We’re told that breastfeeding is the best for babies. But while there certainly are unignorable benefits for both mother and baby, there’s a ton of pressure to get it exactly right (and backlash when we don’t). The problem is, we’re not often told just how difficult breastfeeding can be at the beginning.
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The reality is, like pregnancy, every breastfeeding journey and relationship is unique. For every mother who nurses until their bub enters preschool, there’s one who can barely get to the six month mark (which most doctors recommend is the ideal length of time to exclusively breastfeed). There are mothers blessed with abundant milk supply without even trying, and there are those who have to work hard to pump even an ounce.
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Whether you’re latching all day or pumping all night just to have enough for the next day’s supply, or you’ve supplemented with formula since day one, there are no judgments here -- just solid advice on how to get over some inevitable speed bumps in your breastfeeding journey.
Here are some common breastfeeding challenges many new mothers face, and some tips on how to hurdle them. Committed to nursing as long as you can? Get some support from La Leche League Australia.
Trouble establishing and keeping a latch
Show your pediatrician or midwife how you latch your child. Let them observe your technique, or better yet, consult with a certified lactation consultation or counselor on how to establish your latch.
Be on the lookout for possible lip or tongue tie in your child that could be the cause of the shallow latch. A professional can diagnose this more accurately.
Does Bub keep falling asleep on the breast and unlatching? If his sleepiness is compromising his nursing you must inform his pediatrician.
Baby not gaining weight despite latching often
It’s common for newborns to lose a small percentage of their birth weight in the first few weeks, but he should regain it eventually. His doctor will tell you if this weight loss is within the normal range.
Your doctor might suggest supplementing with syringe or cup feeding to make sure baby is ingesting enough milk from you, in addition to latching on demand.
Observe your baby’s cues. Does he seem sated or still hungry even after nursing? Is he fussy or not thriving? It’s normal for breastfed babies not to be as chubby as their formula-fed counterparts (trust that those rolls and folds will come eventually!) -- as long as he is still steadily gaining weight nonetheless.
Be open to possibly temporarily supplementing with formula or switching your diet to amp up your breast milk supply, upon your doctor’s suggestion.

Painful nursing
Sore nipples? Perfectly normal (even expected). But if it’s interfering with your nursing, look into breastfeeding-safe topical creams or salves to soothe your nipples between sessions.
Engorged breasts? Also expected while your body regulates milk production, but could also be a sign that you bub isn’t effectively emptying your breasts. Try hand-expressing milk into a clean milk storage container to relieve engorgement, and also consider a warm compress on your breasts to loosen up clogged milk ducts.
Painful latch? A tongue or lip tie could make nursing painful for you and unsatisfying for your baby. A certified breastfeeding coach or lactation counselor can help put you both out of your misery by adjusting your latch and positioning.

Not enough milk
Remember that your body produces what it senses your baby demands. The only way to do this is to let baby latch as much as he can, so he can send signals to your body to produce more. Establishing a pumping routine can also signal your body to produce milk.
It also takes time to establish supply. Keep up with a nursing-friendly diet and amp your hydration, and don’t scrimp on skin-to-skin contact with your bub, as these help your milk come in.
Get a good lactation massage, as this can stimulate your breasts to let down milk.
Increase your supply by not stressing over it! A relaxed environment is key to ample milk production. Read more on that here.
Read up on galactagogues or certain ingredients purported to have milk-producing properties. These include oatmeal, barley, flax seeds, and green leafy vegetables. Consider adding more of these in your diet.
Track your child’s wet and soiled nappies. These should be your indicator that your child is getting enough milk from you. You might not feel you are producing and giving enough milk, but an ample number of damp and dirty nappies are indicative of your child’s satiation.

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Remember, it’s perfectly okay to leave no stone unturned when trying to breastfeed as long as you can, but you have to know that there is no shame in the formula-feeding game should you decide that your breastfeeding journey has come to an end. As long as you and your baby are healthy and happy, that’s all that matters.