It’s how babies thrive, so you’d think breastfeeding would be effortless. And most of the time, it is. But sometimes there are bumpy patches. With good habits, you can make your breastfeeding journey smoother and avoid breastfeeding problems.

Make sure baby is correctly attached

First things first – proper attachment can prevent a host of breastfeeding problems. Nipple pain mostly is caused by incorrect attachment. Baby’s correct attachment also helps you avoid overly full breasts, blocked ducts and mastitis.

A good latch means baby is taking the whole nipple plus a good mouthful of the areola into her mouth. At the same time, her chin pushes into your breast, and her nose is just clear of it, with her lips turning outwards. Ask a midwife, child health nurse or lactation consultant to check how well the baby is attaching if you’re not sure.

Correct attachment to Avoid Breastfeeding Problems

Drain the breast often

It’s Murphy’s Law – on the night bub decides to have a nice long sleep, you’re wide awake with full boobs ready to explode. Try to avoid unusually long gaps between feeding (or pumping). Frequent emptying helps maintain your supply and prevent blocked ducts and mastitis. Ducts become blocked when the milk doesn’t drain properly. Then, a lump forms and it can be quite tender, inflamed and sore.

If your breasts are becoming engorged (very full and uncomfortable), you may need to wake the baby. Overall, around 8 to 12 feeds a day (or more) will train your breasts to make a good supply of milk in the first six weeks. When you do feed, try to let bub take his or her time. In other words, don’t cut short a feed or limit it to a certain number of minutes. In general, you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.

Look for baby’s feeding cues

A very hungry baby can be so enthusiastic that they don’t latch properly, or they cause nipple damage. Look out for the hunger signs baby gives you well before they start crying. The signs could be:

  • opening and closing the mouth
  • sucking on hands or blanket
  • rooting (turning head with an open mouth)
  • wriggling around.

If your little one does end becoming upset, calm her before trying to breastfeed.

baby feeding cues

Try different feeding positions to avoid breastfeeding problems

As well as feeding frequently, mixing up different feeding positions can also help ensure the whole breast drains. Also, you might find a position that is a lot more comfortable for you and bub. For example, as you and your little one become more confident, you can experiment with these positions:

  • cradle – the most common breastfeeding hold, your elbow supports the head
  • cross-cradle – holding the baby with the arm opposite to the breast, hand supports the head
  • side-lying – lying down facing each other (great for getting extra rest)
  • football hold – tuck the baby’s body under your arm with the hand supporting the head.