“If breastfeeding is so natural, how hard can it be?”

The number one topic of discussion in some of the postpartum depression support groups that mother and founder of Postpartum Support Virginia, Adrienne Griffin, has been involved in is breastfeeding.1  For some women, breastfeeding exacerbates their anxiety because they are experiencing too much pain, worried their baby isn’t getting enough, worried they aren’t going to be able to maintain their supply, or just concerned about what others would think if they stopped.  The rate has been shown to be as high as 92% of mothers reporting breastfeeding challenges during their first week postpartum.2

Pain is very common when a new mother starts nursing.  Let’s face it, they don’t make nipple cream for nothing.  The soreness does go away as both you and your baby learn how to nurse together.  Although breastfeeding is instinctive , there is a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding and it may take weeks before you and your baby master the skill.  This learning process involves multiple times a day (every 2-3 hours in fact) of attempting the latch, finding a comfortable position to hold the baby, make sure they are swallowing, switching breasts, etc.  Remember, we are born with the innate ability to find the breast and feed. Baby’s have the ability to be placed on the stomach and creep to the breast when they are allowed to do so.

If you are having trouble, do not wait until you cannot take the pain anymore.  Reach out to a professional such as your OB/GYN, a La Leche League leader, postpartum doula or midwife, or even a parent for help.  I am connected with various postpartum professionals in the area that are well-equipped to assist with nursing challenges.  One area that is important to address is potential lip and tongue tie issues.  Tongue and lip ties have been shown to hinder the breastfeeding relationship and can result in issues seen later in life as well.  Recent research shows that there are different kinds of ties, many of which are overlooked in infancy. These issues can make successful breastfeeding an uphill battle even for the most experienced mom.  Proper evaluation, treatment, and post-rehab exercises are vital for success.  The earlier these issues are identified the chances of successful breastfeeding and decreased anxiety for mom occur.

Oftentimes, pediatricians and even some lactation consultants unknowingly miss recognizing these ties, which can result in decreased milk supply, frustration, and eventually an end to breastfeeding.  Dr. Ghaheri is very well-versed in ties and is known as an expert in the field.  He explains why these issues are so commonly missed here: http://www.drghaheri.com/blog/2016/1/2/how-the-system-can-fail-breastfeeding-families.  Typically, there is at least one symptom that alerts mom that something is not quite right with breastfeeding.  While many of these symptoms can have other causes, it is important to rule out ties when at least one of them is present.   Mom or baby could have one or multiple symptoms listed below:

Mom’s Symptoms:

  • Cracked/blistered/bleeding nipples
  • Plugged ducts
  • Discomfort while nursing
  • Sleep deprivation (because baby is not able to nurse efficiently, they may compensate by nursing more often, including at night)
  • Thrush/Mastitis
  • Compromised milk supply

Baby’s Symptoms:

  • Reflux or colic
  • Difficulty latching
  • Gumming or chewing nipples
  • Gassy
  • Poor weight gain
  • Makes clicking noises
  • Choking on milk/popping off breast to gasp for air
  • Milk leaking from corner of mouth when feeding

New mothers are returning to work after giving birth sooner than ever.  The U.S. is the only major country on the globe that offers no paid time off for new mothers, placing a terrible burden on these women, their families and the country.  A CDC report shows that only 10 percent of mothers who work full-time are still breastfeeding their baby at 6 months!3  Some things you can do before returning to work to make sure your baby can get the benefits of breastmilk for as long as possible:

  • Get a hands free double breast pump. This type of pump is the most time-saving and you also have the freedom to still do work with both hands free.  Talk to your insurance company for what specific types of breastfeeding equipment are covered under your plan.  If you travel a lot for work, purchase a battery for your pump.
  • Purchase a travel friendly cooler and ice pack to keep the milk you pump fresh. (Expressed milk can stay good for up to 6-8 hours if you don’t have a cooler on hand.)
  • Be sure you speak to your boss or department at work to set up a time and place for you to pump while at work to maintain your supply during missed feedings while you are apart from your baby.
  • Pump and store before returning to work. Pick a couple times a day to pump after feeding your baby.  Store this milk in the freezer so you have a nice stash before returning to work.  Date the bags.  Frozen milk can be stored up to 1 year in a deep freeze, with 6 months being ideal.  Once thawed, be sure the baby consumes it within 24 hours.4

If you are experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding it can be helpful to have your infant evaluated by a chiropractor with experience in infant conditions to see if there are any structural or mechanical issues that could be hindering your success.  If baby is unable to turn his/her head equally to each side that may make nursing difficult and biomechanical issues, such as decreased range of motion, can reduce baby’s ability to freely turn his head towards the breast.  Craniosacral therapy can also be a huge benefit for your little one and start you both out on the right foot.

I encourage all parents to incorporate a chiropractic exam as a necessary part of their newborn’s well evaluations.  If I am unable to help I can connect you with other professionals who can assist with any challenges you may encounter with your newborn.  Including chiropractic care for your newborn may be one of the most important choices you make in the support for successful breastfeeding and future health of your child.  If you are nervous about getting started I would be happy to talk with you prior to your office visit to answer any questions and to ensure you are comfortable.

~~Dr. Melanie Dockter, DC CACCP


1. Stone, Katherine. Breastfeeding & Postpartum Depression: What Should Moms Do?! Postpartum Progress. May 13, 2009. http://www.postpartumprogress.com/breastfeeding-  postpartum-depression-what-shouldmoms-do
2. Wagner, E., et al. Breastfeeding concerns at 3 and 7 days postpartum and feeding status at 2 months. Pediatrics 2013; 132(4):e865-75.
3. Kam, Katherine. Why women don’t nurse longer. Parenting. http://www.parenting.com/article/momsright-to-breastfeed.
4. “Breastmilk Storage & Handling • KellyMom.com.” KellyMom.com, 15 Mar. 2018, kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/milkstorage/.