While breastfeeding comes naturally for some adults, it’s not always easy for other new mums. Numerous obstacles may arise during your nursing journey, making it difficult to navigate. The good news is you are not alone, and the Osler doctors have helped many mothers with their breastfeeding journey. In this article, we explore five common breastfeeding concerns mothers face and explain how to overcome them.
1. Breast engorgement
Breast engorgement is a common concern. Breast engorgement causes a new mothers’ breasts to feel firm, taut, and tender. This condition often results from milk accumulation because of the baby’s inability to effectively drain the breasts or infrequent feeding.
If disregarded, breast engorgement can lead to clogged ducts and infections. We therefore encourage new mothers to feed their babies eight to twelve times daily and to allow the baby to finish nursing on one breast before moving on to the other. If your discomfort persists, please seek help from a lactation consultant or a family doctor.
Do you experience breast tenderness or soreness, notice a change in colour in the area around your breast or feel a lump? If so, this may indicate mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue commonly found in breastfeeding women.
While mastitis can occur at any point during lactation, it’s more common within the first three months postpartum. Alongside these symptoms, mastitis can also be accompanied by fever, headaches, or flu-like symptoms.
Mastitis can result from various breastfeeding issues. These include clogged milk ducts, engorgement, or cracked nipple skin, all of which allow bacteria to enter the breast, leading to an infection that causes swelling, pain, redness, and warmth when touched.
While mastitis can be alleviated by continuing to breastfeed your baby on the affected breast and applying a cold pack to ease the pain, antibiotics is the only way to treat it. More importantly, as inflammatory breast cancer has symptoms largely similar to mastitis, consulting a doctor or specialist promptly is advised if you experience these symptoms to avoid misdiagnosis and delaying treatment.
Vasospasm is another common breastfeeding concern that new mothers may face. It’s a condition where the blood vessels in the nipple constrict, causing intense, throbbing, and burning pain in the nipples before, during or after breastfeeding.
This pain can persist for several seconds or more, and during vasospasm, the nipple or its tip may appear white or blanched. Vasospasm can be caused by a poor latch of the baby to the adult’s breast or Raynaud’s disease, where vasospasm happens randomly and is not necessarily related to breastfeeding.
To alleviate the effects of nipple vasospasm, reduce exposure to cold air. For instance, you can wear extra layers of clothing or apply breast warmers. It is also crucial to ensure that your baby is properly attached during breastfeeding and that there are no issues such as nipple trauma or thrush.
4. Inverted nipple
If your baby seems more content sucking on your finger than your breast and becomes frustrated, cries, or falls asleep during breastfeeding, it could indicate that your nipple is not reaching their palate when they latch on. This can be a sign of an inverted nipple. An inverted nipple is one that is pulled inward instead of protruding outward, and it is often a congenital condition.
Fortunately, there are several techniques you can apply before breastfeeding to make your nipple protrude and easier for the baby to latch onto. These include:
- Rubbing your nipple with your fingers.
- Applying pressure to the area behind the areola.
- Applying a cold compress to your nipple briefly.
- Applying a breast pump briefly to pull out your nipple before breastfeeding.
If none of these methods are successful, nipple shields can be considered. These are thin, flexible pieces of silicone worn over the nipples, with holes at the tip for milk to flow through. They provide a larger and firmer target for your baby to latch onto while stimulating their palate to encourage feeding. However, as inverted nipples acquired later in life as an adult can be caused by other factors, therefore consulting a family doctor is recommended.
5. Tongue tie
For successful breastfeeding, it is essential that the baby latches onto both the breast tissue and nipple and their tongue covers the lower gum to protect the nipple from damage. However, when babies have a tongue tie, they may instead:
- Have trouble latching to the breast or staying latched for a full feed.
- Require a long time to feed and takes short breaks in between.
- Are always hungry and unsettled.
- Are not gaining weight as expected.
- Make a “clicking” sound during breastfeeding.
A tongue tie is when the skin that connects the baby’s tongue to the bottom of the mouth is shorter than normal. While this condition may be diagnosed during a newborn physical examination, it can go undiscovered until it causes breastfeeding problems.
The decision to undergo tongue-tie treatment depends on the severity of the condition. However, if the tongue tie is affecting the baby’s feeding or causing health issues for the adult mother, such as sore or cracked nipples or even mastitis, it may be necessary to consider undergoing a simple, quick and almost painless tongue tie division procedure. If you are concerned, please bring your baby in to see one of our doctors.
Your breastfeeding journey with Osler Health
If you have concerns and are experiencing breastfeeding problems and symptoms, the experienced doctors at Osler Health International are here to support you in your motherhood journey. Our team of dedicated doctors bring with them years of practice both internationally and here in Singapore, and are skilled in treating diverse women’s and children’s health concerns.
With our expertise and dedication, you can trust us to provide you and your baby with the highest quality of care. Don’t let breastfeeding concerns get in the way of your bonding time with your baby. Book a consultation with Osler Health today, and let us help you overcome them.