As we know, breastfeeding is a learnt skill that can be a breeze for some mamas and filled with challenges for others. No two breasts, nipples or babies are the same so every mama is going to have different experiences and challenges. Remember, as well as your village there are also so many health professionals and resources you can turn to for advice and support if you are faced with any challenges. These can range from low milk supply to pain when feeding, nipple damage or engorgement. Often, these bumps in the road can improve with simple measures mentioned in this blog, and on some occasions, it is best to consult a midwife or lactation consultant face to face to assess your situation and offer individual advice. Let’s begin by looking at the most common breastfeeding challenges that can also relate in some way.
As you have probably heard, breastfeeding should not be painful but can be uncomfortable if this is your first baby or you have not breastfed before. Often you will experience discomfort when baby first attaches to the breast but it should ease after 30 seconds. If you are feeling pain or a pinching sensation that lasts longer than a minute after your baby attaches to the breast, their latch may not be correct and you should remove them from the nipple and try to re-attach. Sometimes altered positioning can significantly improve the discomfort, assessing for a tongue or lip tie, or even short-term use of a nipple shield. Nipple pain while breastfeeding often leads to nipple damage, which is what we are trying to avoid by treating the nipple pain as soon as possible. If you are experiencing any type of pain when breastfeeding it is highly recommended to speak to an ABA counsellor, midwife or lactation consultant and get baby’s latch assessed.
As mentioned above, nipple damage is often the consequence of nipple pain and poor attachment at the breast. Seeking professional advice to improve your baby’s attachment and decrease pain at the breast will most likely minimize the chance of your nipple getting damaged. Nipple damage can include grazes, blisters or cracks on the nipple caused by your baby feeding or using a breast pump. Again, an assessment and a plan made by a midwife or lactation consultant on your individual situation is recommended. Some mamas find it soothing to apply a natural nipple balm to the areola and nipple in between feeds. Another great way to assist your nipples to heal is to express some colostrum or breastmilk onto them and let them air dry, as colostrum and breastmilk are full of amazing antibodies and healing properties for you and bub. If the nipple damage is severe and breastfeeding is making the damage worse, you may be best to rest your nipples for 24-48 hours and pump every 3-4 hours and feed your baby breastmilk by an alternative way.
Engorgement is a very full and firm feeling in your breasts that can occur when your milk initially comes in around 3-5 days after your baby is born. Your breasts become swollen due to the build-up of milk and fluid in the breast tissue, which can be quite uncomfortable. Engorgement in the nipple and breast can also make it difficult for bub to attach to the breast. Engorgement will settle down within a couple of days as your baby drains the breast and your supply balances out, but there are some simple ways to manage it in the meantime.
The most important thing when it comes to relieving engorgement is to ensure bub has a good attachment at the breast and you are breastfeeding regularly. Feeding your baby often and not limiting their time at the breast will assist to drain your milk ducts, remembering if your breasts become full and uncomfortable wake your baby for a breastfeed. Another tip is to massage your breast towards the nipple before a feed, concentrating on any lumps and then applying a warmed BodyICE Woman breast pad. Once you have finished the feed and your breast feels softer and emptied, you can then apply an ice pack or your frozen BodyICE Woman breast pad. The cool temperature of the frozen breast pad helps to decrease inflammation and prevent further engorgement. Use code: Bumpnbub30 for 30% off the BodyIce Woman range.
Clogged or blocked milk ducts can occur with or without engorgement and can be detected as a hard lump in the breast. A blocked milk duct is a result of poor drainage of milk from the breast, and can be caused by various reasons. Poor drainage of milk can be impacted by tight clothing or bra while breastfeeding, pressure on the breasts from sleeping on your stomach, incorrect attachment to the breast or having a longer break than normal between breastfeeding or expressing. The recommendations to improve a blocked duct is similar to engorgement; massage the breasts concentrating on the blocked milk duct, have a warm shower or use a warmed BodyICE Woman Breast Pad pre-feed and take anti-inflammatory analgesia if you need.
Mastitis can be a consequence of a clogged milk duct if it is not treated, and is defined as an infected blocked milk duct. The symptoms of mastitis include; hardened red lump in the breast, pain or tenderness at the lump, flu-like symptoms and a fever. Mastitis often needs to be treated with antibiotics, and if there is no improvement in symptoms within 48 hours of oral antibiotics admission to hospital may be recommended for intravenous antibiotics (through a drip). If you recognise early signs of mastitis such as a painful blocked milk duct, continue breastfeeding regularly to drain the breasts and undertake the recommendations discussed above for a clogged milk duct. Using the BodyICE Woman Breast Pads cold will help soothe and take the heat out of your sore inflamed blocked milk duct. Always contact a healthcare professional for review if you have a fever or any signs of infection.
This blog is written by Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub. This blog is general advice only. Please consult with your healthcare provider for any concerns.