Breastfeeding bothers solved
For every breastfeeding issue you’re experiencing, there’s a solution, writes Beth Cooper Howell
BREASTFEEDING, AS NATURAL a practice as it is, comes with its own challenges. While we all expect it to be a breeze, we’re often discouraged and distressed when we try it and problems arise. Nursing your baby is also a learned art, and that is why information and support are vital for ensuring you have an enjoyable experience and can deal with the normal adjustment niggles.
“Breastfeeding takes time and effort – sometimes even pain – but it’s well worth learning,” explains Dr Nan Jolly, a lactation consultant.
The root of most problems lies in ineffective latching and positioning. Getting these sorted early on is key. Feeding your baby on demand and not according to a schedule – and establishing breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth – are also crucial factors for success.
If you’re having trouble latching correctly, speak to your local midwife or lactation consultant. The most common breastfeeding problems are painful, cracked nipples, engorged breasts and blocked milk ducts.
Mysterious lumps and bumps may also surface and need attention.
NIGHTMARE NIPPLES Nipples that are painful to touch, red, cracked or feel inflamed are most often caused by incorrect latching. Some tips on what to do according to Dr Jolly:
• If you have cracks in your nipples, massage a small amount of nipple cream onto them after feeds. Find a kind that doesn’t need to be washed off before feeding your baby.
• Fresh air aids recovery. Expose your nipples to non-midday sun for just a few minutes and go without a bra for around ten minutes after each feeding session.
• Massage a little breastmilk into the affected area – it really helps!
• Use a pain reliever (ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one that is safe for breastfeeding) if necessary.
ENGORGEMENT Feeling like you have a pair of rocks balanced on your chest is not fun! Engorgement is common in the first few days (usually day three), when your main milk is coming in.
• Empty your breasts regularly by feeding on cue – you don’t have to establish a feeding schedule just yet.
• Don’t time feeds, let baby drink for as long as needed.
• After your baby has fed from both breasts, manually empty excess milk by hand-massaging the blocked ducts. Massage your breasts firmly but gently towards the nipple.
• Use both cold and warm compresses alternately to increase milk flow.
• Take a cabbage leaf out of the fridge and tuck into your bra, change it every few hours. It may sound like an old wives’ tale, but many a woman can attest to the effectiveness of cold cabbage leaves. The only disadvantage is that you will smell of cabbage though!
MISBEHAVING MILK DUCTS
Tender, sore or sensitive masses on your breasts are usually caused by blocked milk ducts. To prevent this happening, remember to feed your baby on demand and pump or hand express milk between feeds to prevent engorgement.
• Take a break from the world and simply spend as much time as possible feeding your baby and resting.
• Continue to treat the engorgement using the tips outlined above.
LESS COMMON LUMPS & BUMPS
There are several other kinds of masses that are unrelated to milk duct problems and that may cause discomfort.
Galactoceles are nodules caused directly by blocked milk ducts, but they usually don’t appear until weaning. If they don’t disappear spontaneously, they can be aspirated by your doctor.
Milk blisters are caused by milk collecting beneath a very thin skin layer forming over a milk duct. The blisters may have a white, yellow or clear dot in the centre. To treat them at home, soak the area in olive oil or Epsom salts, followed by a hot compress before a feed. The blisters usually burst without any interference, but you can very gently scratch the skin with a clean, dry fingernail between feeding sessions. Your pharmacist or doctor may advise you to use a healing cream, but be sure to wash this off thoroughly before your next feed.
Montgomery glands are found in the areola and may become infected through pressure or an infected scrape or cut. While painful, they are not serious. Simply breastfeed as much as possible, place your breast in warm water before feeds and gently massage the lump.
MASTITIS This is a breast infection requiring prompt medical treatment. If you don’t address the problem, it may result in a breast abscess. Symptoms of mastitis include a shiny, hot, red and painful area on one breast, chills, nausea, fever or fatigue. Causes include engorgement, blocked milk ducts and damaged skin in the nipple area. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and lots of rest. Continue to breastfeed, starting with the uninfected breast. When you feel a letdown reflex, switch to the infected breast, as the faster milk flow will make it far easier to handle the pain. ABCESS If you’re diagnosed with an abscess, get in touch with a lactation consultant, as these professionals know exactly how to deal with breastfeeding during this painful period. IS BABY GETTING ENOUGH? Since we can’t measure how much breastmilk our babies are drinking, it’s natural to be concerned about having a sufficient supply. At birth, your baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble and can comfortably digest 5ml. In the first week, his stomach will grow to the size of a golf ball and be able to hold up to 60ml. The amount of milk your breasts produce adjusts to your baby’s changing needs.
While you get into the swing of things, there are ways you can tell your baby is getting enough milk, such as:
• Your baby switches between short
sleeping and wakeful periods.
• Your baby is satisfied and content after
• Your breasts feel softer after you have
fed your baby.
• Your baby has between five to six wet or dirty nappies a day. His urine should be pale in colour.
• Your baby is steadily putting on
weight. Remember that in the first few days after birth it is normal for your baby to lose a bit of weight, but by 10 to 14 days he should have picked this up again and be back to his birth weight. After this, your baby should gain about 30g a day for the first three months.
Lastly, try to relax, take your time and enjoy it – practice makes perfect!