Breastfeeding may cause nipples to become super sensitive in the early days, but there should not be breastfeeding pain. The first priority if nipples are painful is to correct the baby’s latch to the breast. The following aids are not a replacement for establishing a pain-free effective latch. Contact your doula, doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant for help! If you live in an area where you cannot find good breastfeeding professionals, schedule a consultation with Deb. Phone-based consultation is not as good as face to face help with breastfeeding, but Deb has helped a lot of people through breastfeeding pain and nursing challenges even over the phone.
General help when nursing is difficult
- Hold the baby skin to skin even when not nursing.
- Feed the baby whenever they show early signs of being interested, instead of on a schedule.
The best prevention for hard swollen breasts is frequent nursing before your milk matures. If you experience engorgement, remember it will not last more then a few days and try the following for relief:
- Nurse frequently.
- Before nursing the baby, soften the breast/nipple by either firmly pressing your breast against your chest to encourage swelling to wash back into the lymph system, placing a hot wash cloth over the nipple, and/or expressing a little bit of milk with your hand or a pump.
- Use cold packs to relieve swelling between feeds.
- Place a cold green cabbage leaf in the bra for 20 min. between feedings. (Do not do this if there is any concern about your milk supply.)
- Grate or mash fresh ginger root and mix it with a little boiling water. When it cools to warm apply the mash directly to the breasts or soak a clean cloth as you add the boiling water and apply the clothe.
- Take Ibuprofen to relieve swelling and pain.
- Homeopathic Phytolacca 30C by package instructions.
Have someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding watch you nurse and offer suggestions!
- Make sure nipples are always dry before covering after a feeding.
- Apply a nipple cream or lanolin to help condition the skin. My clients like the nipple butter by Earth Mama Angel Baby.
- Rub a bit of your own breast milk into cracked or blistered tissue. Some people find that this helps tremendously, and others find it makes matters worse. See for yourself if it works for you. Allow your nipple to dry completely after application!
- Apply a very small amount of each of the following topical creams to the nipple after each feeding to heal any wounds. The easiest way is to mix them in the palm of your hand before application. If you truly have cracks, scabs or open sores on your nipples this is by far the most effective and fastest acting cream.
- 1% Hydrocortisone Cream
- Anti-fungal Cream (such as Athlete’s Foot Cream)
- Anti-bacterial Cream (such as Neosporin or First Aid Cream)
A plugged duct feels like a painful hard spot in the breast. If it progresses to pain or your notice a red spot or you develop a fever you may have mastitis – see below.
- Reduce stress.
- Massage the sore spot with your thumb, if possible while nursing.
- Nurse from that side as frequently as possible. If the baby’s latch is well established and you can do so without pain, position the baby so that their chin is towards the painful area. This will encourage the best drainage possible of that duct. You can also lay the baby flat on their back on your bed or the floor and then straddle them in a hands and knees posture, and nurse while on hands and knees. This is awkward at best, but it works really well for breaking up clogged ducts. Enjoy a good laugh about how things have changed since having a baby :-).
Mastitis is a breast infection and is a common cause of breastfeeding pain. You will feel sick and feverish and the breast will have a painful or red lump. Early intervention is very helpful! You may be told you will need to stop nursing. This is not true. Continue nursing as frequently as possible. While the following treatments for mastitis may be tried on your own, I highly recommend that you see your health care provider. Antibiotics are often necessary for mastitis, and mastitis can be a persistent and severe infection without treatment.
- Nurse frequently. Follow the tips under Plugged Duct.
- Rest! And Eat Well!
- Allow the fever to remain high, place heat on the infected breast as well.
- Homeopathic: Phytolacca 30C according to package instructions.
- Supplements: Lecithin.
- Grate raw potato and place the mash over the red spot. Suzanne Weed says this “localizes the infection.” Remove the mash when it dries.
- Make a compress by steeping parsley and comfrey in water and soaking a rag in the infusion. Apply the rag to the affected breast. Discard the rage after 10 min.
Storing Breast Milk
Many people desire to store breast milk for use in the future when you are away from your baby. It also sometimes can be useful to pump or hand express breast milk when you are healing from a painful condition such as sore nipples or mastitis (although nothing drains your breast better than your baby; care to drain your breast and stimulate your milk supply must be taken).
To store breast milk, begin with clean hands and wash all equipment in hot soapy water or sterilize.
Expressing by hand: Hold your breast between your thumb and first two fingers near the base of the breast. Using even pressure, role the fingers towards the nipple.
Breast Pumps: There are a variety of acceptable breast pumps for occasional use. Medela and Advent are good brands – avoid Easy Flow, First Steps, and Gerber as they are known to damage breast tissue. If you will be pumping regularly, a double electric pump is highly recommended.
Storage Times: It is most useful to store milk in 2 – 4 oz servings. Once milk is thawed or warmed it should not be stored again. Label all breast milk with the date it was stored.
- Fresh milk may be stored at room temperature for 6 – 10 hours.
- Fresh milk may be stored in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Fresh milk may be stored in the freezer section of a refrigerator for 3 – 4 months.
- Fresh milk may be stored in a deep freeze for at least 6 months.