How to Overcome Challenges of Breastfeeding and Pumping

We don’t need to tell you that many mothers put an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves to breastfeed. For some moms breastfeeding is a quick, smooth and painless experience. For others there are issues of supply, latching, pain and more. The process can be frustrating and both physically and emotionally taxing. There is no need to suffer! It’s important for both mom and baby’s health for parents to be proactive and get in touch with a lactation expert sooner rather than later to address any problems.

Read on for a primer on how to navigate situations that can complicate breastfeeding and/or pumping.

Poor Latching

While there are many reasons under this umbrella, common reasons behind a poor, shallow, or painful latch can be due to positioning, tongue or lip ties, torticollis (neck stiffness or trauma) or breast engorgement according to Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC and Motif Medical lactation director. “Work closely with an IBCLC to rule out the causes and develop a plan of action. A simple adjustment to aid in the comfort of the mom and baby can go a long way, even to just buy time if further measures are needed.”

Strict Schedules or Prolonged Separation

“Going long periods in between feeds or pumping sessions, waiting to feel full, unprepared separation, or strict feeding schedules can all negatively impact and complicate breastmilk supply, breast health and pumping abilities,” says Georgakopoulos. “To reset, focus on frequency, power pumping and feeding on demand.”

Breast Reduction or Augmentation Surgeries

While not completely deciding the fate of feeding or pumping abilities, the method in which the surgery was performed is important. “Going under the breast and not through the nipple/areola area can drastically save the outcome of nerve health, milk duct drainage and more,” says Georgakopoulos. “Reductions that removed too much glandular tissue may have irreversible effects to lactation and could mean supplementation or donor milk is needed the duration of breastfeeding or pumping.”

Side Preferences

“Not only does the imbalance cause discomfort, it may become long lasting in supply output equality from each breast,” says Georgakopoulos. “It may also set up for issues such as clogged ducts and mastitis. Work with an IBCLC to establish root cause, most likely on baby’s side of things, to determine plan of action. Body work to release tension in the baby is a common route.”

Inverted Nipples

While flat nipples and inverted nipples get the blame unfairly for many latching issues, true inverted nipples are defined as unable to extend when stimulated. “In severe cases, tethered tissue from the inside causes pain in the nipple when tugged at,” says Georgakopoulos, underlining that for milder cases, it’s important to ensure the baby has full capability to latch properly by seeing an IBCLC, Speech and Language therapist (SLT) or other oral professional for an assessment. “For severe cases, nipple shields can be used therapeutically, as well as pumping when completely unable to latch.”

Unfavorable settings or order of while pumping

Pumping settings are just as important as having a good quality pump. “When used incorrectly, pumping output is quite difficult to achieve. Simulate a baby, starting with a gentle suction and faster cycle speed. Switch to a stronger setting and slower rate when milk flow starts or after three minutes, even if no milk flow is happening.”

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