Common nursing problems include the following: engorgement, irritated nipples, milk supply problems, inverted nipples, thrush, blocked milk ducts, mastitis, and breast abscess.
Following are some of the most common problems women experience when breastfeeding.
Engorgement occurs when the breast if overfull causing it to feel tight and hard. When the breasts are engorged, the baby may have difficulty latching on. It is caused by improper breastfeeding technique. When this occurs, express a little milk in a hot shower before feeding to relieve the tension.
IRRITATION OF THE NIPPLE
The nipple and breast can get irritated by creams applied to the breast, by soaps, or by the detergent used to wash clothes.
MILK SUPPLY PROBLEMS
Initially, there may seem to be too much milk at first, but continued feeding will regulate milk production. If there is too little milk you may need to address an attachment problem. When a baby is not feeding enough, the milk supply begins to diminish. This can also be caused by a prior breast reduction.
Thrush is a yeast infections in the breasts that causes shooting pain and white bumps on the nipple. It is generally caused by use of antibiotics or steroids by the mother and can be passed to the baby. An anti-fungal treatment and the ingestion of acidophilus caplets can offer relief.
Some women have inverted, flat, or retracting nipples. If you have any of these variations, start breastfeeding as soon as possible and ensure correct attachment. If necessary, express milk until the baby is able to correctly latch-on. Most nipples become protractile as breastfeeding continues.
NIPPLE PAIN AND TRAUMA
Nipple trauma is not normal and can include cracked, chafed, or striped nipples. It is caused by incorrect attaching, nipple conditions, engorgement, or nipple variations. Do not use a breast pump to express milk if you are healing nipple trauma. Hand express milk if necessary.
BLOOD IN THE BREAST MILK
Blood in the breast milk is normal the first few days after delivery. It is caused by the dislodging of extra cells in the milk ducts created during pregnancy. The blood will not harm the baby unless too much is ingested. If this happens the baby will vomit it up. If the bleeding lasts several days, seek medical attention. It might be caused by duct papilloma or some other breast disease.
BLOCKED MILK DUCTS
A milk duct becomes inflamed because milk cannot flow freely, and blocked milk ducts can lead to mastitis. The symptoms include a tender spot, redness, or a sore lump on the breast. It is caused by long periods between nursing, a tight bra or constrictive clothing, or dried milk covering the nipple. If you suspect you have block milk ducts, nurse as much as possible and change nursing positions regularly. Clean nipples in a warm shower, and apply heat and massage to the affected are while nursing.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the milk ducts and can be very painful. Symptoms include breast soreness coupled with fever or flu-like symptoms, a lump in the breast, or a warm area on the breast. Continue breastfeeding if you have mastitis, and vary the feeding position. Drink lots of water, and monitor your temperature. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
A breast abscess is a painful and serious condition which is generally the result of untreated mastitis. It can be caused by a sudden cessation of breastfeeding or a problem with the milk ducts. A breast abscess needs immediate medical attention, and a surgical incision and drainage of the abscess is necessary in most cases. Needle aspirations may be all that is needed in some cases. Breastfeeding helps heal the wound after surgery because it keeps the breast from getting engorged. Be sure to position the baby away from the wound.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING BREASTFEEDING PROBLEMS
1. Wash hands before handling breasts.
2. Nurse frequently.
3. Wear loose clothing.
4. Avoid nipple creams.
5. Avoid long periods between feedings.
6. Ensure proper positioning and latch-on.
7. Restrict the use of pacifiers or bottles that reduce sucking time at the breast.
8. Change nursing pads frequently.