When breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally

There is an abundance of information on the importance of breastfeeding out there for mothers to read. And with Breastfeeding Week happening, I thought that we might look at it from a different angle. This one won’t focus on the kind of nutrients and antibodies your baby will get from breast milk. It won’t focus on how breastfeeding can help mom bond with the new arrival. Or how it might help lose some of the baby fat, a struggle for most women. Rather, it’s about tackling the unforeseen. When breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. when breastfeeding doesn't come naturally

After you’ve given birth, your number one goal is to make sure you give your child everything they need to be happy and healthy. The last thing on your mind is that you might not be able to breastfeed, because it’s natural isn’t it? Well, sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. There are many reasons some mothers can’t breastfeed or have to stop breastfeeding due to nipple or breast pain or injury.

There are a few things that can affect the nipple making it sore or difficult to breastfeed. Nipple and breast infection, excessive milk supply, plugged milk ducts, and skin disorders (such as dermatitis or psoriasis). These can be scary to any mom, as you may not know what to do or what is causing it. Usually the advice and comments you’ve heard from friends, family, the internet and even the magazines have all been about the positives to look forward to. Let’s be honest, no one really shares the daunting parts, the occasions where breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally, unless you actively search them out.

When you find out that you’re expecting – amongst all the exciting elements – you must do as much research as you possibly can to prepare yourself for anything and to take care of your breasts especially as they enlarge.

Some moms may experience:

  • Engorged and swollen breasts
  • Sore and cracked nipples
  • Pain when baby tries to latch on for a feed
  • Inverted nipples – where your nipples retract into your breasts

Using a moisturising nipple cream which contains coconut oil and aloe vera, both natural ingredients, to hydrate the skin and soften the nipples can go a long way to soothe sore nipples. Look for a baby friendly product that can still be used while you breastfeed.

Other products to look at are comfort breast shells which collect excess breast milk while breastfeeding or when using a breast pump. They are ventilated shells that protect sore or cracked nipples to help them heal quicker. Also look for nipple protectors. They are made with odourless, tasteless ultra-fine silicone. It allows baby to still feel and smell your skin to encourage bonding. It also stimulates your milk supply while suckling, while providing additional comfort and protection. You can try Niplettes, which pulls the nipple out into a small plastic thimble-like nipple through gentle suction.

Should you experience some of the mentioned problems and not know what’s exactly wrong, there are a few things to look out for that may help you figure out the problem.

  • If you notice a tender, hard lump in your breast – you may have a blocked milk duct.
  • Should the blocked duct persist and the pain continues to worsen when you still breastfeed then you might be suffering from something a bit more serious. When you start to feel like you’re getting flu, this might mean you have an infection in your breast.
  • If your breasts are hard, full and swollen, you may be engorged which is when breast milk floods your breast usually between the second and sixth day after you’ve started nursing and you need to express and compress to soothe your breasts to reduce the pain.

To get a proper diagnosis however, visit your doctor. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to everybody straight away, but it can be a pleasurable bonding time rather than a painful one.

Remember motherhood is not always easy. Breastfeeding is an amazing and most-often natural way for mother and baby to build a strong bond. So I encourage that despite any challenges you are faced with, don’t let them put you off breastfeeding all together.

*This article is an exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division.

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr. Diana du Plessis is the Breastfeeding Consultant and spokesperson for Phillips Avent South Africa. She obtained a B.Soc.Sc (Hons) at the University of the Free State, after which she worked as an operating room registered nurse in the Universitas and National Hospitals in Bloemfontein, receiving the Diploma in Operating Room Technique in 1978. She commenced her academic career in the Department of Nursing (UFS) in 1982 and holds diplomas in Nursing Administration (cum laude), Nursing Education and Community Health Nursing (cum laude) while being employed in the Department of Nursing at the University of the Free State. Later she obtained M.Cur and D.Cur in Midwifery and Neonatology from the University of Johannesburg. Dr du Plessis is in private midwifery clinical practice for the past 19 years.

  1. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me and I had endless issues with my little one. After 6 weeks my milk never came in even after seeing breastfeeding specialists, taking everything possible from a good point of view, expressing after each feed and even just relaxing about it… My milk never filled her and it seemed as though I wasn’t producing much more than 20-30ml per session. Even though I landed up stopping, it was still an amazing time with my daughter… That bond you get feeding your child is like no either and I am super proud of what I was able to accomplish. She is now 2 1/2yrs old and is perfect in every way. I still have my moments of being sad that I didn’t make it further but then I look at ther little confident and happy self and remember that I still did what was best for us both as my attention was on getting breast feeding right instead of on simply enjoying my child and bonding.

  2. I always worried why breast feeding didn’t come easy to me and it gives me great relief to know that it’s a common problems mum face

  3. I love breastfeeding my baby boy is now 6 months old and I see our breastfeeding time as our special time but sometimes there are alot of opsticles to overcome, does of us that can have that special bond with our babies are so lucky and blessed.

  4. I suffered with 2 of the above issues, engorged breasts, cracked nipples. but with persistence it all became easier and no pain

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