Inadequate milk intake, engorged breasts, sore nipples, bloody nipple discharge, milk oversupply, milk spray, leaking breasts, breast refusal and breast infection are the common breastfeeding concerns of nursing mothers.
Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby. It provides all the nutrition your baby needs during the first six months of life, satisfies their hunger and thirst at the same time. It also helps to create a loving bond between you and your baby.
Breastfeeding: 11 Common Breastfeeding Concerns
Inadequate milk intake
The most common reason women stop breastfeeding is that they think their infant is not getting enough milk, but in many cases the mother has an adequate supply. A true inadequate supply can happen if the infant is unable to extract milk well or if the mother doesn’t make enough milk.
Three to four days after you give birth, your breasts may become full, tender and lumpy, with flattened nipples. The swelling may even spread to your underarms and you might get a small fever. This happens when your milk ‘comes in’. It can be painful, but it’s quite harmless and usually goes away quickly.
To soothe the symptoms, express some milk before you feed, using a pump or your hands. And use warm flannels, baths and showers to help soothe and relax your breasts between feeds.
Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples
Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are usually a sign that your baby is not latched on properly, not feeding in the right position, or you could be using a breast pump incorrectly. Your midwife or health visitor can help with your breastfeeding technique
Sore nipples are one of the most common complaints by new mothers. Pain due to nipple injury needs to be distinguished from nipple sensitivity, which normally increases during pregnancy and peaks about four days after giving birth.
You can usually tell the difference between normal nipple sensitivity and pain caused by nipple injury based on when it happens and how it changes over time. Normal sensitivity typically subsides 30 seconds after suckling begins. It also diminishes eventually. Nipple pain caused by trauma, on the other hand, persists or gets worse after suckling begins.
Bloody nipple discharge
Some women have bloody nipple discharge during the first days to weeks of lactation. This is more common with the first pregnancy and has been called rusty pipe syndrome. It is thought to be caused by the increased blood flow to the breasts and ducts that happens when the mother starts making milk. The color of the milk varies from pink to red and generally resolves within a few days. Women who have bloody discharge for more than a week should be seen by a healthcare provider.
Producing too much milk is common in the first few days. Initially your body produces lots of milk to allow for a high volume of feeding, this settles down once your baby is feeding effectively and milk production should begin to regulate, to provide your baby with the amount they need. Usually, overabundant milk production will correct itself in a few weeks, once breastfeeding is established, but some mums find that the problems continue if their baby isn’t latching on properly. Expressing some breastmilk before feeding may help.
Some mums can produce a strong spray of milk either as a side effect of being full of milk or as a problem on its own, which can put off some babies. If this happens, it helps if you can express some milk before you let your baby feed. Or you can try letting them suckle to bring the milk down, and then capture the initial spray in a towel. When the flow has calmed a little let your baby latch on again.
Leaking breasts are a reminder that lactation is going well. It’s also the body’s way of preventing engorgement and relieving that feeling of fullness nursing moms get in their breasts. Every breastfeeding woman is different — while some mothers never leak, others can barely keep their nursing tops dry. Leaking is unpredictable, unfortunately. Some moms leak only during the early weeks of breastfeeding while others leak for many months. The hormone oxytocin, which causes the milk ejection reflex (MER) or letdown, is responsible — which is why you notice one breast leaking while nursing your son.
Feeding from one breast only
Sometimes babies develop a preference for one breast. It won’t harm them, but you want to give both your breasts the chance to produce equal amounts of milk. If your baby’s being choosy, try feeding them on the breast they don’t favor in the same position as the one they do. So if you’re cradling your baby on your left breast, just move them across to the right one, instead of turning them around.
If your baby’s gone on breast strike, try feeding them when they’re very sleepy, and keep the room quiet and distraction-free. You could also try different feeding positions, or even try feeding on the move as the rocking motion can be comforting to your baby.
Lactational mastitis — Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that is often associated with fever (which might be masked by pain medications), muscle and breast pain, and redness. It is not always caused by an infection, but most people associate it with infection. Mastitis can happen at any time during lactation, but it is most common during the first six weeks after delivery.
Mastitis tends to occur if the nipples are damaged or the breasts stay engorged for too long or do not drain properly. To prevent and treat mastitis, it’s important to get these problems under control.
Here are some things you can do to manage mastitis:
- Take your antibiotics exactly as directed.
- Take a mild pain reliever.
- Apply ice packs.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s also a learning process for you and your baby. Sometimes problems develop. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any stage during your breastfeeding journey.
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