October 22, 2019

Take Care of those Titties

Breastfeeding can be complicated by engorgement, clogged milk ducts, mastitis, abscesses or yeast infections. Let's discuss how to prevent these and when to seek medical attention.

Take Care of those Titties

Let's talk boob health. This article is primarily directed to women who breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is already a challenge. Learning this skill can result in some cracked, bleeding nipples. Ideally after the first couple of weeks it shouldn't be painful and will become more and more comfortable with time.

With saying that, there are some complications to watch out for as you embark on the breastfeeding journey.

There is a common pathway we see:

Engorgement-> Clogged milk duct->Mastitis->Abscess/Infection

Let's break it down and talk about prevention at each stage:

Engorgement

Engorgement is when your breasts become too full with milk. The breast can feel hard, full and painful. It is quite common in the early months as your body learns how much milk to produce for your babe. However, it can also happen whenever your supply is affected by your baby skipping a feed, starting solids or when the weaning process begins.

How to prevent and treat

  • Feed frequently, whenever your baby shows signs of hunger
  • If breasts become firm, hand express before feed to help relieve some pressure
  • Use hot packs or have a warm shower prior to a feed to help soften the breast tissue
  • Use cold packs or a cold shower if you are no longer breastfeeding or they remain uncomfortable after a feeding
  • Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra during the day and a sleep bra at night. If you are unsure what a "well-fitting bra" means, check out this article!

Clogged Milk Duct

A clogged milk duct is usually a red, hard painful lump. It is another thing that can happen in the early months when your supply is establishing itself or when you are waiting restrictive clothing/ill-fitting bras. Which brings us to prevention:

How to prevent and treat

  • Back to the engorgement prevention - a good fitting bra and frequent feeds are key. However, not wearing any restrictive or awkward fitting clothes in the breast area is a great way to prevent clogged duct development.
  • When feeding, hand express as you feed to ensure you are working out the milk from all areas of the breast. I know, you were probably told breastfeeding is passive and the baby does all of the work. Well, that is true eventually, in most cases. In the beginning, you do need to do some work to teach your body how to adjust and do quite a bit of the leg work until your baby figures it out.
  • At first inkling or feeling of a lump, massage the area towards the nipple. Just like engorgement, you may also need to use heat before feeds to help relieve the pressure.

Mastitis

Mastitis, that is when it has progressed to inflammation, or swelling, of the breast tissue. That clogged duct has gone from a small red area to a larger, more painful, more red, dimpled or swollen area. At this point, you should see a health care provider. If you can get into your family doctor or walk-in within 24 hours, that would be ideal at this point. If you develop a fever, feel sick or weak or have any pus or drainage coming from the area, is it time to go to the emergency department.

How to prevent and treat

  • Early recognition and treatment of engorgement and clogged milk ducts are a good way to prevent mastitis. Because of this, I want to reiterate that you need to take care of you too! It's easy to be all baby all of the time, especially when you are trying to develop the skill of breastfeeding.
  • Treatment may involve antibiotics in combination of the treatments suggested above.

Abscess

If left untreated, mastitis can allow an abscess to form. This is a painful firm lump that will not go away with massaging and will need treatment by a healthcare professional.

Now, let's discuss another potential breastfeeding complication that doesn't follow in this pathway.

Yeast Infection

If your baby develops thrush in the mouth, it can lead to a nipple yeast infection. Thrush looks like white creamy patches that cannot be wiped away on the baby's tongue and/or cheeks. If it spreads to the nipple, the nipple can become red and painful. You could also experience pulsing or stabbing pains in the breast.

How to prevent and treat

  • Wipe out your baby's mouth at least twice a day
  • As soon as you notice your baby has thrush, you should seek medical attention as it does require medication to be treated.

So, there it is mommas. Make sure you take care of those titties so they can provide for your baby.

If you are interested in topics such as this, you may like our courses Baby Basics or Preparing for Postpartum. Baby Basics has launched and can be found at babybasicscourse.com. Preparing for Postpartum is not yet complete, but will be soon! If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter, please enter your email below and hit subscribe!

Stay tuned for next week of the Momma Monday series! Monday's we will always discuss a topic related to motherhood, because it is a challenging time and deserves a whole day a week dedicated to it!

References

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=hw133953

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw98039

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=hw91687

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/problems-breastfeeding/

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