Breastfeeding problems and solutions
Breastfeeding is not always easy. You may have problems at the start or you may suddenly develop issues when breastfeeding is well established.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. You may have problems at the start or you may suddenly develop issues when breastfeeding is well established. It is natural to worry that you will no longer be able to breastfeed, but most problems can be solved with a combination of persistence, advice and support from breastfeeding experts and fellow mothers.
What are the most common problems?
Engorged breasts are heavy, hot, swollen and tender to the touch. They may even feel lumpy. In the worst case scenario, the nipples can completely retract, which makes breastfeeding supremely difficult. Engorgement generally occurs during the first few days of breastfeeding, but it can also happen at other times throughout the breastfeeding experience, particularly in the mornings when your baby has started sleeping throughout the night. You can prevent and treat engorgement by making sure that the breasts are fully emptied after every feed and that you feed frequently. You can soothe engorged breasts by fully emptying them and by applying a hot compress to the breasts. Alternating breasts at each feed also helps to prevent engorgement.
Thrush is caused by a fungus called candida. It tends to occur in warm and moist places and feeds on sugar. So, the breast of a nursing mother is an ideal breeding ground for thrush. Symptoms of a thrush infection include nipple pain, areola pain, burning sensations and generalised breast pain. There may also be itchy and flaky patches on the breast and the breast may smell ‘yeasty’. Women are more likely to get thrush if they have been on antibiotics or have cracked nipples. Your doctor can prescribe an anti fungal medicine and cream to treat the condition. You’ll need to wash your breasts and nipples after every feed and then apply the cream. If you are prone to thrush, avoid using breast pads.
Blocked milk ducts are quite a common problem. If your milk duct is blocked, you will notice a red, swollen and sore lump on your breast. If left untreated, a blocked milk duct can progress to mastitis, so it is important to treat it as soon as you can. Blocked milk ducts can be caused by engorgement or even by a poorly fitting bra. You can help to prevent a blocked duct by wearing a well fitting bra (you can get fitted at most large lingerie departments); by completely emptying your breast at each feed (make sure baby feeds as much as he wants to and express any remaining milk); by feeding your baby frequently; and by varying your feeding position. You can treat an existing blocked duct by massaging the lump during the feed; by applying a hot compress to the breast; and by taking antibiotics if necessary. It is important that you seek medical advice if the blocked duct does not improve.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast. It can be caused by an infection or by a blocked duct or engorgement. It generally happens in the first six weeks of breastfeeding. If you have mastitis, your entire breast will be hot, tender and swollen and you will generally feel very ill. Other symptoms include: a high fever of 38 degrees or more, shivering, sweating, muscle and joint pain and nausea. The breast may even be filled with pus. Unlike engorgement, mastitis only affects one breast and not both. Mastitis needs immediate medical treatment, so you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics. You can also help to speed up the healing process by using hot compresses, resting more and ensuring that your breasts are always fully emptied at the end of each feeding.
Get advice from Lisa our breastfeeding expert