Common Breastfeeding Problems
Solutions to sore nipples, infections, and more, plus resources for breastfeeding moms.
Infections or Painful Lumps continued...
"Either problem can be easily remedied, and you
don't have to stop breastfeeding in the meantime. It's perfectly safe to
continue, even when an infection is present," says Huotari, manager of the
Breastfeeding Information Center at La Leche League International in
If the pain is from a blocked milk duct, experts at La
Leche say you should apply moist or dry heat compresses to your breast for 10
minutes, three times a day. Also, massage your breast in a warm
shower. As the duct unplugs, you may express some milk, which helps relieve
pain. Continuing to feed on that breast is important because breastfeeding
helps further open the milk ducts, says Huotari.
Though early treatment will usually prevent a plugged
duct from becoming infected, this is not always the case. So if you have pain
and tenderness and also find you are fatigued, running a fever, and have some flu-like symptoms, you might have
a breast infection.
Normally, says Huotari, the same method used to treat
plugged ducts works for an infection -- heat packs, along with bed rest. If
your fever does not break in 24 hours, however, you may need an antibiotic to
stem the infection. Call your doctor. In the meantime, experts say don't stop
"Although it may seem counterintuitive to
breastfeed while you have an infection, because breast milk contains such a
high level of antibodies, your baby is safe," says Huotari.
Yeast Infections or Thrush
is a less troubling but still
uncomfortable condition on the surface of the breast skin. This problem can
develop even after weeks or months of successful nursing. The culprit is
thrush, a form of yeast infection that thrives on milk. This infection will
likely affect both you and your baby.
Signs of thrush include red or pink shiny skin that
usually itches, and may flake or peel, says pediatrician Audrey Naylor, MD. To
learn if your baby is infected, look for white spots on the inside of the
cheeks, or sometimes a persistent diaper rash.
You might also find that you have symptoms of a
vaginal yeast infection -- a clumpy white discharge and extreme
If you do have a breast yeast infection, Naylor says
you don't have to stop breastfeeding. But you and your baby do need
"See your doctor and let her or him
make a recommendation for treatment. Don't try to buy a drugstore product and
treat the infection yourself," says Naylor. While some products are safe to
use while breastfeeding, others are not. Only your doctor will know for certain
what is right for you and your baby.
Engorgement is normal and can develop when your milk
begins to flood your breasts, usually between the second and sixth day after
you start nursing your baby.