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.

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All you need to know about postpartum uterine cramps

All you need to know about postpartum uterine cramps

With my first child, I was totally unprepared for the afterbirth pains. I went through the pregnancy with all of its ups and downs and then the pain of delivery. I’d heard that postpartum recovery could be trying but I had no idea what to expect.

Soon after the birth, I began having very uncomfortable cramps. They would come and go. They were similar to menstrual cramps but more intense. I just wanted to enjoy my baby. Thankfully, my doctor explained what was going on and what to do about it.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING?

After birth, the uterus begins to shrink back to its normal size by contracting. It is also shifting and moving back to its original pre-pregnancy position. This could feel like cramps and should only last a 10-14 days after birth. These cramps are also known as the afterbirth pains or afterpains.

My afterbirth pains were the worst each time I began breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is the hormone responsible for the contractions I breathed (or yelled!) through during delivery. It makes sense that it could cause some pain after the delivery, too.

I tried to think of the cramps as one step in the direction of going back to my pre-pregnancy self.  The cramps were helping my uterus return to its normal size. During pregnancy, the body produced lots of fluids to maintain the life of the baby and now, they were all being flushed out because they were no longer needed.

THINGS TO HELPS EASE THE DISCOMFORT OF POSTPARTUM UTERUS CONTRACTIONS

There were two things that the doctor recommended that helped tremendously. The first was massage. Massaging the uterus gently every half hour or so helps to stimulate it and continue the natural cycle or shrinking back to normal size. Although this can be slightly uncomfortable, it should not be painful. Apply gentle pressure and work in a circular motion.

The other thing was a heating pad or warm cloths. The heat relaxes the muscles between these cramps and just feels good.

There are other things you can try, as well.

  • I always took acetaminophen or ibuprofen postpartum until all of the pain subsided.
  • Empty your bladder often, as a full bladder interrupts these uterus contractions.
  • I know it’s been ages since you were able to lie on your stomach and, for some women, this is the perfect time. Lying on your stomach with a pillow under your lower abdomen can help relieve the discomfort.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

These cramps shouldn’t last long and they shouldn’t be unbearable, only uncomfortable. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or if the cramps last longer than two weeks. These symptoms can be a sign of infection or other postpartum complications.

THE NORMAL HEALING PROCESS

These cramps were mild with my first child but did get less tolerable with consecutive deliveries. Even so, they still weren’t bad. Your body knows how to heal itself and return to normal. Just sit back and watch in wonder of it all as you hold that precious baby that you just brought into the world.

All you need to know about postpartum uterus cramps

All you need to know about postpartum uterus cramps

With my first child, I was totally unprepared for the afterbirth pains. I went through the pregnancy with all of its ups and downs and then the pain of delivery. I’d heard that postpartum recovery could be trying but I had no idea what to expect.

Soon after the birth, I began having very uncomfortable cramps. They would come and go. They were similar to menstrual cramps but more intense. I just wanted to enjoy my baby. Thankfully, my doctor explained what was going on and what to do about it.

xavier-sotomayor-192007

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

After birth, the uterus begins to shrink back to its normal size by contracting. It is also shifting and moving back to its original pre-pregnancy position. This could feel like cramps and should only last a 10-14 days after birth. These cramps are also known as the afterbirth pains or afterpains.

My afterbirth pains were the worst each time I began breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is the hormone responsible for the contractions I breathed (or yelled!) through during delivery. It makes sense that it could cause some pain after the delivery, too.

I tried to think of the cramps as one step in the direction of going back to my pre-pregnancy self.  The cramps were helping my uterus return to its normal size. During pregnancy, the body produced lots of fluids to maintain the life of the baby and now, they were all being flushed out because they were no longer needed.

THINGS TO HELPS EASE THE DISCOMFORT OF POSTPARTUM UTERUS CONTRACTIONS

There were two things that the doctor recommended that helped tremendously. The first was massage. Massaging the uterus gently every half hour or so helps to stimulate it and continue the natural cycle or shrinking back to normal size. Although this can be slightly uncomfortable, it should not be painful. Apply gentle pressure and work in a circular motion.

The other thing was a heating pad or warm cloths. The heat relaxes the muscles between these cramps and just feels good.

There are other things you can try, as well.

  • I always took acetaminophen or ibuprofen postpartum until all of the pain subsided.
  • Empty your bladder often, as a full bladder interrupts these uterus contractions.
  • I know it’s been ages since you were able to lie on your stomach and, for some women, this is the perfect time. Lying on your stomach with a pillow under your lower abdomen can help relieve the discomfort.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

These cramps shouldn’t last long and they shouldn’t be unbearable, only uncomfortable. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or if the cramps last longer than two weeks. These symptoms can be a sign of infection or other postpartum complications.

THE NORMAL HEALING PROCESS

These cramps were mild with my first child but did get less tolerable with consecutive deliveries. Even so, they still weren’t bad. Your body knows how to heal itself and return to normal. Just sit back and watch in wonder of it all as you hold that precious baby that you just brought into the world.

How to deal with swollen hands & feet after birth

How to deal with swollen hands & feet after birth

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for my swollen hands and feet to get back to normal. I was longing to wear regular shoes, not to mention my wedding ring. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my hands, feet, and face(!) after I had my baby.

I had a really difficult labor, pushing for over 30 hours, and finally having to resort to a forceps delivery. All that time, I was given IV fluids. So when my son finally made an appearance, I had turned into a Shrek with massive sausage fingers, ankle-less feet, and puffy cheeks. Once I had recovered enough to get up on my feet, I could only wobble around in massive slippers. It took over a week for the swelling to go down. I was miserable.

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WHAT CAUSES THIS FLUID RETENTION?

Postpartum edema is a common condition. It affects many women after delivery to various degrees. During pregnancy, the body produces lots of extra fluids and 50% more blood to maintain a healthy pregnancy. This fluid doesn’t just go away immediately after birth. The body has to work for several days to rid itself of it.

That extra dose of hormones that brought my baby into the world was also responsible for some of the fluid retention. During the delivery, the pressure in the uterus forced all the fluid I received via IV to the extremities.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF POSTPARTUM EDMEA?

You may find yourself with extremely swollen hands, feet, legs, and face. Even your stomach can swell. The skin can be tight and itchy. There is a simple test you can do to check for fluid retention. Press on your skin for a few seconds and then after you remove your finger, there should not be an indention. The longer the indention lasts, the worse your condition is.

WHAT ARE MY TREATMENT OPTIONS?

Your body will naturally rid itself of these extra fluids. Even in my extreme case, it went away on its own. You may notice that you sweat a lot or urinate often. These are just other ways your body is getting rid of fluids.

I found a few things that made the swelling feel better:

  • Keeping my hands and feet elevated.
  • Avoid crossing my legs.
  • Drinking a lot of fluids to keep things moving and avoiding salty foods.
  • Getting up and moving around to get my circulation moving properly again. This can be difficult after a c-section and you should go slowly.
  • Soaking my feet in warm water with a few drops of essential oils.
  • Massage can improve circulation and help against fluid retention. I scheduled a massage right after we got back from the hospital and my husband watched the baby. It was magical!

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

Be watchful that your condition improves daily. If you have any other symptoms like chest pain, trouble breathing, pain in your legs, headaches, changes in vision, or nausea, or if your condition worsens, call your doctor as these can be signs of other complications.

5 tips for healing vaginal tearing

5 tips for healing vaginal tearing

The birthing process comes with many unexpected realities. We expect pain, joy, and even the unknown. One less known fact of delivery is vaginal tearing. Vaginal tearing occurs most commonly because the baby’s head is too large for the opening. Other factors can also raise your risks, such as being a first-time mother, having a larger baby, longer delivery, or the use of birthing assistance like forceps or the vacuum.

Vaginal tearing is often a natural part of the birthing process and should not be feared. In many cases, it heals back quickly, usually within ten days. The healing process for natural vaginal tearing also tends to be quicker than that of an episiotomy. Episiotomy is a surgical cut to the vaginal opening to prevent uncontrolled tearing during birth.

Birthing Process, Vaginal Tearing Healing and Treatment

FOUR DEGREES OF VAGINAL TEARING

There are four different degrees of vaginal tears. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may require stitches. For a higher degree tear, your recovery time could be a bit longer and you might experience more pain or discomfort. With some of my children’s births, I hardly noticed the vaginal tearing. With others, it was significant and took patience.

VAGINAL TEARING TREATMENT

There were some vaginal tearing treatment methods that my doctor recommended that really did work well.

1. REST

Your body cannot heal unless you rest. You have your hands full trying to take care of your baby so rest as often as you can and allow your body to naturally go through the process of healing. There are certain activities that I found aggravated the stitches or just prolonged healing. Walking too much, sitting too long, and lifting anything heavier than my baby were a bad idea. My doctor recommended no exercise or sexual activity until after the six-week checkup to ensure that everything did heal properly. In the meantime, take naps often, even short ones. Try to eat healthy and drink lots of fluids to prevent constipation.

2. STOOL SOFTENER

I got stool softeners after the delivery to prevent strain during a bowel movement as constipation is common during postpartum recovery. My doctor recommended using them for a couple of weeks, which I think is a great idea.

3. SQUATTY POTTY

Another great way to avoid putting pressure on the perineum while recovering from a vaginal tearing delivery is to use a squatty potty to empty your bowels. It keeps you in a squatting position that doesn’t compress the rectal canal. This shortens the time you spend on the toilet and minimizes the pressure on the perineum.

4. APPLYING COLD PACKS

The best way I found to relieve the discomfort was by using cold packs. In the hospital, the nurses used ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag and wrapped in a cloth or a baby diaper. The sharp corners on the ice cubes can be really painful against the tear, even through a diaper. Luckily, there are softer perineal cold packs filled with gel that can be applied without any discomfort. In the days following the delivery, I applied cold packs for 20 minutes at a time every few hours and it really helped with the swelling, bruising, and pain. Don’t apply too long as it can do damage.

5. SITZ BATH

My nurse at the hospital recommended soaking the perineum in a warm sitz bath at least twice a day. There are many different sitz bath devices that can be placed in the toilet to help with this. You can also just sit in a tub with water up to your hips. In fact, sitz bath got its name from the German “Sitzbad”, which just means sitting in a bath.

For me, taking a sitz bath never really worked in the stressful first weeks of taking care of my newborn and I think my perineum recovery suffered as a result. I’ve heard from a couple of friends who tried it that this is an effective technique and I regret not taking the time to make it work.

6. PERINEAL MASSAGE 

Keeping muscles healthy and strong can help avoid complications. Perineal massage can be beneficial both in preparation for and recovery from delivery. Make sure to consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist before doing perineal massage. My physical therapist didn’t recommend perineal massage until my vaginal tear stitches had properly healed.

7.  KEGELS

Kegel exercises is another way to prepare the pelvic muscles for delivery and recover the muscles after birth. But it’s actually really hard to do kegels correctly. Some 25% of women do them wrong! A physical therapist can help you learn how to do kegels right and determine whether it’s the right fit for you. Some women have an overly tense pelvic floor and so should not do kegels.

CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR

A few months after my delivery, I discovered a painful pink spot in the stitched part of my perineum. I showed it to a number of doctors, before one of them figured out that it was granulation tissue and burned it off with silver nitrate. She explained that I was essentially “healing too well.” And eventually, the pink spot disappeared. But the road there was painful and frustrating. One of the doctors that I saw speculated that the area was too moist to heal and gave me the completely impractical advice to go commando!

But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t see a doctor if you’re not healing well. If you see any larger blood clots on your pad, any foul-smelling discharge, or your symptoms get worse, call your doctor as you could have an infection or other complications.

Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

I was told over and over again that my body would snap back into shape like a rubber band after giving birth. Well, that turned out to be far from the truth for me. I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum prolapse until I was 9 months postpartum; before my diagnosis, I had never heard of the condition. My OB referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist. I was so completely mortified at the thought that I never had the courage to go.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse - why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Symptoms

What had caused my prolapse? Well apart from the fact that pregnancy stretches out the pelvic floor (the muscle hammock that holds the internal organs in place), I had donned my running shoes at 6 weeks postpartum and completed 2 half marathons by the time my baby was 9 months old. When I finally mustered up the courage to go to the doctor I was experiencing nearly every symptom of pelvic organ prolapse (POP):

  • Lower back pain and increased pelvic pressure
  • Irregular spotting
  • Frequent urinary incontinence, especially while I was running.
  • Painful sex
  • A heavy dragging sensation in the vagina
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel movements and constipation. (Liquid stools and other changes in bowel movements are also common.)

In fact, the only symptom that I didn’t have was my organs visibly bulging out of my body!

I also learned that there were several factors that could increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse:

  • Having a weak pelvic floor. Before my pregnancy I didn’t have any symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, but after it was definitely stretched out.
  • Having a vaginal birth, especially if it was assisted with forceps, a vacuum or had a particularly long pushing stage. Big babies can also stretch the pelvic floor more than normal. My labor was short, sweet, and unassisted. But my baby was nearly 9 pounds!
  • High impact exercise, excessive baby carrying, or constant straining (from constipation) can make the condition worse. I was more than guilty of this. The constant pounding created by running increased the pressure of my internal organs on the pelvic floor.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment

As I found, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to healing from POP. And since there are different stages in terms of POP severity, there are also different intensity levels when it comes to healing:

  • Some women undergo surgery where a mesh hammock is placed under the internal organs to help hold them in place.
  • Visiting a physical therapist is also an option. There they will make sure that you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and help you learn other ways to activate and stimulate your pelvic floor muscle.
  • A pessary can help. A pessary is a ring that is inserted into the vagina. It increases passive support of the internal organs.

Regardless of the severity of the condition, it’s good to keep toilet visits short and unstrained to avoid putting pressure on the pelvic floor. One way to do this is to use a squatty potty. A squatty potty prevents compression of the rectal canal by keeping you in a squatting position. It helps to move bowel movement quickly.

Exercises That Are Gentle on the Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor is part of your core. As such, any low impact core-strengthening exercises are advised for healing when it comes to POP:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Spinning
  • Swimming
  • Stair walking

These are all great ways to strengthen your core, including your pelvic floor without risking your pelvic organs falling out of your body. Personally, I found complete healing through Pilates.

 

How to exercise after childbirth

How to exercise after childbirth

There is something special and beautiful about the pregnant body. It is a wonder and a miracle and during each of my six pregnancies, I often found myself feeling like I was “glowing”. This glow quickly faded in the shadow of my post pregnancy body. What a letdown!

The body that had served me well and brought life to each of my precious children, struggle postpartum. With each consecutive pregnancy, it became more evident that my pelvic floor was weakening. There was a constant feeling of pressure and a feeling that the baby was simply going to drop out while I was pregnant.

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TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH

After my first baby was born I consulted my doctor about recovery options. Thankfully, my case was not considered severe and my doctor assured me that with the proper post pregnancy exercise and care for my body, I would soon feel like myself again (though, I was skeptical that this was even possible).

Doctors recommend that you wait six weeks before resuming exercises after childbirth to allow your body to heal. At six weeks, my condition had not improved and I was anxious to get started. As with everything else in life, I dove in.

SLOW AND EASY IN THE BEGINNING

I have always enjoyed yoga and I eased back into it carefully. My doctor recommended low impact exercises that targeted the core such as Kegel exercises, pelvic tilts, and the plank. I started very slowly with just the Kegel exercises and in a couple of weeks, worked my way to include the others in a ten-minute routine a day.

WALKING IS AN EASY CHOICE

One of my favorite activities to do with my newborn is walking. I just put her in a stroller and head out. Although walking is uncomfortable with a weakened pelvic floor and I had to start with just minutes at a time, my condition did begin to improve after a couple of months of kegel exercises and yoga. I walked slow and gradually built up to a half hour by the time my baby was three months old.

EXERCISES THAT CAN HELP

There are other exercises that can be of great benefit, too. Pilates, stair walking, and swimming are all low impact exercises that are recommended for postpartum. As you advance, spinning is a wonderful way to get back into shape, especially after a postpartum prolapsed.

A LITTLE SUPPORT

Postpartum prolapsed is a when the organs in the pelvis drop because of weakened muscles to hold them in place. Pessary can be used to add support to the pelvic organs when doing certain exercises. This is a removable plastic ring that acts like a brace, holding up the pelvic wall. It can aid in healing and help with the discomfort until you are healed.

WHY EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH IS IMPORTANT

Finally, when my baby was five months old, I went out for a walk one day and noticed that the discomfort had lessened significantly, my hard work had paid off and I was beginning to heal. It was not the end of my journey and I had to continue to exercise, eat right, and care for myself but my body did return.

For me, the key element to full recovery was hope. Yes, you can get your life and your body back. Be diligent and don’t give up and in the meantime, enjoy your precious little one and your yoga. Time flies and before you know it they’ll be doing yoga with you.