As a new mom, you want to believe that once you get the hang of breastfeeding, there will not be any other issues and everything will be perfect. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that were guaranteed? Unfortunately, even a veteran breastfeeding mom runs the risk of experiencing different complications that sometimes come about as a result of breastfeeding. You may not experience any of these difficulties but it is always good to be prepared and know what to watch for!
Breastfeeding Problems for New Moms to Watch For:
Clogged Milk Ducts
Perhaps the most common of all breastfeeding issues, clogged milk ducts can be a huge pain in the most literal sense. They can happen without any rhyme or reason as they just appear one day as soreness in your breast. Similar to feeling like a bruise, the clogged duct feels tender to the touch. You may want to stop breastfeeding, but keep going because you need baby’s suction to help break up and pull out the clog. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt her. Other ways to break up the clog include applying warm compresses and massaging the tender area. It will hurt, but it will eventually feel better as the clog breaks apart. Another great idea is to massage your breast under warm water in the shower to also help break up the clog. You may trigger milk let down, but don’t worry about it. That actually helps because it starts the milk flow which means that you will be better able to get the clog out. Be sure to work diligently to get the clog out in order to keep from developing mastitis.
While more of an annoyance than a complication, it can cause complications for moms, especially those that are not aware that leaks can happen. You will find that you may experience let down at the cry of another baby. It may feel like the oddest thing because that baby isn’t yours, but your body has been trained to react a certain way. In that way, your body knows to react to your baby’s hunger cues and may interpret another baby’s cry as that particular cue. Let down happens as a result because normally, the faster the milk comes, the happier baby is when it is time to eat. With that said if you haven’t taken precautions like wearing breast pads under your bra, when you leak, it will show through your shirt. This leaking can be a huge inconvenience if you are not properly prepared.
Cracked and bleeding nipples are not normal by any stretch of the imagination, yet they are very common. The cause of cracked nipples is usually related to baby having a bad latch. What is happening is that your nipple is rubbing up against the roof of baby’s mouth, causing unnecessary friction which further causes the nipples to eventually crack and bleed. If pain cannot be resolved within a few days, then a professional should be consulted. If you aren’t sure where to look for a lactation consultant, try your local hospital or birthing center. Another great resource is La Leche League, which is a group that has chapters on a global scale. The women involved with La Leche League are there to support all of your breastfeeding efforts.
Mastitis is what happens when you don’t break up a clog in a milk duct, instead, letting it fester into an infection. This type of infection is extremely painful and can cause other issues like fever, nausea, and extreme breast tenderness. To take care of this type of infection, antibiotics may be necessary which usually means that you will not be able to continue to breastfeed during this time. That does not mean that you have to give up breastfeeding, but it does mean that you will need to use a breast pump regularly and dump the contents. For a situation like this, a manual breast pump would be a good choice so you can adjust pressure as necessary since your breasts will be tender. You definitely could not save the breast milk to be used at a later time due to the antibiotics. If you stop breastfeeding altogether, your milk supply will decrease and it will be nearly impossible to get it back. (Blog owner’s note- I had a mild case of mastitis and my midwife had me eat raw garlic to fight the infection and pump to try to clear the clog.)
Yeast infections of the breast are also known as thrush. When you develop a yeast infection on your breast, it will most likely spread to baby’s mouth. As a result, both you and your baby will have to deal with thrush. Unless you break the chain, this can turn into a vicious cycle. If your baby still has thrush after your infection has been cured, then you can get it again. The only way to get rid of a yeast infection for good is to treat both mommy and baby at the same time. At that point, you would pump and dump again because the milk coming out of the breast will be tainted with your yeast infection and the anti-fungal medication that you would be taking. The same premise applies in that if you don’t pump, your milk supply will decrease and it will be difficult to get it back.
If you do decide to purchase a breast pump, either to combat these problems or just to aid in breastfeeding then there are a few important things to keep in mind…
Breast Pump Tips:
1. If your electric breast pump does not come with a customized let down function then you may need to start out at a slower pace but with a higher suction in order to mimic a babies pattern when they begin to suckle.
2. If you struggle with the amount of milk you produce whilst pumping then try to have your baby near by when you pump. If this isn’t possible then try to have something that smells like them, or reminds you of them as this will stimulate milk production.
3. Don’t feel bad if you can’t express as much milk as your baby gets in a normal feed. This is completely normal and many mothers will need 2-3 pumping sessions just to supply enough milk for 1 feed for baby.
4. Always ensure that you read the manufacturers instructions for both use and cleaning. The milk produced will be fed to your baby so it’s extremely important that you’re doing everything you can to ensure that milk is safe, and good for baby.
Guest post by Tanya Allsop, owner of BreastPumpReviewSite.com where she provides breastfeeding information and in-depth, breast pump reviews for new mothers.
You may also like to read What is a Doula? for info on childbirthing.