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Today in Health & Wellness
HEALTH CONDITIONS

Breastfeeding Problems

Overview
Symptoms
Treatment and Management
Home Remedies
Doctors to Consult
Overview

Breastfeeding is a joyful experience which creates a bond between the mother and her baby. It allows the family to save money as not only can mothers feed their babies but provide the perfect nutrition for them as well. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for both the mother and baby. Exclusive breastfeeding protects the child against acute infections such as diarrhea, pneumonia and influenza. Breast milk also enhances brain development and improves cognitive development. There are plenty of ways breastfeeding also help mothers such as promoting postpartum weight loss, acting as a natural contraceptive as it delays ovulation and reducing risks of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis.

Breastfeeding can be challenging especially for new mothers. Some mothers are fortunate not to encounter any breastfeeding struggle, while some can have problems with one of their babies but not the other. Here are some common breastfeeding problems and some advice to help you avoid these obstacles:

Symptoms
  • Inadequate milk production. Most mothers are concerned about not producing enough milk for their babies. In this case, observe your baby's weight gain and count the number of wet and dirty diapers in a day. If you are able to feed each time the baby is hungry, then you may have enough breast milk.
  • Plugged duct. Ducts are the network of branching tiny tubes that carry milk from the breast tissues to the nipples. When ducts get blocked, milk does not drain completely causing the surrounding tissues to become inflamed. The mother may develop a tender and sore lump in the breasts. The nipple itself can also be clogged with a small white spot called "bleb". It is an overgrowth of skin cells or a collection of fragments or fatty material from breast milk. If left untreated, it can lead to mastitis.
  • Mastitis. It is an inflammation of the breast marked fever and breast pain. Breasts may feel warm to the touch and appear pinkish to reddish. It is caused by cracked skin, clogged milk ducts or if the breasts are engorged for a long time and do not drain properly.
  • Thrush or Yeast infection. Candida naturally exists in our bodies at a healthy level. When the natural balance of bacteria is upset, Candida can overgrow and cause an infection. It thrives on breast milk and can grow in your nipples and in your baby's mouth. Signs of thrush include cracked nipples that appear pink or red, shiny or flaky, cracked nipples or intense nipple or breast pain that is not improved with better latch-on or positioning. A thrush inside a baby's mouth appears as little white spots inside of the cheeks, gums or tongue.
  • Inverted nipples. Mothers with inverted nipples have nipples that turn inward instead of protruding or are flat and do not protrude. Inverted nipples can also be due to engorgement or swelling while breastfeeding. This condition can sometimes make it harder for mothers to breastfeed.
  • Breast and nipple pain. Breast and nipple pain can be caused by different reasons such as the conditions mentioned above but the most common cause of breast pain for nursing mothers is incorrect breastfeeding technique. One common problem is that the baby does not latch on properly which can result in nipple injury and breasts not emptying fully.
Risk Factors
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management

Inadequate milk production

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Breastfeed often. Let your baby decide when to stop when they are full. Breast milk works on a demand-and-supply basis which means the more your baby asks for it by sucking more, the more breast milk your body make.
  • Incorporate more galactagogue in your diet. A galactagogue is a food or drug that can boost breast milk supply. Malunggay is a natural galactagogue. It contains nutrients, vitamins, and minerals essential for lactating mothers. Other foods you can add to your diet to increase your milk supply include oats, spinach, carrots, barley, garlic, papayas, sweet potato and brown rice.

 

Engorgement or oversupply of breast milk

  • Learn to position your baby to make sure they latch on properly.
  • If the engorgement of your breasts makes it hard for the baby to latch on, manually express a small amount of milk before feeding to soften your areola and make it easier for the baby to latch on.
  • Try applying a warm compress or taking a warm shower before a feeding. This can enhance the flow of milk out of the breasts.

 

Plugged duct

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing or ill-fitting bra.
  • Keep breastfeeding from the affected breast because your baby will help empty your breasts.
  • Do not allow long gaps between feeds and feed as often as possible to keep your milk flowing.
  • Make sure that your baby is latched on well.
  • Massage the lumpy area with the flat of your hand before, during and after feeds in the direction of your nipple. This will push more milk to the surrounding tissues and help in milk circulation.
  • If the pain from blockage does not get better in two to three days, contact your doctor.

 

Mastitis

  • Breastfeed often on the affected site to keep the milk moving and to keep the breast from becoming full.
  • Apply a warm compress to the sore area.
  • Wear a well-fitting bra that is not too tight so as not to constrict the milk ducts.
  • Take a rest. Get an extra sleep to help speed healing process.
  • See the doctor right away if both breasts are showing signs of infection, there are red streaks on the infected breast or there is pus or blood in the milk.

 

Thrush or Yeast infection

  • Rinse your nipples with a vinegar and water solution. Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 1 cup of water. Use a fresh cotton ball each application and mix a new solution every day.
  • Wear clean bra every day.
  • Wash your and your baby's hands often, especially if they suck on their fingers.
  • Wash towels or clothing that comes in contact with the yeast in a very hot water.
  • Consult your doctor for any antifungal cream that is safe for the baby. Apply the cream on your breasts after every breastfeed and wipe away any visible cream just before feeding your baby.

 

Inverted nipples

  • You may use a breast pump to get the milk flowing before feeding and then try using a nipple shield if your baby still has problems latching. A nipple shield is a thin, flexible silicone nipple with holes in the end that can fit over your nipple during feedings.
  • Stimulate your nipple by grasping and rolling it between your thumb and index finger for 30 seconds before offering it to your baby.

 

Breast and nipple pain

  • Ask your doctor about using non-aspirin pain relievers.
  • Human milk has natural healing properties and it is safer to use than using creams or medicine for pain. Express a few drops of milk after breastfeeding and gently rub it on your nipples with clean hands.
  • Avoid wearing clothes or bras that are too tight and might put pressure on your nipples.
  • A good latch is a key in minimizing pain in breastfeeding. Not only does it ensure comfort for the mother and the baby, it is also important in breastfeeding effectively by ensuring adequate milk intake for the baby.
  • Although the majority of sore nipples are caused by latch problems, not all are. If you suspect that it is caused by other conditions, seek your doctor's advice for treatment recommendations.
  • Do not delay feedings. It can cause more pain and harm to your milk supply.
Home Remedies

Breastfeeding Tips

  • Breastfeeding latch. Proper positioning is the key to comfortable and pain-free breastfeeding experience and it also ensures that the baby feeds efficiently. Here are the basic steps for optimal positioning when breastfeeding:
    1. Allow your baby's head to tilt back slightly to make it easy for him or her to suck and swallow. Position the baby close to you with their hips flexed so that they do not have to turn their head to reach your breast.
    2. Pull your baby close. Let your nipple rest just above the baby's upper lips first and wait for your baby to open his/her mouth widely and then let the baby latch into your breast.
    3. A good latch will feel comfortable without hurting or pinching, you see little or no areola with the baby's tongue cupped under the breast and you can hear or see your baby swallow.
  • Be observant of your baby's hunger signs such as if they are more alert and active or if they put their hands or fists to their mouth or turn their heads looking for the breast.
  • When in public, wear clothes that allow easy access to your breasts.
  • Watch out for signs of allergy. A baby may have an allergy or sensitivity reaction after the mother consumed certain food or drinks which contain common food allergens like soy foods, corn, eggs, nuts or fish. Call your doctor if your baby has the following signs of reaction to food: frequent spitting up or vomiting, bloody or mucousy stool, rash and swelling, apparent belly pain (gas and/or pulling up their knees in pain) and wheezing or coughing.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the baby's first 6 months. Breast milk alone can provide all the nutrition the baby needs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated.
  • Check with your doctor before taking any medication or supplements because some of it can be passed to your baby in breast milk.
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