Breastfeeding challenges

baby breastfeeding

There may be times when breastfeeding is challenging. Never ignore any issues you may have – talk to your health visitor, midwife, GP or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible, they will be able to help you sort it out quickly.

Here are some common breastfeeding issues, and tips on what to do.

Colic

Colic usually starts when a baby is a few weeks old – and stops when they're around 4 to 6 months of age.

If your otherwise healthy baby cries inconsolably for 3 or more hours a day, at least 3 days per week (and it's been happening for 3 weeks or more) – it could be caused by colic.

Symptoms of colic include:

  • intense crying, lasting several hours
  • clenched fists, arched back, knees being pulled up to tummy
  • red or flushed face when crying
  • inconsolable – nothing you do seems to make it better

Did you know?

Colic is a very common condition affecting 1 in 5 babies, regardless of whether they're breast or formula-fed.

There are other reasons why your baby may be crying, it's a good idea to check if they:

  • are hungry
  • have a dirty or wet nappy
  • have wind
  • are too hot or too cold
  • are bored or overstimulated

If your baby tends to cry during or after feeds, it's worth checking whether this could be reflux. Our guide to reflux in breastfed babies has information on the signs and symptoms.

What causes colic?

There are no known reasons why some babies get colic &ndash some doctors think it's a type of stomach cramp. But it may happen because babies find it harder to digest food when they are really young.

Constant crying could also be due to food allergies, such as cow's milk allergy. If you think this is the case, talk to your GP before making any changes to your baby's diet.

Colic remedies for breastfed babies

Sadly, there is no actual cure for baby colic, only methods to provide relief and soothe them. These are some of the tried and tested techniques that other parents use to relieve colic symptoms in breastfed babies:

Burping

Burp (or wind) your baby during and after every feed – have a look at burping your baby for techniques.

Sit your baby up

When breast or bottle feeding, sit your baby up as straight as possible. This will help minimise the amount of air they swallow. If you are bottle feeding, try to make sure the milk fills the teat and there are no air pockets – you could try using an anti-colic bottle to see if that helps.

Attachment

Check that your baby is attached (latching on) properly as this may help reduce colic symptoms. If you are unsure that your baby is attaching properly while breastfeeding, have a look at our guide to latching on.

Diet

There is no evidence that changing your diet will help &ndash however some people say that cutting down on spicy foods, caffeine and acohol has made a difference for them.

If you are mixed feeding (combining breast and bottle feeding), have a look at our guide to colic when bottle feeding.

Other ways to soothe your baby

Hold them

During bouts of crying, hold your baby to your chest so they can feel and hear your heartbeat.

Rock your baby

Sometimes the swaying motion of rocking your baby in your arms can help.

Warm bath and a massage

A warm bath can be soothing, followed by a gentle tummy massage (with gentle, circular strokes on the tummy).

Create a calming atmosphere

Babies can become overstimulated with lots of noise and activity around them. Try to quieten your surroundings, switch the TV off, dim the lights, and try to take some deep breaths yourself.

Here is a top tip…

If you can, try to talk to other new mums. Talking about what you are going through with someone else can really help. If you feel calmer, it will be easier to soothe your baby.

Breastfeeding Friend from Start4life

The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start4Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24 / 7.

Help and support

As a parent of a colicky baby, it can be exhausting and extremely upsetting – but it will stop. It is also important to remember that you need to be looked after too &ndash if possible, ask family and friends for their support so you can take regular rest breaks.

If you are finding it difficult to cope, there is support available:

Cry-sis offer support and advice: 0845 122 8669 (9am to 10pm, 7 days a week)

The NCT support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby: 0300 330 0700

Have a look at the NHS website for advice on soothing a crying baby

Watch this NCT video on coping with crying

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.

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