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Breastfeeding is best for mother and baby. First time mums may encounter some common breastfeeding problems. The good news is that most of these can be self-treated. Only mastitis and thrush need a physician's medical treatment.

1) Sore Nipples
This may occur upon initial breastfeeding. Its prevention includes ensuring that baby latches on properly. The nipple and areola must be in baby's mouth. After feeding, remove baby's grasp gently from the breast. Wash and dry nipples after each feeding. Continue breastfeeding baby if possible. Otherwise, express milk and bottle feed. Let a few drops of breastmilk remain and air dry naturally. Apply some nipple cream to prevent nipple cracking.

2) Cracked Nipples
This can be prevented by using disposable breast pads. Express milk until the crack heals.

3) Full Breasts
This happens just after delivery. Baby may not latch on properly. Massage breasts and express some milk to soften areola before breastfeeding.

4) Engorgement
This is due to accumulation of milk which causes pain. Reduce discomfort by any one of the 4 techniques. Apply warm towels over breasts and massage gently. Express some milk before and after each feeding to relieve the tension. Use cold towels or cabbage leaves as compresses to relieve pain.

5) Blocked Milk Ducts
The symptoms are lumpy or sore breasts. To unblock the ducts, place a warm towel over breast and massage before and during breastfeeding. Feed baby from affected breast first to promote emptying the breast. Its prevention involves wearing a properly fitting bra and using different positions to feed the baby.

6) Mastitis (Breast inflammation or infection)
This follows from a blocked milk duct. When milk leaks to neighboring breast tissue, it causes inflammation. Use hot and cold compresses to relieve pain.Continue breastfeeding. If nothing improves, it time to consult the doctor.

7) Thrush
The symptoms are breast pains and white patches inside baby's mouth and tongue. Both mother and baby need medical treatment. Breastfeeding can be continued.

8) Painful Let-downs
The initial milk let-down is heavy. Baby may choke and cough. Let milk spray harmlessly onto a tissue paper. Latch baby when the milk flow is slower and even. Gradually, mother and baby will cope better as mum's body adjusts to the quantity and frequency of feedingss.

9) Baby falls asleep too soon into the feeding
Lily, a midwife at a women's hospital, advises: "Tickle the baby's cheek to awaken him/her. You can also call out the name or make sucking noises to remind baby to continue feeding." Personally, I've tried all of these. Plus, patting her on the leg, rocking her and pulling the nipple a little away from her to awaken her. I like to vary the application as variety stimulates the baby.

Common breastfeeding problems will disappear with self or medical treatment. Its advantages far outweigh any inconvenience.