Some new mums are lucky and breastfeeding comes without any issues but mostly, from my experience, you will have some sort of difficulty when you first start out on your breastfeeding journey. I call breastfeeding in the early days “challenging”. I often have new mums say to me in frustration “I thought breastfeeding was supposed to come naturally. Why am I having so much difficulty?”  My reply is “It’s not your fault. We are born into the Western world in the 21st century where we have had very little opportunity to even hold a baby, let alone learn how to breastfeed, from the “elders of our tribe”. Breastfeeding is a learned art and we need to give ourselves time to learn at the beginning. All humans learn by imitation and who are we imitating in these modern days?

If your nipples are a good shape, but becoming sore and damaged, it is the attachment of the baby to the breast that needs attention. If a baby is attached correctly, damage will not occur. A lactation consultant can help you learn the best technique for attachment.

If, however, your nipples are flat or inverted, your nipple may not be positioned correctly at the back of the baby’s soft palate no matter how good your attachment technique is. In this case a nipple shield can help, temporarily or as a permanent solution. A lactation consultant can help you with what sort of nipple shield to use, and how to use it, if it is needed.

Some mums find themselves, initially or long term, having problems with not enough milk or too much milk. The mantra to say to yourself in this situation is “The more you take, the more you make”. There are only two ways really to make more milk and it has nothing to do with eating and drinking, rest or medications. Yes, you need to drink to your thirst and eat to your health and try to rest properly (easier said than done when you are a mum!) but what makes more milk is stimulation to your breasts and emptying of your breasts by the baby and/or the breast pump. A lactation consultant will help you to increase or control your milk supply and come up with a manageable plan for your particular circumstances.

When your milk first “comes in”, theoretically 72 hours or so after the birth of your baby, your breasts can become quite swollen, warm to touch, firm and sometimes painful. This is a temporary situation and is relieved by ice packs and frequent feeding. You will find that this initial swelling subsides within a week and your breasts will only feel really full when it is time to feed the baby. At first it is difficult to feel that the baby has drained the milk out of your breasts but this comes with time and experience. In the early days you can use some olive/baby oil to massage your breasts during a feed to help with the drainage.

A lump in your breast when you are a breastfeeding mum is not acceptable and should not be ignored. Mostly it is caused by a blocked milk duct eg. an area of thickened milk that may be temporarily blocking the flow of milk in your breast. If you think you have a blocked duct you need to massage the area, while feeding, with oil on your fingers, until you feel the duct release and the lump free up. Always keep vigilant for blocked ducts when you are a breastfeeding mum as they are the main cause of mastitis. A lactation consultant can help you to manage blocked ducts.

Probably every breastfeeding mums’ greatest fear is mastitis. Mastitis usually starts with a blocked duct which is not cleared, or it can be caused through sore, damaged nipples. Sometimes mastitis happens with no known cause and can be just because a mum is tired and run down. Mastitis is inflammation and infection in the breast and can make you feel very ill with a high temperature, a headache, and aching limbs, just like you are coming down with the ‘flu. If this happens to you you need to go to your GP and take two courses of antibiotics. The main thing to remember is that it is safe and, in fact, highly recommended to continue your breastfeeding so that you can keep draining your breasts. A lactation consultant can help you to manage mastitis and help you to prevent it from happening again, and a lot of times that is about a correct attachment.

There are many other areas a lactation consultant can be of assistance to you and that might be dealing with breast refusal, feeding a baby with health problems, breastfeeding following breast surgery, breastfeeding under special circumstances (traveling, surgery etc.), advice on expressing and storing your breast milk, help with sleep and settling issues, returning to work and breastfeeding, or even some advice on preparation for breastfeeding before your baby is born.