Engorgement, sore nipples, low milk supply and mastitis from breastfeeding.... here's how to help
Firstly, can we all agree that when it comes to babies – a fed baby is best. End of. We are not into mom shaming. Whatever works for you and your baby is the best! But if you do decide to breastfeed here is some handy information that may be helpful when tackling common breastfeeding issues.
Issue 1 – Engorgement
Yup it happens to the best of us. It’s painful, a total nuisance and can regularly lead to mastitis if it’s not managed. Best to nip this one in the bud as early as possible!
When your milk comes in, usually around day three post birth some mums can begin to suffer from this. The breasts can feel really full, hot and tender to the touch.
These are some things we have found useful in treating it:
- Cabbage leaves – not just an old wives tail, these actually work! Kept in the fridge and applied to the breasts will help relieve pain as well as feeling lovely and cool
- Taking a hot shower and letting the spray of the warm shower run onto the breasts and then massaging them gently
- Wet a nappy with hot water (not boiling) and place it on to the breast. This can help to break down the milk and release some of the engorgement
Usually it should go in away on its own in 24-48 hours after but if it doesn’t definitely seek medical advice.
Issue 2 – Nipple problems
So many women experience cracked and sore nipples when they start breastfeeding. It can be a real challenge to even want to keep going when it happens. There are many reasons for this happening but some of the most common are:
- Poor latch – it’s worth talking to a health nurse or lactation consultant or to watch some of the tutorials available online of how best to try fix this. Often if the baby is just latching on to the tip of the nibble and not using a wider latch on the breast itself you end up with a lot of damage and pain to the nipple.
- Get your baby checked for tongue tie. This is so much more common than we realise and can have a huge impact on feeding and nipple pain. Both my boys suffered very bag tongue tie that wasn’t diagnosed and as a result they were classified as having reflux and colic when one of the main issues was the tongue tie resulting in them not getting enough milk and guzzling in painful wind in their little tummies. Watch out for babies that cry an awful lot – sometimes this is due to tongue tie in disguise that hasn’t been diagnosed.
- Cold compress and creams such as lansinoh cream can really help to ease the pain.
- Silver nipple shields have been known to be really helpful in healing the nipple. Silver is a natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial metal that also contains anti-inflammatory agents. It heals and prevents cuts, wounds, cracks, soreness, and infection.
Issue 3 – A low milk supply
So many mums worry about not having enough milk for their babies. Especially if they have small breasts. Most of the time this just isn’t the case but here are some handy suggestions to help.
- When baby is first born try to breastfeed as soon as you can to get the milk going
- Skin to skin really helps the body to bring in the milk supply
- Offer your baby both breasts at each feed to help stimulate the milk supply
- Alternate which breast you start with each time again to help stimulate the milk supply. It can be so tricky to remember which one you started on the last time so we found lots of handy apps online that helped with this or if you prefer a notebook by the bed for night times is helpful too to write it into it!
- There are some supplements it can be worth looking it but again do it with the advice of a medical professional. I personally found fenugreek which can be found in health food shops really good. Within two days my milk had really increased.
- Cookies…. Yes really cookies can help!! There are some super recipes out there for lactation cookies. They may not fix everything but they are certainly worth a try and they are delicious too! There are some great recipes on google but here is one of our favourites - https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/232191/lactation-cookies/
Issue 4 - Mastitis
Mastitis is an infection in the breast tissue and is often caused by a milk duct getting blocked. Signs are feeling generally unwell, flu like symptoms, temperature and a painful hot breast can be a sign of it. It’s important if you experience any of these to get them checked out as you may need to get antibiotics from the doctor.
- It’s important with mastitis to keep feeding the baby or pumping as this will help to try unblock the duct. You may need to do this more regularly than often and feed through the pain if you can. It is recommended to start with the infected breast each time until the block has gone.
- Heat patches, a warm wet cloth or hot water bottles can help if applied to the area to also try to ease the pain.
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any pain or fever.
- Rest and drinking plenty of fluids is really important too.
There are so many resources out there for new moms and some great breastfeeding groups too which can be a lovely way to get to know other new moms so don’t be afraid to reach out and get help when you need it.