Easy steps to handle sore nipples

Easy steps to handle sore nipples

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful and almost magical experience for some mamas. When it works, it can be something that you look forward to. But even then, it is often accompanied by challenges like sore nipples. Sore nipples can also plague exclusive pumping mamas. The skin around the nipples can become cracked and sore and even bleed. While in most cases, this is one of those normal things that goes with the territory, there are some simple things that you can do to help get through the process.

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PINPOINT THE PROBLEM

First, pinpoint the cause of the problem. If your baby isn’t latching properly it will cause soreness. I absolutely recommend having a postpartum talk with a La Leche League member or a lactation consultant. They can help with proper latching and feeding as each child is different. The tip of your baby’s nose should touch your breast and they should latch onto a large portion of your breast. If this is painful, gently insert your finger between the breast and their mouth to break suction and try again.

Some babies have a hard time latching properly due to tongue tie or other special situations. In some cases, a nipple shield can help. A lactation consultant can help you spot issues and refer you to an appropriate medical practitioner if needed.

There are also other types of discomfort with breastfeeding that should be addressed differently than sore nipples. For example, when my baby had thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth, it was passed on to me and my doctor prescribed a cream to apply and liquid oral drops for the baby. Look for itchy, red bumps or white patches in your baby’s mouth and tell your doctor. Engorgement is another common problem and expressing milk before feeding can help. You can also apply warm cloths to ease the discomfort. None of these conditions will affect your baby and you need not worry about continuing nursing through it all.

Sore nipples can also result from pumping milk. If your nipples are sore from pumping, you may need a different size breast shields. You can also try to decrease the frequency of pumping, if you’re able to do it without getting clogged ducts.

BEFORE FEEDING

Before feeding from the sore side, I would take a warm shower and hand-express milk until some of the discomfort subsided. If you use a breast pump instead, set it on the lowest suction that is effective. I always fed from the unaffected side first, if there was one. Babies feed eagerly at first and then slow down on the second side. Try different positions and if you need to, pump and feed from a bottle for a few days.

AFTER FEEDING

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water and place it in a squeeze bottle or small bowl. Soak the affected area in this natural saline solution for just a few minutes. Rinse with warm water, pat dry and apply pure lanolin cream (ask your doctor for a specific brand) to the area. This tremendously speeds up recovery. Wipe away any excess cream before feeding again.

Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed and apply anti-fungal cream prescribed by your doctor if you are dealing with thrush.

Between feedings, you can put a soothing gel pad in your bra. Ideally, you would leave nipples exposed to air, but many mamas don’t have time to sit around topless. You can get nipple shells that create space between your bra and your nipples. I found those to be painful once my breast filled up with milk again. If you wear nursing pads, make sure to change them anytime they get damp to aid in a faster recovery. For me, most nursing pads would scratch my nipples when they were sore, so I would usually try to avoid them if possible.

CONTINUE NURSING AS USUAL

You can continue nursing your baby as long as it is not too painful. Your little one likely won’t notice any problems and, unless they are having latching-on issues, they should feed steadily.

Dealing with clogged ducts or Mastitis

Dealing with clogged ducts or Mastitis

Oh the joy of motherhood! Sometimes I wonder in all the time our mothers had to prepare us for it, why are there still so many things we never even heard of. It is as though everything is just smiles and happiness with no obstacles on the road. One of these obstacles I encountered is clogged ducts or Mastitis.

Clogged ducts symptoms and mastitis treatment

CLOGGED DUCTS DURING BREASTFEEDING

To be clear, breastfeeding was not easy for me. Unlike some moms who in a moment of bliss hold their babies to their breast, baby immediately latching, no effort to mom or baby; my journey was nothing like this.

My first child was a post-term pregnancy. He was helped into life with ventouse suction and in the process swallowed massive amounts of amniotic fluid. All seemed well at first glance. But after his first feed, he started convulsing and throwing up and was immediately taken to ICU. This left me, a first time mom, with no idea of what to do next. All my attention and energy went into my sick baby with no thought to myself. Vaguely, I remember the nurses advising me to milk myself out. But as I had no baby to demand feeds, I often forgot. And when I remembered it was so painful that I did not persist and rather focused on my sick child.

I was overjoyed when my child was released. Then, the reality set in that I was now responsible to feed this child with breasts that was so sore it was pure agony to touch them. Like all good daughters I phoned the source of all wisdom, my mom. She immediately suspected a clogged duct, and advised warm cabbage leaves over my breast till I could see my doctor. Although this did bring some relief, it was not a permanent solution and not a comfortable one either.

CLOGGED MILK DUCT SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of a blocked duct or mastitis are a lump or wedge in the area of the breast where milk flow is then obstructed. It is usually only in one breast, and can be very painful at feeding times. A slight fever might accompany the symptoms; which is a sure sign to visit your doctor.

CLOGGED DUCTS OR MASTITIS TREATMENT

Antibiotics are usually not prescribed for clogged ducts or a mild case of Mastitis. A pain killer with an anti-inflammatory can be very useful. There is not much more your GP can do for you, and generally this condition does not get a lot of sympathy. Nobody seems to consider that you just gave birth, still feeling sore, hovering on the verge of baby blues, and your hormones and emotions are out of control. Take a deep breath, you will get through this.

Some practical advice I can give you from mom to mom is to really be proactive. You will have to milk the infected breast as often as you possibly can, at least every two hours. It is safe to let your baby drink from it, although some babies refuse the infected breast as the milk taste slightly different. Before you feed or pump out, keep the breast warm. You can do this by taking a disposable diaper (you should have plenty of these) and filling it with warm water. After emptying the diaper and squeezing out access water you place it over the breast. It will keep the heat for longer than a hot cloth. Something else you can try to relieve the pain before feeding is to soak the affected breast in hot water with Epson salts. Just remember to rinse the breast thoroughly before feeding. Massaging of the lump will also help the condition pass, and cold compressions between feeds might help the swelling and pain.

Lastly you should really speak to your doctor about antibiotics if there is blood or pus present in the milk or you have red streaking over the breast. Any obvious signs of infection need medical advice for the safety of you and your baby.