There are a number of problems associated with breast feeding that mothers may suffer from.
A mother who experiences painful nipples during breastfeeding should be advised to check that the positioning of her baby is correct and to try drying her nipples carefully after feeding. It may help to avoid using soap on her breasts and to put dry breast pads in her bra. These should be replaced when they become damp. Rubbing some expressed milk into her nipples after feeding and allowing them to dry naturally may also help.
Sometimes mothers produce more breast milk than their babies need. This can cause breasts to be tender, full and heavy – often called ‘engorged’. This is uncomfortable and can make it difficult for babies to ‘latch on’. Regularity of feeding and expressing a little breast milk before a feed may help reduce the pressure. They should also check that their bra is not too tight.
This can be caused by a blocked milk duct. Feeding on demand may help as can a warm flannel or shower to soften breast tissue. Massaging any lumps in the direction of the nipple during feeding may also assist.
This may be due to mastitis. Symptoms include parts of the breast being painful, red and swollen and may involve flu-like symptoms such as chills, fevers and aches. There are two types – infectious and non-infectious.
Non-infectious mastitis is caused by a blocked milk duct but can lead to the infectious version. During breastfeeding, nipples can become sore and cracked so that bacteria are able to enter. The high sugar content in the milk nourishes the bacteria so that they multiply and cause an infection in the breast.
This usually begins 2-4 weeks after delivery but occurs in only 3-5% of breast feeding women.
If necessary, an antibiotic can be prescribed that is safe for a nursing mother to take but there are also other practical measures that can be taken. ‘Feeding on demand’ will keep milk flowing and help unblock a blocked milk duct as, once again, will massaging any lumps towards the nipple. It is worth checking that the baby is in the right position when feeding and suggesting different feeding positions to empty different parts of the breast.