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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
If your doctor decides you do indeed have an infection, you will likely be put on antibiotics.
Here's how to deal with mastitis:
If you found this helpful, see some of my other pregnancy and postpartum posts:
photo credit: Wikimedia commons