Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions
Breastfeeding is meant to be a pleasurable, fulfilling experience for both a mother and her baby, but it can sometimes become uncomfortable or painful due to a number of common problems new mothers, or even those with experience, run into. Thankfully, most of these problems can be remedied by making small adjustments to technique or style, and will not require moms to stop nursing.
Below is a list of common problems associated with breastfeeding and how they can be addressed.
Sore nipples after feeding is an indication that your baby is not correctly ‘latched on’ and will pinch you whenever the tongue comes up. Red and pointy nipples, rather than smooth and round, also indicate that your little one is not well connected to your breast.
In a proper ‘latch’, your baby’s mouth should be wide open with your nipple sitting in the back of the hollow. This way, there is nothing for your little one’s tongue to pinch and should not cause any soreness of the nipples. If you feel any pain after ‘latching’, quickly break the connection by inserting your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth, then try again, making sure to have at least one inch of your areola in the mouth.
If you do experience nipple soreness, you can ease the pain by washing your breasts with plain water, as soap can cause dryness and irritation. Letting some milk dry on your breast before dressing can also help reduce soreness and inflammation. Lanolin-based creams can also help to keep your nipples soft and supple.
A few days after giving birth, it’s normal for your breast to become larger and heavier as they begin producing larger quantities of milk. Some of the fullness is due to extra blood and lymph fluids flooding the breast tissue. For most mothers, this fullness eases within the first two to three weeks after delivery, but if your breasts feel hard, swollen, throbbing, lumpy, uncomfortably full, or painful, you are likely engorged.
According to WebMD, showers are not recommended when you have engorged breasts. Instead, apply cold packs to your breasts for about ten minutes before or after nursing to soothe the pain and help relieve swelling. Right before feeding, put a warm pack on your nipples for a few minutes as this will also help with the milk flow. Gently massaging the breast as he or she feeds also encourages the milk to flow and will help relieve some of the tightness and discomfort. It is also important to keep on nursing, or the problem could worsen. You can expect it to ease up within 24 to 48 hours if you nurse well or pump your breast at least every two to three hours.
Mastitis or Plugged Milk Duct
A painful lump may still develop even when your baby is ‘latched on’ properly. This could be a plugged milk duct or the beginning of an infection known as mastitis.
To unplug a milk duct, apply moist or dry heat compresses to your breast for 10 minutes, three times a day, and massage your breast in a warm shower. Occasionally, a plugged duct may become infected, leading to symptoms of fatigue, fever, pain or tenderness. If you think you have mastitis see your doctor who may prescribe you an antibiotic. You should also use heat packs on your breasts and get plenty of bed rest.
Also make sure to keep breastfeeding as you treat the problem. Breast milk contains a high amount of antibodies, so your baby will be fine even when you have an infection.
If yeast fungus becomes present in breast milk, the mother could likely develop thrush. Yeast thrives in warm, moist, dark areas and replicates wildly in the presence of sugars, including those in human milk. The change from a dry to a wet atmosphere around the nipple area can create favorable conditions for yeast overgrowth.
Signs of thrush can include red or deep-pink areola, white dots, or shiny, swollen nipples, or flaking or peeling around the nipple area. You can also check to see if your baby is infected by looking for white spots inside of the cheeks, or a persistent diaper rash. Although you can keep breastfeeding with thrush, it is recommended that you visit a doctor and avoid buying a drugstore product to treat the infection yourself.
If you are uncertain, or if symptoms persist, don’t hesitate to see your doctor, nurse or lactation specialist for help.