|January 10, 2012||Posted by under Breastfeeding|
So by now you know that breastfeeding is the best choice for your baby, but what about all of the breastfeeding problems and horror stories you have heard about? We’ve all heard them right? Stories of mastitis, cracked bleeding nipple, excruciating pain, not enough milk for the baby. The amount of infant feeding problems associated with breast feeding can be frightening and overwhelming. This is why it’s so important to learn ahead of time what breastfeeding problems you might expect so that you can make informed decisions, be prepared and get appropriate help quickly, so that the nursing relationship is not compromised.
I’d like to begin by giving an overview of my own history with breastfeeding problems.
My first son was a very easy nurser. It took several hours with a lactation consultant to get him to latch on properly, but once he learned, and I learned, we were good to go. About two months into our nursing relationship, I got a bad case of plugged ducts. I worked with a lactation consultant over the phone to pin point the problem, and she gave me some good solutions. The plugged ducts were painful, but the pain eased after two days, and they did not develop into mastitis.
My second and third sons both nursed without much trouble at all. I had to watch my diet carefully with my second son and avoid any foods that could give him gas, notably, most vegetables. It was a pain to avoid so many foods, but the difference in his pain levels were night and day, so it was worth it. Both my second and third sons spit up a lot too, a good amount, after every feeding. Both boys grew out of this by the time they were six months old. It was a trying time because I had to change my shirt several times a day. We didn’t have a lot of money then, so I only had a few shirts to begin with!
My fourth child was a daughter, and she was born 2 weeks early. For the first time, I experienced major nipple pain as she began nursing as a newborn. It got so bad that my nipples cracked and started bleeding! I had never had pain like this, especially not right off the bat. This must be what so many women had described to me. I always just figured their baby’s were not latching on correctly. I had no idea that even with a perfect latch, a mother could be in serious pain. It got so bad that my midwife convinced me to try using a nipple shield. Using a shield gave my nipples a chance to heal, and my daughter’s mouth time to grow. My midwife thought that because my daughter was born early her mouth was smaller than my boys’ mouths had been and that was what was causing the pain. I stopped using the shield after about 8 weeks, and we were good to go.
When my daughter was about 6 months old, I got mastitis for the first time! It was just like I had read about. One moment I was fine, the next I was running a high fever and bedridden. Luckily, a good neighbor was able to come and pick up my children until my husband could get home that evening. I started taking strong herbal remedies for dealing with infection ASAP and thankfully, I was able to keep the mastitis under control and not need antibiotics. I was back on my feet in two days. Out of all breastfeeding problems, mastitis has the potential to turn ugly quickly.
When my fifth child, another daughter was born I was convinced I would not need the nipple shield again. She was a week late and almost nine pounds, so surely her mouth would be large enough. I was wrong. Within two days of her birth my nipples were heading back to cracked and painful. I pulled out the nipple shield and dutifully began using it again. At 8 weeks I put it away, and nursed her uneventfully until she weaned.
My sixth child, a bouncing baby boy was born three days late, and you guessed it, I pulled out the nipple shield again. This time I had a professional lactation consultant check my latch. She told me it was perfect, but some women just have trouble in the first weeks. She told me that it is okay to need a nipple shield and not to feel any guilt over it. This time I waited until 10 weeks to stop using it. That was a mistake. Nipple shields really should be weaned off of by 8 weeks, otherwise you may have trouble convincing your baby to latch on without one. I had to teach this baby to open his mouth very wide before latching on. It took a good day and a half of frustrating feedings, but eventually he caught on.
So as you can see, sometimes breastfeeding is blissfully uneventful. Other times breastfeeding problems crop up, you never know when it will happen, or if it will happen to you. So lets get some breast feeding education!
Breastfeeding Problems: Nipple Pain
One of the common infant feeding problems for breastfeeding mothers is nipple soreness and pain. As the nipple adapts to the process of nursing there can be pain. I’ve read, and found it to be true to my own circumstance that blonde and red-headed women with fair skin most often experience sore, painful nipples. Fortunately there are many solutions to this problem. First thing’s first, a good solid latch. Have the lactation consultant working at the hospital, or your midwife if you delivered at home teach you how to check for a proper latch. If enough of the areola is not in the baby’s mouth, the nipples will get sore very quickly, also make sure your baby opens really wide, think of a baby bird hear.
If your latch is good and you are still having pain, apply lanolin on the nipple and areola after each nursing and allow the nipple to air dry before covering it back up. There is also a product called Soothies which are made by Lanisoh. You put them in the refrigerator and after nursing apply them to the nipple to help alleviate inflammation. They are heaven-sent! My hospital actually gave them to me after my last baby was born. So if you are still in the hospital and start experiencing pain, ask for some Soothies.
If the problem of nipple pain persists after several days of having a good latch, you may want to discuss with your lactation consultant the use of a Nipple Shield. The one that I use is made by Medela, and you only need to purchase one. My shield has lasted me through three babies! This is a small flexible plastic film that fits over your nipple. It will give you instant relief while nursing and cut down on the friction and chafing of the nipple, allowing them to heal.
Breastfeeding Problems: Engorgement
Another of the common breastfeeding problems for new nursing mothers is engorgement. When your milk first starts to come in it will quickly fill the breast. There will be more milk than a newborn baby can take in. This will cause your breasts to become very heavy and engorged. Most lactation consultants will advise mothers not to pump the excess milk. Instead, nurse your baby frequently, and try to keep the baby awake for a full feeding, which is not an easy task. I have found that undressing my baby down to the diaper while nursing helps to keep him more alert and more likely to finish his feeding. Sometimes I have to resort to lightly tickling his toes. Take ibuprofen to alleviate the soreness. Hand express some milk after a feeding to give some quick relief. A hot shower will also help to release some of the milk. Press down gently on the breast to aid the milk in flowing from the breast.
Breastfeeding Problems: Plugged Ducts
Plugged ducts are one of the more painful breastfeeding problems. This occurs when one of your milk ducts becomes inflamed and plugged up with milk. You will know you have this if you feel a small lump on your breast, or a cluster of lumps. Usually only one breast is affected. The area may be hot and red, and will definitely be tender to the touch. In some cases you may run a low grade fever. Causes of plugged ducts include oversupply, a tongue-tied baby, ineffective latch, limiting the amount of time baby nurses, stress, and too much activity.
To treat a plugged duct, rest more, nurse more, work on your latch. Massage your breast while you are nursing, take hot showers and massage there too. Apply heat or cold and massage, massage, massage. Drink extra water too.
Breastfeeding Problems: Mastitis
Mastitis is a similar problem to plugged ducts, but more extreme. You will spike a fever, feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, have flu like symptoms, have sore and painful breasts. Mastitis can turn very ugly quickly.
If you think you have mastitis, go straight to bed with the baby, wearing a very loose bra or none at all. Nurse as often as you can, drink a lot of water and start taking herbal supplements for killing infection. When I had mastitis I took garlic capsules, oil of oregano capsules, 10,000 mg. of Vitamin C and echinacea. Consult with your doctor or midwife about if you should begin a course of antibiotics. The most important thing to remember when treating mastitis is that you must rest. Mastitis can turn into an abscess in your breast. You do NOT want to go there.
Infant Feeding Problems: Thrush
Thrush is a yeast infection in or on your breast and in the baby’s mouth. This is one of the breastfeeding problems that is more persistent and can be difficult to get rid of. If your baby has thrush you will see white spots or patches in his mouth. You will notice bright red, painful nipples on yourself. Immediately cut sugar from your diet and seriously back off of carbs. A course of Diflucan for both you and the baby may be necessary to clear it up quickly. Herbal anti-fungals like garlic and oil of oregano may possibly be used, but I have no experience treating thrush, so you will need to research that topic.
It is generally recommended that you throw away your bras, switch to disposable nursing pads and clean your home thoroughly with a bleach solution.
If you are having more trouble than normal, talking to an experienced breastfeeding mother can be invaluable. You can contact a La Leche League trained mother any time day or night for free assistance.
Another invaluable online resource for more in depth solutions to breastfeeding problems is Kelly Mom You will find the answer to any breastfeeding problem you can possibly have at KellyMom.
Remember, breastfeeding is not always easy, it will require some work and sacrifice, but once you have learned the ropes and overcome the initial pain and discomfort, breastfeeding will be one of the most rewarding things you can do for your child.