding instincts. Sitting upright is also not the best approach according to Mohrbacher. Try feeding in a semi-reclined position—on the bed with pillows or leaning back on the couch. Bring your baby's tummy down on your body between your breasts. Gravity will help bring your baby to your breast and that full-front contact will trigger your baby's breastfeeding reflexes.

NEXT: I'm worried my baby isn't getting enough milk.

Problem:I'm worried my baby isn't getting enough milk. If only your breasts had ounces on them like baby bottles, it would be easy to know how much your baby is consuming. But they don't, and many moms don't know the signs that indicate their babies are full and satisfied.

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Solution: Instead of feeding your baby for specific length of time (i.e., 10 minutes on each breast), listen for and know what swallowing sounds and looks like, says Chana. Even if your baby is sucking, it doesn't mean she's swallowing breast milk. Your baby's weight gain is another great indicator that she's getting enough milk, but since you probably won't be putting your baby on the scale between doctor appointments, you may want to pay attention to dirty diapers instead, suggests Mohrbacher. Once your baby starts having yellow stools (instead of black) around the fourth day, you should count three to four quarter-size or larger per day during the first month to be sure your baby is eating enough.

NEXT: Breastfeeding hurts.

Problem:Breastfeeding hurts. Many women think breastfeeding is supposed to hurt, says Chana. But that's simply not true. When done correctly, breastfeeding shouldn't be painful and you shouldn't have to get used to the pain either. No amount of broken skin, blisters or bleeding nipples is necessary.

Solution: Nipple pain occurs when babies are taking the breast too shallowly. "Most Americans nipple feed," says Chana. "Babies mouths need to be on the breast tissue, not just sucking on the nipple." Make sure your baby latches on to your areola as well as your nipple. This ensures that your baby won't be gnawing on your nipples, and that they'll be at the back of his mouth far away from his gums and tongue. Feeling pain? Remove your baby from the breast and try, try, again until it feels right. If you suspect your nipple is infected, that's another issue altogether and you should call your doctor.

NEXT: Low milk supply.

Problem:Low milk supply. Most women's bodies are capable of naturally producing enough milk to feed a baby, but the decisions you make can cause your body to think it's time to slow down production, leaving you with less and less.

Solution: If you understand the science of breastfeeding you can control your own milk supply. Most babies need to feed 8 or 9 times a day. They'll drain the breast fully, signaling the breast to make more milk. But if you start spacing out feedings to do sleep training, supplementing with formula or go back to work and neglect to pump as often as your baby would normally feed, you're signaling your breasts to slow down milk production as if your baby were weaning. Even if you're not feeding your baby as often from the breast, make sure to pump and drain the breasts fully as often as you did before. Also, make sure to offer both breasts each time you feed.

NEXT: Leaking.

Problem: Leaking. Having leaky boobs can be embarrassing, but it's totally normal, especially if it's happening around the time you usually feed your baby. Luckily there are a few things you can do to hide the mess and keep it from happening in the first place.

Solution: Stick to your regular feeding schedule when you can—missed feedings or going longer between them can lead to leakage. Also, watch for engorgement. When your breasts don't get emptied fully enough they can become engorged, or too full, which can be both painful and annoying since it can cause leakage. If you need to, express milk in between feedings to ease the issue. A good defensive strategy against leakiness? Wear cotton nipple pads in your bras so that any mishaps will be absorbed before they seep through to your shirt.


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