You know that breastfeeding is best for your baby, but what do you do when you encounter challenges? If things don’t go as planned, don’t worry – many nursing mothers experience one or more of these problems.
Breast engorgement (painful swelling of breasts) is the most common breastfeeding problem and is completely natural. It occurs when breasts are not emptied adequately. Some women produce more breast milk than others and experience engorgement more frequently. Breast engorgement may interfere with breastfeeding because your baby may not be able to latch on properly. The best remedy for engorgement is to nurse your baby frequently and to express extra milk by pump or hand when your little one isn’t hungry. MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine, recommends taking warm showers and using cold compresses to treat engorgement (MedLine, 2012).
Sore nipples are another common problem for breastfeeding mothers, especially when they first begin nursing. Since sore and cracked nipples are usually caused by an improper latch, they usually heal as soon as your baby learns to latch on properly. You may need to enlist the help of a professional lactation consultant to correct your baby’s latch. Otherwise, you may be unable to continue breastfeeding due to pain. To relieve pain and help cracked nipples heal faster, use clean warm water and lanolin ointment.
Another frequent breastfeeding problem involves plugged ducts. According to Wolters Kluwer Health, “Plugged ducts are areas in the breast where the flow of milk is blocked, usually by plugs of skin cells and milk. As the milk duct fills and stretches, the surrounding breast tissue becomes tender” (Schenler & Enger, 2010). Plugged ducts can be large and painful and you should contact your doctor if your condition doesn’t improve within a few days. The best way to treat plugged ducts at home is by nursing more often on the affected breast and gentle breast massage.
Mastitis (breast infection) is a painful condition that usually occurs two to three weeks after giving birth due to cracked nipples or plugged milk ducts, and is frequently accompanied by fever and other flu-like symptoms, says Sharon Mass, a doctor from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (Amy Sirot, Parents Magazine, 2012). This condition causes a part of your breast to become red, engorged and hot. Mastitis often requires a treatment with antibiotics. You should continue breastfeeding your baby, as well as get rest and drink plenty of water. Always contact your doctor if you experience any symptoms of mastitis.
If you experience engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis, be sure to wear a comfortable nursing bra and avoid underwire bras or bras that are too tight.
Amy Sirot, Parents Magazine. (2012). Nursing Roadblocks. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from Parents
MedLine. (2012). MedlinePlus-Health Information From The National Library of Medicine. Retrieved June
23, 2012, from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002452.htm
Schenler, R. J., & Enger, L. (2010, August 9). Patient information: Common breastfeeding problems
(Beyond the Basics) . Retrieved June 23, 2012, from Wolters Kluwer Health Clinical Solutions: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/common-breastfeeding-problems-beyond-the-basics