Breastfeeding Problems that Mums Get
If you are having problems breastfeeding, make sure you seek help. It's really, really important to get help. It is not necessary to struggle on in pain with your baby getting hungry and everyone getting stressed.
The main breastfeeding problems that occur for mothers are blocked ducts, mastitis, thrush and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Blocked Duct and Mastitis
A blocked duct is when a duct gets blocked and the milk builds up behind the blockage making a hard, sore lump. It may be that your bra isn’t fitted properly or that your baby hasn’t taken as much milk from that side for whatever reason. Make sure you feed from that side first and try to massage the lump away. Stroke your breast towards the nipple. A hot water bottle can also be helpful.
If the blocked duct does not resolve, it can lead to mastitis. The sore lump becomes red and inflamed and you will feel as if you have flu, with temperatures, shivering episodes and muscular aches. If you have mastitis, you need to start antibiotics, which should work quite quickly to resolve the infection. You can continue to feed even though you are on antibiotics. Mastitis and a blocked duct can also lead to an abscess (a nasty infected lump that generally needs to have an operation to get better).
Different positions can help prevent a blocked duct.
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Thrush and breastfeeding
Symptoms of thrush including itching around the nipples, a burning sensation whilst feeding, or pain in the nipples that wan’t previously there, the skin of the nipple may be red and inflamed and it may be white or discoloured.
The baby may also have symptoms in their mouth. Their tongue may be coated in white fur that does not scrape away, underneath the fur the tongue is red and inflamed. They may also pull away whilst feeding. A mother may have thrush on her nipples without the baby showing signs of infection. Either way, both the mother and the baby need to be treated with cream for the mother and oral suspension for the baby.
See the 'Nappy Rash and Thrush' section in Illnesses
Raynaud's phenomenon and breastfeeding
Raynaud’s phenomenon is when the blood vessels in your extremities (usually your fingers and toes) constrict, preventing blood getting to them. Typically, the fingers and toes turn white then blue then red. It can be very painful and is much more common in females than males. The same thing can happen to your nipples and cause painful nipples during breastfeeding. The most common cause of painful nipples during breastfeeding is a poor latch, so it’s important to get that checked by someone first. The pain is severe and throbbing and may be mistaken for thrush. Your nipples will change colour, sometimes to white, blue and then red, but sometimes just to white and red. The symptoms may also occur when not breastfeeding, or even before pregnancy.
Raynaud’s is triggered by the cold so it’s important to avoid getting cold and to avoid things that make your blood vessels constrict, such as nicotine. A drug called Nifedipine has been used to treat Raynaud’s and is safe to take if breastfeeding.
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Where can I find more information on breastfeeding problems?
There are load of websites that concentrate specifically on breastfeeding and have loads of fantastic advice available. My favourite is La Leche League which I think covers pretty much any question you could possibly think of.