Most common breastfeeding problems

It can take a while for both you and the baby to get the hang of breastfeeding, so don’t be surprised if you have some hick-ups in the beginning. These are some of the most common breastfeeding problems and what to do about them:

Nipple pain/sore nipples

There are any number of reasons why your nipples hurt or become sore from breastfeeding but the most common one is a poor latch. If you suffer from sore nipples , contact a lactation specialist –  and the sooner the better. They can help you fine-tune your baby’s position and latch. In the meantime, soothe your nipple pain and protect the nipples from cracking by applying some purified lanolin or balm in between feedings. Sometimes, sore nipples are caused by thrush infection of the breast. If that’s the case, you will need to contact your healthcare provider for treatment.

Engorgement

If you’re producing more milk than the baby is drinking, your breasts will become swollen, hard, warm and sensitive. This is called engorgement which – aside from being really painful – can lead to other problems, like mastitis. If you have engorgement it helps to breastfeed often, at least every two hours. If your baby is not hungry, express a little bit of milk by hand instead. To reduce engorgement in between feedings, put ice packs or chilled cabbage leaves on your breasts to reduce swelling, then apply a warm, wet towel just before feeding or expressing to help the milk flow.

Plugged milk duct

A shallow latch is often the culprit when it comes to plugged milk ducts, but a tight-fitting bra or an awkward sleeping position can also be to blame. If you have a plugged milk duct, your breasts usually become lumpy and hard and sometimes warm to the touch. Even if the discomfort could make it tempting to stop breastfeeding, nursing is the best thing you can do at this point to get the milk flowing again. To relieve a blocked milk duct, try a different breastfeeding position , express milk after feedings if needed and try massaging the breast while the baby feeds. A plugged milk duct can easily turn into mastitis, so it’s important to start treatment as soon as you find a hard spot.

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that is caused by blocked milk ducts that don’t clear. The inflammation often starts with engorgement and the symptoms are similar – your breasts feel swollen, hard warm and painful to the touch. The difference is that mastitis also can cause a nipple discharge and is often accompanied by fever and other flu-like symptoms. If you’re breastfeeding and your symptoms don’t disappear within 24 hours, contact your healthcare provider. Mastitis is usually treated with antibiotics.

Thrush infection breast

If your nipples are sore, itchy or flaky and you feel a stabbing pain in both breasts while nursing, you may have developed a thrush infection of the breast. This disease is caused by fungal overgrowth and is usually treated with anti-fungal creams and tablets for the mother and a gel for the baby. You can keep breastfeeding during treatment but it’s important that both you and the baby are treated at the same time, since thrush infections are very contagious. Since there could be other reasons for breast pain, it’s important that you contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you may have a thrush infection of the breast.

Too much milk

Yes, with breastmilk it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Hormones, routine pumping, stress and an ineffective nursing style can all contribute to your breasts having more milk than your baby can handle. There are many ways to slow the milk flow, for example by nursing a little less often and letting your baby suck on just one breast per feeding session. If that doesn’t help, contact a lactation specialist for more tips and tricks.

Vasospams

When the blood vessels in the nipple contract too quickly after breastfeeding the blood flow is restricted and you may feel a burning or stabbing pain in the breast. The nipple may also change colour. This is called vasospasms and is usually triggered either by cold temperatures or a poor latch. To treat vasospasms, work on the baby’s position, keep your nipples covered up when you’re not breastfeeding and gently rub some olive oil or nipple balm on them in between feedings.

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