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Our choice to breastfeed was an easy one. We breastfeed not only for the benefits, like immune system building, ensuring adequate nutrition, bonding, but also because it makes sense to us. Human milk for human babies. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, though I’m an advocate of breastfeeding, I do realize that there may be instances when breastfeeding isn’t possible. There are various formulas on the market that provide an alternative for some families, but there is also formula that one can make at home which doesn’t include any input from pharmaceutical companies. Some families choose those. Although I’d like to think that we would be a family that made formula at home, if necessary, frankly I don’t know. But this post isn’t to debate the various feeding methods for infants.
This post is about a few problems we’ve encountered on our breastfeeding journey, and ways we’ve addressed those problems. Fortunately, our experience with breastfeeding has largely been easy. Other than the one incident involving a plugged duct , we’re grateful to have the problems we have.
Problem: Oversupply/Over-active letdown/Foremilk-Hindmilk Imbalance/Forceful Letdown
Our Symptoms: Engorgement, milk shooting when Baby pulls off, and leaking for me. Choking, milk spillage, clicking, nipple squeezing, and general fussiness at the breast for Baby.
Our Solution: Block feeding. Reclined, elevated, and lying down position.
It took me a few weeks to figure out this was the problem we were having. I was following the general guidelines of feeding on one breast each session. He didn’t want to take the other, so I didn’t bother trying. Our nursing sessions went something like this: Baby is rooting or Mama figures it’s been about 3 hours since the last feeding, so it’s time for Baby to nurse. Baby starts nursing, milk is going all over the place. Mama thinks he’s maybe just a “messy eater”, within a couple minutes, Baby starts arching and screaming, grabbing at the breast, trying to drink milk, not wanting to drink milk, choking repeatedly, squeezing my nipple with his gums/tongue, and making clicking sounds over and over. As one could imagine, this wasn’t easy. It was stressful for me because I didn’t know what was going on and I wasn’t prepared for problems other than latch issues. I wasn’t overly concerned about milk supply because I could see he was getting milk, or trying to, and he was steadily gaining weight. Finally, between La Leche League and Kelly Mom, I figured it out. The first thing I did was to try to express a bit of the foremilk before a feeding. This wasn’t working and/or it was taking too long and I just wanted to feed Baby and trying to do this was more stressful than just dealing with Baby fussing at the breast. (Anyone go mentally nuts when the baby starts crying? I practically cannot think.) So, I quickly moved to block feeding. Essentially what this means is that you feed multiple times from the same breast. The number of times one needs to do this varies, some calculate by hours, some by sessions. I did ours by session. Initially, I would feed on one breast 3-4 times before switching to the other. Of course, this led to incredible and painful engorgement with the other breast. Do Not, I repeat, DO NOT express much milk from that breast. Express enough just for comfort. Expressing more than that will lead to maintaining the milk supply that is causing the problem. We did this for about a week to a week and a half. We now typically feed twice on one breast before moving to the other. Sometimes this can be difficult to gauge if Baby just has a snack. Usually what happens if I somehow mess up or we go a significant amount of time between feedings, I am engorged again. (There’s more about this and what I do, keep reading.)
Problem: Baby loves sleeping in the car and will sleep for hours straight, skipping nursing sessions.
Symptoms: Painful engorgement for me. Much rest for Baby.
Solution: Hand expression and/or manual pumping.
Despite knowing that we happened to be one of the fortunate families to have oversupply issues, it actually never occurred to me that I would have issues when traveling. I learned my lesson really quickly. Baby will sleep, if fed before leaving, at least 5 hours without waking. He has even been known to sleep through quick stops. What this means, is that I had to figure out a way to manage engorgement if we’re in the car for any length of time. My first attempt was simple hand expression. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad and I could get enough out to be comfortable, but not cause more engorgement or battle with the oversupply when Baby wanted to eat. Well, after soaking 2 t-shirts with this hand expression method, I figured that isn’t quite the way to go. So, that leads me to pumping. I use a manual pump that I now use. I now can do this while Hun drives, instead of making a stop and pumping in the bathroom stall. Other than my manual pump, I bring a glass jar or two to store the milk in, as well as a couple Dr. Brown’s glass bottles and nipples. I bring these in case Baby wakes at an inopportune time to stop or to help with feeding him when we get to our destination and I’m still over-full.
Problem: Distracted nursing.
Symptoms: Baby may nurse for a moment then pull off and start looking around, playing, talking, or otherwise stop nursing. Baby gets fussy when I put him down because he’s not nursing, yet he isn’t quite ready to focus on simply nursing.
Solution: Nursing while lying down. Nursing in a room alone with Baby. Nursing in a wrap. Nursing with a blanket. Mom relaxes (sometimes).
I think this problem is fairly self-explanatory, nonetheless this is a problem we have. Now, I will say that Baby’s distract-ability can cause some issues while out. This makes it ever more important that I know his cues and ways to soothe him, as well as ensuring that I have a method in which to nurse him comfortably for both he and I.
What are some breastfeeding challenges that you’ve encountered? How have you addressed them? What worked? What didn’t?