Learn How to Overcome These Common Breastfeeding Problems

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While many women breastfeed with ease, it can be hard, especially when you’re just starting out. Maria Greene, RN, BSN, IBCLC, of Miami Valley Hospital, advises new moms, “Don’t be discouraged – it can take time to adjust to a new routine and what your baby needs. And stay alert to any problems, like sore breasts or nipples. Most issues can be resolved on your own, but some may need the help of a lactation consultant or a doctor’s care.” 

Plugged Milk Ducts

A plugged duct feels like a tender and sore lump in the breast. They are common in breastfeeding moms, and usually happen if you go too long without emptying your breasts. If the lump doesn’t disappear in a few days, or if you develop a fever or chills, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have an infection.

What you can do:

  • Breastfeed or remove milk as often as every two hours to help loosen the plug.
  • Apply a warm, moist compresses.
  • Massage the area, using a circular motion and massaging toward the nipple.
  • Aim your baby’s chin at the plug to help move the milk out of the affected duct.
  • If it is comfortable, wear a well-fitting, supportive bra that’s not too tight — and try to avoid underwire bras — otherwise, it could constrict your milk ducts.
  • Contact a lactation consultant

Sore Nipples

Many moms say their nipples feel tender when they first start breastfeeding. But breastfeeding should not hurt, especially after you and your baby have found a good latch and some positions that work. Initial tenderness can be normal.  Contact your lactation consultant if pain persists or worsens. 

Breastfeeding should not hurt, especially after you and your baby have found a good latch.

What you can do:

  • Make sure your baby has a good latch. If your baby is sucking only on your nipple, this can cause redness, soreness, cracking or blistering. Stop the feed and re-latch the baby more deeply.
  • Get help from a lactation consultant if you are putting off feedings because of pain. Delaying can cause even more pain and harm your milk supply. Pumping at this time to rest the nipple may be effective and will protect your milk supply. 
  • Keep your nipples moist and air dry them after breastfeeding. Rub them with a little breast milk, or a purified lanolin cream or ointment made for breastfeeding. This can help with cracked, blistering, and soreness.

Flat, Inverted or Very Large Nipples

Learn to Overcome These Common Breastfeeding Problems - In ContentSome women have nipples that turn inward or may appear flat. Or you may have very large nipples. While any of these can make it a little challenging for your baby to breastfeed, you can still manage just fine.

What you can do:

  • With flat or inverted nipples, try using your fingers to pull them outward.
  • With large nipples, know that your baby’s latch will improve as the baby grows.
  • Make an appointment with your lactation consultant for help.

Mastitis

Mastitis is a common infection of the breast. “It can look and feel like a plugged milk duct, but if you develop symptoms like hot, swollen breasts, red streaks, aches, chills or fever, it could be mastitis,” Greene says. “Get in touch with your doctor right away as you may need an antibiotic to clear it up.”

What you can do:

  • Keep your breasts empty by breastfeeding or pumping frequently.
  • Massage the sore area, or apply a wet compress.
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever and pain.
  • Rest and drink plenty of clear fluids.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Small Steps: There's an app for that.
Breastfeeding apps, such as Baby Nursing / Breastfeeding or MammaBaby, are available for easily tracking feedings on your phone.

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