If you are planning on breastfeeding, or are currently on your breastfeeding journey, you probably know that some days are an uphill battle. If you haven’t started yet, you may have some concerns going into your breastfeeding journey. I want to address some of those concerns and hopefully make this breastfeeding journey all that it can be…because let me tell you, it is such an amazing journey! I want you to be able to get everything you can out of it!
So, let’s first outline some concerns you might be having:
- sore nipples
- breast pain
- inverted nipples
All of these are valid concerns to have! But if you haven’t started breastfeeding, there is no need to be worried about them. Not every woman experiences these on their breastfeeding journey. Although, they are real concerns that can happen. So let’s dig into each of these a little more.
This one is very common. Having nipple tenderness, or sore nipples, is very common for the first week. If the tenderness doesn’t improve, contact a lactation consultant.
If you do experience tenderness, try to reduce that by:
- expressing a little milk before feeding to get the milk to let down before your baby starts feeding
- try different positions (if you need different positions & pictures, see this post)
- dab a little of your breast milk onto your sore nipple
- massage your breasts gently
- use warm compressses
- keep your nipples dry
- change bra pads often
- avoid products that contain petroleum or alcohol
Having blisters, cracked or bleeding nipples is not normal though. If you are experiencing a lot of this, contact a lactation consultant. I experienced this in the beginning and putting breast milk on my nipples was a LIFE SAVER.
Engorgement is when your breasts swell because of the extra fluid in the tissues around your milk ducts. Typically, this happens between the 3rd and 7th day because your milk is increasing. As this happens, you’ll probably find that your breasts are full and warm to the touch. They can also become so full & hard that it is difficult for your baby to latch and nurse.
To help prevent engorgement, try the following:
- avoid giving formula unless you need to
- massage your breasts or pump before feedings (express a little milk to help soften the area around your nipple)
- apply warmth to your breast (up to 5 minutes) before a feeding to help with let-down (using a warm washcloth works well for this)
- try different nursing positions (it can help your breast drain)
- let your baby drain your first breast completely before switching
Engorgement can happen any time while you are feeding, if you miss a feeding or if you end up weaning too suddenly. During the first couple weeks after your baby is born though, you body is going to regulate you milk production and supply. Over time, as you continue to breastfeed, engorgement should lessen.
Breast Pain – Plugged Duct
Two of the most common causes of breast pain are a plugged duct and mastitis. A plugged duct is when a milk duct is plugged because it didn’t drain properly. You’ll notice the area is tender and you may feel a painful lump. The area of your breast may also be red. If the blockage is in the nipple, the clogged duct may look white. It is important to note that a plugged duct will not make you feel sick or have a fever though.
To prevent or treat a plugged duct, try the following:
- wear a bra that fits well
- breastfeed at least every 2 hours, starting on the affected side
- when feeding, have your baby’s chin pointed toward the plugged duct
- massage the affect area often
- drain the affected breast before offering the other breast (if your baby doesn’t drain it fully, pump the rest)
- stand under a warm shower
- alternate warm & cold compresses
If you leave it untreated, the plugged duct can cause more serious problems. I would recommend calling your doctor if you have had a plugged duct for 3 days or longer (or if your symptoms get worse or if you have a fever).
Breast Pain – Mastitis
The other common cause of breast pain is mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast. The infection is in your tissue and not your milk, so don’t be worried about continuing to breastfeed. Mastitis is caused when bacteria enters your breast through a crack in the nipple or the skin. What happens when you don’t treat a plugged duct is it can then turn into mastitis.
Some symptoms of mastitis are:
- flu-like body aches
- temperature higher than 101 degrees F
- red, hot & swollen breast tissue
- pain that is intense in one spot
If you think you do have mastitis, you can try the tips listed under the plugged duct section. Since it is an infection though, I think it would be best to contact your doctor. Rest is also important when you have mastitis. So don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept it when it is offered to you!
One last concern with breastfeeding I want to cover is inverted nipples. An inverted nipple is when a nipple tucks in rather than sticking out. Breast changes during pregnancy will often correct this condition.
Even if your nipple doesn’t change though, don’t worry – there may not be a problem. Some babies don’t have any problem latching on!
If your baby does have problems latching, you can try pumping for a few minutes before nursing – this can help draw out your nipple.
I would say that these are typically the most common concerns with breastfeeding but if you have others, leave them in the comments below. If you had battled with some of these concerns before, leave a comment with what worked for you!
All the best,