As rewarding as breastfeeding can be for you and your munchkin, it can sometimes be a frustrating and even physically painful ordeal. Problems such as mastering bubba’s latch or waiting for your milk supply to come in can threaten to derail your breastfeeding experience even before it begins.
It also doesn’t help that breastfeeding experiences can differ greatly from one mum to the other. This means one woman’s advice may cause more confusion to a mum who’s struggling to breastfeed instead of putting her mind at ease.
The best thing you can do is speak to a medical expert to get the best advice. Thomson Medical Centre’s senior ParentCraft educator Dr Wong Boh Boi clears the air on some of the most commonly misconstrued breastfeeding problems…
1) Producing very little breastmilk
THE FACTS While your body will naturally begin to produce breastmilk following bubba’s delivery, it’ll still take some time for your breasts to produce a regular supply. Your body will then take between three to four days and up two weeks to finally start producing a steady supply of breastmilk.
By the way, from as early as 14 weeks before your delivery, you may spot small amounts of yellowish liquid leaking from your breasts. This nutrient-rich liquid is called colostrum and is all your newborn needs in the first few days following his birth.
Do make time to feed or pump during the night to make the fullest use of your body’s ability to produce milk.
WHAT YOU CAN DO The amount of breastmilk produced can differ from one mother to the next. Dr Wong lists the possible reasons for your low supply issues:
* Not initiating breastfeeding soon enough As soon as you’re wheeled out of the delivery room and into your ward, Dr Wong explains you should let your baby nurse directly from your breast even when there’s no milk. It gives you the chance to perfect your breastfeeding technique and works as a natural trigger for your body to start producing breastmilk.
* Hormonal issues Pre-existing health conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common problem affecting breastmilk supply. If you have fluctuating thyroid hormones or you’re suffering from diabetes, these conditions can also jeopardise your milk supply. Remember to let your lactation consultant know about your health issues so that she can give you the best advice.
*History of breast surgery Any reduction in your breast tissue or scarring form any previous surgery may also affect your amount of breastmilk supply. Structural issues like an inverted nipple can also affects baby’s ability to feed properly.
* Consuming certain herbs Eating large amounts of peppermint, sage and Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica Root) can decrease the quantity of breastmilk your body produces, notes Dr Wong. Watch your diet and reduce the intake of these herbs.
*Skipping night feeds Dr Wong notes that the prolactin levels — a vital hormone for milk production — in your body peaks at night, between midnight and 6am. This is the best time to feed bub or pump to make full use of your body’s ability to produce milk.
That said, while breastmilk should always be your child’s main source of nutrition until they’re about 6-months-old, don’t shy away from supplementing your infant’s diet with formula feeding if you think that’s best for baby.
2) Baby isn’t feeding long enough on each breast
THE FACTS As your cherub becomes used to latching, they’ll become more proficient at feeding. Dr Wong points out, “Some babies who are 2 months or older only need to feed for 15 to 20 minutes and thereafter, show no interest in continuing to feed.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO As long as baby isn’t showing signs of feeding problems, Dr Wong says there’s generally nothing to worry about. You could also feed bub on one breast and pump the other concurrently to help maintain your milk supply. “If the mother doesn’t pump from the other breast, her body may interpret the situation as having a surplus of milk and works to cut down on milk supply,” adds Dr Wong
3) No engorgement
THE FACTS Not experiencing engorgement – breasts producing too much milk, resulting in swelling and pain – doesn’t equate to a breastfeeding problem, especially if you’re able to feed your baby without any hiccups. In fact, if your breastfeeding journey is going smoothly, you won’t experience engorgement at all since it only happens when your breasts are not being emptied properly.
“While some women notice a feeling of fullness in their breasts about four days after their body starts producing colostrum, that isn’t engorgement — it’s the sensation of their breasts filling up with milk,” points our Dr Wong. So in other words, not having to deal with engorgement is a good thing!
WHAT YOU CAN DO Dr Wong advises if you do feel a certain tightness in the chest or engorgement, you can try massaging your breasts, pump to extract some of the milk or let baby feed directly. “You should be mindful to avoid pumping for too long because it can lead to an oversupply of milk. Just pump for comfort,” she adds.
“If the mother doesn’t pump from the other breast, her body may interpret the situation as having a surplus of milk and works to cut down on milk supply.”
4) No let-down reflex
THE FACTS From as early as 10 days after starting to breastfeed, you may feel a tingling sensation in your breasts when feeding bubba. It’s a sign of the let-down reflex, which occurs when the cells around the boobs contract to squeeze milk out. For some woman, simply thinking about, seeing or even hearing their baby cry can trigger it.
WHAT YOU CAN DO It is unlikely for you to feel the reflex if you’re feeling anxious, tense, nervous and consuming too much alcohol, notes Dr Wong. So try to calm yourself down before feeding your little one. Some mothers may not know what the symptoms of reflex are and therefore may have missed it. Dr Wong says, “We’ll usually need to sit with them and show when the let-down happens.”
5) Not leaking breastmilk
THE FACTS For most women feeling breastmilk leaking from their breasts is a common problem that comes after feeling the let-down reflex. It can be an embarrassing problem as the milk can soak through your clothes. However, not facing this issue doesn’t always signal a potential breastfeeding problem.
WHAT YOU CAN DO Dr Wong notes that if you’re producing adequate amounts of milk in the first month, whether or not you’re experiencing breastmilk leakage isn’t a concern. “Chances are, you should be able to continue to produce adequate amounts of milk after your first month.”
6) Breasts feel softer to the touch
THE FACTS Your breasts will naturally feel softer to the touch especially after you’ve just fed your munchkin. It’ll take about an hour or two before your breasts fill up again. Breasts that are soft to touch, yet feel full and heavy on the inside, are not an issue notes Dr Wong. However, breasts that are lumpy, soft and light to the touch should be assessed by a lactation consultant as it could signify low milk supply.
WHAT YOU CAN DO If you are really concerned about how your breast feels and that it could be affecting your milk supply, talk to your lactation consultant to get a clearer assessment.
What you should look out for instead
Instead of fretting over not experiencing certain symptoms, stay vigilant and spot the signs of a well-fed baby instead, says Dr Wong. Look out for these top signs…
* You can hear baby swallowing as he feeds,
* There’s adequate urine output. A one-day-old should produce at least one wet diaper, two-day-old should produce at least two wet diapers in a day and so on. After the fourth day, there should be about six to eight wet diapers daily.
* Your kewpie’s fontanelle shouldn’t sink in as that’s a sign of dehydration,
* Your infant’s skin shouldn’t be wrinkled up
* Bub should stay alert and settled when left on his own.
* Baby’s body weight should increase by about 20 to 30g daily, after 10 days from birth.
* Your mini-me’s stools will also change in consistency from a thick greenish sludge — called meconium — to yellow and watery, four days after from birth.
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