Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most relaxing, healthy experiences both you and your baby can enjoy. Not only is it good for the baby, its also good for you. Breast feeding usually comes natural to both mother and baby, however, you must look after your breasts to ensure that they remain healthy enough to supply the milk needed for your baby.
Breasts often leak between feeds, especially in the early weeks of breastfeeding when your body is adjusting to the demands of your baby. This should settle down as you and your baby fall into a regular feeding pattern. You may feed that your other breast leaks whilst you are feeding. This is perfectly normal and is a response to your baby’s suckling. It is advisable to wear breast pads inside your bra to absorb any leakage. These can be found in most supermarkets, chemists and baby stores. Make sure that the pads are changed at regular intervals. You may decide to catch the milk with a sterile container so that it can be used for a bottle feed later.
Unfortunately, you can develop sore or cracked nipples. These can be relieved using a specialist cream available from your pharmacist. The first few days of breast feeding are the most common to develop sore or cracked nipples and fortunately, the nipples usually toughen up following this. Sore cracked nipples can be caused by the baby not latching on properly or by the baby chewing your nipples and damaging the tissues, especially during the teething stages. To avoid this you should keep your nipples clean and dry, avoid soap and make sure that you and your baby are positioned correctly. Try and get as much air to your nipples as possible by sleep with your top half naked on top of a towel to catch any leakage.
As mentioned above, the soreness may be connected to your baby not latching on properly or incorrect positioning. Ask your health visitor, midwife or breastfeeding professional for advice. It may be beneficial to express the milk for a day if you are too sore to feed or use a breast shield. Breast milk contains natural antiseptics so by squeezing out a little milk and rubbing it into your nipples, your symptoms may be relieved.
Your milk usually `comes in’ on the fourth day of breastfeeding when the colostrum is replaced by mature breast milk. During this time your breasts may become hard, uncomfortable and swollen. This is caused by excess milk in your breasts, known as engorgement. It is normal to feel weepy and feverish during this time. This can be easily relieved by placing a warm, clean flannel over your breast for several minutes before feeding. You may also find that massaging your breast gently and expressing some milk will ease the pain. Your baby sucking this milk is the best solution to this problem so try and feed wherever possible.
You may find a hard, red lump or tender area in this breast. This usually means that one of the milk ducts has become blocked. You may try to clear it by gently massaging the lump or bathing the breast in warm water. Although painful, you can also try feeding the baby from the affected breast and massaging the painful area/lump at the same time. Consult your doctor or health professional if these solutions do not solve the problem as it could lead to mastitis.
On occasions when the milk duct has become blocked, it can become infected by bacteria that have entered the ducts through the nipple. This is known as mastitis and carries flu like symptoms. You should get immediate medical help if you think you have mastitis as if it is left untreated, you could develop a breast abscess. Antibiotics may be prescribed and you should carry on feeding from the infected breast. You may wish to use breast shields to ease the pain during feed. Alternatively, you could express the milk to completely empty the breast.