When it comes to feeding baby, breast is best. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy! Breastfeeding a baby can be a big struggle. Here are some simple natural remedies to help breastfeeding go more smoothly.
When my first child was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed. But I didn’t know much about how. I learned as I went. She nursed fine, but would nurse for 1 – 1 1/2 hours at a time. I had no idea that wasn’t normal (though now I know it’s related to her oral sensory issues). She also spit up a lot. Both things we just dealt with. It was a full time job feeding and cleaning up after her!
Then came my oldest son. He was a champ when it comes to nursing. Twenty minutes and done. Eat every two hours. Easy. I did change my diet a bit for his reflux, but overall he did great. And his growth proved it! In fact he didn’t even want solid food until he was about ten months old. No pacifier, no thumb, no blanket. He just liked to nurse.
I had two decent breastfeeders. I felt confident I knew what I was doing. So when my third child was born I could tell something was off from the start. The longest she would nurse was about three minutes. I had to feed her very often. Eventually we found out she had a tongue tie. She also reacted to many foods I was eating. She even got to the point that she was barely eating at all (read how we resolved it here).
After three different breastfeeding experiences I thought I had it figured out. Wrong. When my fourth was born it was back to square one. He would resist nursing most of the time. I tried all the tricks I knew, but nothing worked. I didn’t want to relive what I went through with my daughter.
After four weeks of stress I waved the white flag and met with a lactation consultant (something I now think all new moms should do!). I learned so much from her and from my son. I’m so happy to be able share all of my natural remedies to help breastfeeding with you!
Common Breastfeeding Problems
For something so “natural,” there is a lot that can go wrong with breastfeeding! Here are some of the common breastfeeding challenges.
- baby won’t latch at all
- baby frequently unlatches
- baby fusses with nursing/refuses to nurse
- baby nurses for a long time (over one hour)
- baby only nurses for short periods (2 – 6 minutes)
- baby is overly gassy
- baby spits up a lot (reflux)
- baby is in pain before or after a feeding or when laid down, baby gets hiccups often (silent reflux)
- low milk supply
- fast letdown/oversupply
- baby refuses to nurse while teething
Breastfeeding Tips and Natural Remedies
My first piece of advice is to not give up! I know it can be hard. Feeding your little one can consume your life at times. But it’s worth the effort!
Aside from sticking with it, here are some tried and true natural remedies to help breastfeeding.
Both in utero and in the birthing process baby’s spine and muscles can get out of place and tighten. This can lead to tension in the body where it shouldn’t be, restricted head and tongue movement, torticollis and plagiocephaly (flat head). As you can imagine any of this could make breastfeeding both uncomfortable and challenging for baby.
One of the best things to do for baby (really for all babies, even if they are nursing fine) is body work. Craniosacral therapy, chiropractic care and occupational therapy can all help get things back in place and relieve tension. Be sure to find a therapist that is trained to work with babies.
Tongue and Lip Tie Revision
Tongue and lip ties are quite common these days. And they can make breastfeeding very difficult as baby has limited tongue movement and can’t latch properly. It also often causes mom a lot of pain. Anyone would feel like giving up if baby isn’t latching and mom is in pain!
Find a preferred provider that does laser revision for a proper evaluation and revision if necessary. The first few days or weeks after a revision can be challenging. Baby might be in pain and will have to relearn how to latch. But the long-term benefits are so worth it. Not only for breastfeeding but for proper tooth development, overall mouth structure and speech.
Elimination and/or Rotation Diet
I know not everyone will agree with me here. I’ve read so many sites that claim it is rare that mom’s diet can have any impact on baby. But it’s just not true! What you eat can absolutely cause problems for your little one (learn more about why HERE). I have had to alter my diet for all four of my kids. Whether it’s just one food that causes more reflux or a whole host of foods that cause rashes, hives and blood in the stool. Changing diet can make a world of difference.
This does not mean your little one necessarily has allergies or that they will have allergies when they get older. It’s more a sign of poor digestion and possible vitamin and mineral imbalance. The good news is that it is usually very temporary.
Start by cutting out all common allergens and any other foods you suspect could be a problem (acidic foods, gassy foods, etc.) until you have a more content baby. Then rotate foods on a four day rotation (learn more about rotating foods here). Gradually add food back one at a time and watch for reactions. Once you have pinpointed problem foods, keep them out for a few months before experimenting again. This will give baby’s gut time to mature and heal.
Improve Gut Health
Babies are born with an immature digestive system. Many breastfeeding struggles like reflux, excessive gas and food reactions are a reflection of that. Not to mention many babies are exposed to antibiotics and other drugs from the moment they are born. Also, if mom has food allergies or intolerances and eats one of her problem foods, baby can react to it as well. But on a larger scale. So it is very important to focus on gut health for both mom and baby.
A good quality probiotic daily is a must (I like this one and this one for babies. I use this or this for myself). For baby I simply mix the probiotic with a small amount of expressed breastmilk and administer it with a syringe. You can even put a small amount directly on the nipple at the start of a feed. If you bottle feed, mix it right into the bottle.
There are a few other natural remedies that can be combined with probiotics. Digestive enzymes (I like this brand) will help both mom and baby break down food properly. Mom can take the pills with each meal. A little powder can be mixed with breastmilk for baby.
Essential oils that help digestion can be beneficial. Make sure you use one safe for babies, administered properly with a carrier oil.
Sometimes something as simple as changing positions can have a huge impact on breastfeeding success. Many moms find that laid back nursing works well. This is especially helpful for babies with reflux and for moms with a fast letdown. In a laid back position gravity helps instead of hinders.
Some moms enjoy lying on their side for nursing. This makes night time feedings easier. A football hold might work too.
My little guy with reflux does best when I’m bouncing on a balance ball or standing and bouncing. It’s a bonus that I get a little exercise!
You can also breastfeed while wearing your baby (a skill I have yet to master!). This keeps baby upright (great for reflux) and keeps you from getting sore arms. This is really helpful in the early days when baby is the most fussy.
If you’re wondering what else besides a great carrier is a must for those first couple months check out Think Baby. They’ve got all sorts of great info on pregnancy, feeding, infants and toddlers. Even some tips for surviving sleepless nights and the benefits of baby wearing.
Try all different positions to find what is most comfortable for you and baby. There is no right or wrong way.
Breastfeeding Diet and Milk Supply
Even with all of these natural remedies to help breastfeeding, sometimes it’s still a struggle! I totally understand. There comes a point where you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. The most important thing is keeping baby healthy.
You may have to pump and bottle feed either part time or full time. It takes some extra work, but baby is still reaping the benefits of mom’s milk. Which is the most important part.
Some women have success using a nipple shield. Often it is only necessary in the early months and baby can transition off of it.
If baby does very short feeds and is not getting the hind milk try block feeding. Continue to offer the same side at each feeding until it is drained. You can also massage your breast while nursing to mix the fat in. You are basically homogenizing your milk. This actually makes it easier for baby to digest!
Having a fast letdown or oversupply can be just as challenging as low supply. Your body produces new milk ducts with each pregnancy. So the milk flow gets faster with each child. This can be hard for baby to manage. Try taking baby off the breast when the letdown starts and use a towel or burp cloth to catch the milk. Put baby back on the breast after the flow has slowed. This will help baby not to swallow so much air and become extra gassy. You can also pump for a few minutes before a feed to soften the breast and make it easier for baby to latch. This will also help you work around the letdown.
If your supply is low try eating lactogenic foods and teas and drinking plenty of water. It is also critical to take care of yourself. Eat plenty of nourishing food, including sufficient carbohydrates. Sleep when baby sleeps. And do not do any strenuous exercise. Undereating, eating low carb, and overexercising are all stressful to your body and can prevent it from producing milk.
If you simply can’t produce enough try to find donor milk or make your own formula.
Natural Teething Remedies
Sometimes what appears to be a latch issue or refusal to nurse is actually just teething! Many moms are shocked to hear that teething can begin at birth! How do I know this? That was my fourth child. By six weeks old he was a slobbery mess, chewing on his hands non-stop. By eight weeks old I could see his first two teeth!
While some babies aren’t bothered by teething, some really struggle. The pain while suckling can be very intense. Three out of four of my kids had a very hard time with teething and would go on a nursing strike due to pain. I’m thankful for my oldest son that was the opposite. He wanted to nurse more while teething!
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about natural teething remedies until I was three kids in. My oldest daytime weaned at 11 months due to teething pain. I tried and tried and cried and cried, but it just wasn’t happening. I pumped to keep her exclusively breastfed until one year old. But it was very hard for me emotionally.
On the flip side, in spite of our struggles, my youngest daughter nursed until she was two and a half years old! My youngest son is two and still going strong with breastfeeding.
My favorite teething remedies include:
- Copaiba essential oil rubbed along the jaw line
- Boiron Camilia homeopathic drops
- Gentle Baby essential oil
- Amber teething necklace
- Bach Rescue Remedy flower essences
All combined they ease the pain and help baby feel calm.
Understanding Your Child’s Eating Style from Birth
A fun way to improve your breastfeeding experience is by understanding your nursling’s Eating Style. Even at such a young age you can use this knowledge to meet their needs.
If you have an Intuitive Eater, she probably needs a lot of sleep, a lot of comfort, and may be a thumb sucker. However, if you have an Adventurous Eater, he may sleep sporadically and get easily distracted by noises and his surroundings.
You can learn more about your baby’s Eating Style HERE.
Many women quit breastfeeding because of challenges. I know just how hard it can be. I’ve struggled through it too. But I encourage you not to give up! Many struggles improve significantly after the first few months when baby’s digestion and body control are more mature. And when your supply regulates.
Some obstacles like teething and reflux are temporary.
Keep in mind that this is not just about breastfeeding. Resolving many of these issues now – like tongue ties and poor digestion – will help create good eaters down the road.
Nursing your little one into toddlerhood is an amazing experience that has both physical and psychological health benefits. I hope you use some of these natural remedies to help breastfeeding and find success on your journey.
What have been your biggest breastfeeding struggles? What has helped you the most?
If you’ve tried many of these and you’re still struggling, I’d love to help! Let’s hop on a chat and see if we can work together to find a soltion HERE.