Solutions To Common Breastfeeding Dilemmas

from painful nipples to breast infections

Solutions To Common Breastfeeding Dilemmas

Breastfeeding is a wonderful, healthy, beautiful thing...but don't ever let anyone tell you it's easy. When I had my first baby, even though I had several years of medical training behind me, I was shocked to discover that breastfeeding didn't come perfectly naturally. I actually had to work at it. I had to think about it. A lot. I had to read, experiment, and eventually see a lactation consultant who helped me figure the whole thing out.

Of course everyone's experience is different, and many women (and their babies) take to breastfeeding right from day one. But if you're having trouble...trust me, you're not alone. 

In this post I'm going to talk about some specific breastfeeding challenges. It's important to know that if any of these issues come up for you, there are solutions.  

Sore Nipples

Cracked, sore nipples are very common, particularly in the early postpartum phase when both you and your baby are getting used to breastfeeding.  Here are some things you can do to relieve this painful problem:

  • Make sure the latch is right—see this for help.
  • Soothe the skin with pure lanolin cream, or breastmilk itself.
  • Continue breastfeeding and/or pumping your milk. If your nipples are bleeding you may see a little blood in the milk and that is okay—it's not harmful to your baby.


When the breasts painfully overfill with milk, it’s called engorgement. This is usually caused by a mismatch between milk production and milk extraction. It's more likely to happen at these times:

  • When your milk first starts to come in a few days after delivery
  • If your baby has a very irregular feeding routine
  • If his appetite drops due to illness, or starting on solid foods

Engorged breasts can be firm, hard, and painful. Engorgement can cause the nipple to flatten out and the areola to become hard, which makes it difficult for your baby to latch on.

Here are some solutions:

  • Manual expression of small amounts of milk just before feeding to soften the areola and help latching
  • The use of a breast pump just before feeding to soften the breast—but be careful because overuse will stimulate milk production and can worsen engorgement
  • Cold compresses after or between feedings to decrease swelling and pain
  • Warm compresses or a warm shower to enhance let-down and improve breastfeeding or pumping or manual expression
  • Try applying cold cabbage leaves to the breasts to relieve engorgement—it's an old folk remedy that has some evidence backing it up
  • pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetominophen are considered safe while breastfeeding.

Blocked Ducts

A plugged, or blocked, milk duct—which feels like a tender lump in the breast—can be very painful. Typically there’s no redness of the breast tissue or fever (distinguishing it from mastitis--see below).

Here are some of the ways to manage a blocked duct:

  • Optimize feeding technique
  • Do not stop breastfeeding!
  • Facilitate drainage via warm showers, warm compresses, manual expression
  • Pain relievers like ibuprofen/acetaminophen

If a blocked duct doesn’t resolve in about 48 hours using the above methods, see your doctor.


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast—typically caused by an infection—that results in fever, pain, redness, and general symptoms of fatigue and achiness. All the above conditions (cracked nipples, engorgement, blocked ducts) can lead to mastitis.

If you have any of the following, see your doctor:

  • Fever over 38.5 C
  • A firm, red, tender area of the breast
  • Muscle aches and pains

If your doctor decides you do indeed have an infection, you will likely be put on antibiotics.

Here's how to deal with mastitis:

  • Continue breastfeeding and keep working on your technique to make sure your breasts empty well
  • Take your antibiotics as directed. If you don't start to feel better within 2-3 days, contact your doctor
  • Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
  • Apply cold compresses

If you found this helpful, see some of my other pregnancy and postpartum posts:

photo credit: Wikimedia commons



7 Health Benefits Of Yoga

an ancient route to health and happiness

7 Health Benefits Of Yoga

I’m a huge fan of yoga. I routinely prescribe it, for everything from back pain to insomnia. My love for yoga is personal, but it’s also professional. And the best part? It’s backed up by a whole lot of research.

Here are some of the ways yoga can make you healthier and happier:

1. Yoga can help treat depression.

There are many reasons yoga is a wonderful adjunctive or alternative therapy for depression. It’s stress-relieving, promotes mindfulness, and is a good form of exercise—strategies known to improve depression.

2. Yoga can improve your heart health.

Yoga has been shown to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. It may also reduce cholesterol. Some studies have also suggested that yoga boosts our natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory processessignificant factors in preventing heart disease.

3. Yoga can treat your chronic back pain.

Chronic back pain can be notoriously difficult to treat. In a recent British study, yoga was shown to be superior to “regular care” for treating chronic back pain. 

4. Yoga can give you a better night’s sleep.

Several studies have demonstrated yoga’s ability to improve sleep—even for people suffering insomnia-ridden conditions like menopause.

5. Yoga can help treat chronic health conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you happen to suffer this autoimmune type of arthritis, yoga could be especially good for you, too. Some early research has shown improvement in both physical and psychological symptoms when patients participate in a yoga program.

6. Yoga can alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

Yoga appears to help with a variety of symptoms associated with menopause and peri-menopauseinsomnia, mood changes, and maybe even hot flashes.

7. Yoga can help you cope with stress.

There is plenty of evidence for the stress-busting benefits of yoga. I attribute this to yoga’s superb blend of these factors: meditation, breathing, physical exercise, and relaxation. And who couldn’t benefit from a little help managing stress?

See you at the yoga studio...

If you liked this, check out some of my other posts:

image credit: modified from CC image at professiongal