What Are Lactation Issues?
While breastfeeding is considered the best option for both mother and baby, it isn’t always an easy process and it takes time. Many new mothers experience trouble with lactation. Common issues include:
- Breast engorgement — Engorgement occurs as a result of milk buildup due to not breastfeeding or expressing milk often. It can be painful and cause breasts to swell or feel hard.
- Infections (mastitis) — Usually only occurring in one breast, an infection can cause flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting and yellow-colored nipple discharge. It can happen when other family members get sick.
- Low milk supply — Not breastfeeding often enough, supplementing breast milk with formula, latch issues and medications can cause breast milk supply problems.
- Plugged ducts — Plugged ducts are similar to infections, but are caused by a milk duct that does not drain correctly, causing the tissue around it to become inflamed.
- Sore nipples — Tender-feeling nipples are normal during the early breastfeeding days, but an improper latch can turn tenderness to actual pain.
Mothers having lactation issues may experience:
- Lack of supply — Milk doesn’t come in within 5 days of the baby’s birth.
- Pain — Shooting or burning pain during or after breastfeeding, or pain in the nipples, can indicate a lactation issue.
- Severe breast engorgement — Breasts feel overly full and hard.
Not all lactation issues are immediately apparent. Sometimes, the only way to tell there is a lactation issue is if the baby is at or below his birth weight 2 weeks after delivery or the baby sleeps through the night, missing nursing sessions.
Treatments vary by issue and can include:
- Breastfeeding or pumping — Expressing milk is a good way to prevent or treat engorgement and prevent plugged ducts and decreased milk supply.
- Massage and heat — Using massage and applying warm, wet cloths to the affected area can ease soreness, plugged ducts and mastitis.
- Non-aspirin pain relievers — Doctors can recommend medications for pain caused by your lactation issues.
- Prescription medications — Antibiotics can be prescribed for mastitis.
- A lactation consultant can recommend new positions for breastfeeding and help mothers learn techniques for more effectively breastfeeding their babies.
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