Breast-Feeding - Common Problems
You may sometimes doubt your ability to successfully breast-feed. It's common to have questions and struggles sometimes. You may notice that your baby is having problems. Or you may have problems during feeding or problems with your breasts. Remember, most breast-feeding issues are easily resolved when you know what to expect and have support from others, including your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.
Problems in babies
- Cold or flu. When your baby has a minor illness, such as a cold or the flu, continue breast-feeding. Breast milk is still the best nourishment.
- Digestive problems.Some foods may affect breast milk and contribute to intestinal gas or other digestive problems. If you suspect that your baby's crying gets worse after a feeding of breast milk, keep a record of what you eat and how your baby acts, especially when crying episodes occur. Some babies develop a cow's milk sensitivity. If this occurs, stop including milk and dairy products in your diet and talk to your doctor.
- Spitting up. Almost all babies spit up, especially newborns. Spitting up usually doesn't seem to cause the baby any discomfort. But if your baby spits up more often, cries, acts fussy, or has trouble eating, there may be a problem called gastroesophageal reflux.
If you have other concerns or aren't sure if you should see your baby's doctor, see When to Call a Doctor.
Feeding babies with special conditions
Some babies are born with problems that interfere with their ability to breast-feed right away. But many of these babies can be fed breast milk using special techniques, such as cup-feeding or a feeding device called a supplemental nursing system. Feeding a premature baby or a baby with cleft palate or cleft lip may be challenging. Your doctor or a lactation consultant can guide you on feeding techniques.
Problems during feeding
- Latching on. View a slideshow on latching to learn how to get your baby to latch on.
- Biting the nipple. When your baby's primary teeth start to come in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, you both have to make a few adjustments. Your baby may have a temporary loss of appetite because his or her mouth is sore. Teething babies may bite the breast, not knowing that it causes pain. Usually, a firm "no" and a stern expression are enough to control this behavior. It may also help to stop breast-feeding when your baby is finished actively nursing and then give him or her cold teething items to chew on.
- Poor let-down. Practice some relaxation techniques, eat properly, and drink plenty of fluids. And try to breast-feed in comfortable, quiet, and familiar spots.
- Arousal during feeding. Some women notice that they become aroused during breast-feeding. Although this sensation is similar to a sexual response, it isn't sexually driven. It's your body's way of preparing for breast-feeding.
Problems in moms
- Being sick. You can keep breast-feeding when you have a minor illness (such as the flu or a cold). Try to rest as much as you can, and drink fluids. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about breast-feeding when you are sick or if you need to take prescription or over-the-counter medicines for your symptoms.
- Feeling depressed. Breast-feeding problems can be exaggerated if you have postpartum depression. Many women have some feelings of depression in the first few weeks after childbirth. This is commonly known as the "baby blues," and it usually resolves on its own. But some women's bodies respond to changing postpartum hormone levels with a lasting depression that requires treatment. Talk to your doctor if your baby is more than a few weeks old and you continue to have trouble sleeping (insomnia) or concentrating, or if you often feel sad, tearful, anxious, hopeless, or irritable.