Everyone knows that breastfeeding is what’s best for infants in most instances. You can even pick up a can of formula and the label will let you in on this little factoid: breast milk is better than formula. Okay. With that information in the back of your mind, the choice is made and breastfeeding is the route you choose to take as a new mother. Breastfeeding is a wonderful choice to make but you may run into a few problems along the way. Here you will learn what the most common breastfeeding problems are and how you can go about solving them.
Breast engorgement is caused by a congestion of blood vessels in the breast. In other words, engorgement happens when the breasts swell because of an increase in milk production. This is something that happens early on in the breastfeeding experience most times, when the breasts produce large amounts of milk to support your newborn baby. Once your milk comes in the breasts might feel extremely firm, warm, tender, and much bigger. This is engorgement. Another sign of engorgement is that of developing a low grade fever. Postpartum engorgement will last two to three days on average, resolving itself in most instances. When your breasts are engorged it is not only uncomfortable for your but it also makes it difficult for your baby to latch on since the nipples can’t protrude. If your baby isn’t able to remove the milk from the breast, engorgement can last longer, leading to other problems. The best treatment for engorgement is to remove the milk from your breasts. Breastfeed your little one on demand, at least eight to ten times in one twenty-four hour period. A feeding should last at least fifteen minutes as well. You want to ensure your baby is latching on properly, and this means you may need to express some milk prior to nursing. Don’t skip or delay breast feedings. A massage can also alleviate some of the discomfort, along with cool and warm compresses. Warm showers will also help to express some of your milk in between feedings.
You can develop plugged ducts when milk remains stagnant in the ducts of the breast. This can occur if you delay or skip a feeding. It can also happen when there’s pressure on a duct (from a bra or nursing position) or if you are engorged. With this problem a woman will normally have a tender, warm lump on the breast. Fever and redness aren’t normally associated with having a plugged duct however. Some might notice a tiny white dot at the opening of the duct on the nipple. To relieve the symptoms of having a plugged duct you could try applying warm compresses, massaging the area, starting a feeding on the affected breast more frequently, nursing more frequently, and nursing so that the baby’s chin is pointed towards the plugged area.
Mastitis or Breast Infection
Mastitis is an inflammation or infection in the breast tissue. It is most common among mothers who are stressed and exhausted, have cracked nipples, plugged ducts, or engorgement. Skipping feedings and wearing a tight bra will also contribute to mastitis. Usually women with a breast infection will have a red, tender, swollen area of the breast. You might see red streaking on the breast with mastitis. Many women develop a fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and will experience chills, headache, and nausea along with other flu like symptoms. With this type of breastfeeding problem a doctor will normally prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with the inflammation, pain and fever. It’s important to continue breastfeeding during the healing process to help get rid of the infection. The milk is still safe for the baby even with an infection present. Warm, moist compresses can help alleviate pain before feedings and cold compresses reduce swelling after feedings. You should rest as much as possible, wear a comfortable bra, and drink plenty of fluids.
Let-Down Reflex Problems
The let-down reflex is controlled by the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. These hormones allow milk that is produced in the milk glands to be released into the milk ducts. Some women have problems with the let-down of their milk. Pain, stress, and anxiety can interfere with the reflex, causing the retention of milk within the milk glands. You can alleviate this problem by relaxing and finding a comfortable nursing position. Reduce distractions, perform a massage, and apply heat to the breast if that doesn’t work. Some women have an overactive let-down reflex. This happens when milk production and ejection is too fast for the baby to swallow with ease. The baby might cough and gag on the milk if you have an overactive let-down reflex. To help with this problem sit the baby in a semi-upright position. You can also compress the ducts during the first few minutes of nursing.
Thrush is a yeast infection that can be passed between the mother and baby during breastfeeding. Yeast thrives in warm, most areas so a baby’s mouth and mother’s nipple are perfect places for this yeast to thrive. Thrush is the most common cause of sore nipples after a period of normal nursing. Symptoms of this problem in the mother include dark pink nipples that are tender or uncomfortable during and after nursing. She may complain that the breasts itch or burn as well. For the baby, white patches and increased redness in the mouth will occur. The infant may also have a diaper rash, have a change in temperament, or want to suckle more often. A physician can prescribe an anti-fungal medication to treat the thrush for both mother and baby.
Breastfeeding can be a very relaxing experience, but nipple soreness is something you should expect, especially during the first weeks of nursing. Nipple soreness could be described as a pinching, itching, or burning sensation. Until your breasts get used to nursing, your nipples are likely to become sore for a number of reasons. One is that of “incomplete suction release” at the end of a feeding. You can gently insert your finger into the side of the baby’s mouth to break the suction and reduce your discomfort here. Excessive dry or most skin can also cause sore nipples. Be conscious of wearing materials that let your skin breath, and avoid using soaps that remove natural oils from the body. Perhaps the soreness is because of the baby chewing or biting on your nipples. Infants that are teething will often do this when nursing. You should provide the child with something cold and wet to chew on before a nursing session. The cold helps to numb painful gums and gives relief throughout the feeding. Another cause of sore nipples is that of improper latching or positioning of the baby. Check to make sure that your baby’s mouth is over the areola and not just the nipple. The baby should also be directly facing the breast, not stretching it away from your body. In some instances there’s no identified cause, complaints about soreness only during an initial adjustment period. Comfortable nursing takes some time and experience. Until then you can: hand express some milk and leave a few drops on the nipples before beginning to breastfeed; allow the nipples to air dry for 10 minutes after nursing; rinse nipples with warm water; use lanolin cream on the nipples after allowing them to air dry; breastfeed more frequently; nurse on the least sore side first; change nursing pads frequently; and wear breast shells in between feedings. Eventually your body will get used to the effects of a suckling infant and the sensitivity will decrease. Just be patient.