Breastfeeding – what can go wrong and how to help get it right
I have found it very hard to find the correct information regarding breastfeeding issues and possible options for mothers to assist what should be a very pleasurable experience.Breastfeeding baby can take a bit of patience and time.
Breastfeeding baby can take a bit of patience and time. To start with the milk can take between 3 and 5 days to come through. Your breasts can become swollen and hot during this time. The best relief from this is frequent feeding allowing the baby to naturally stimulate the milk flow.
If they are very hot, quark (a type of cottage cheese found at most health food stores) or cabbage leaves can cool them in between feeds, however do not apply these to the nipples or areolae.
Painful and sore nipples – this is common during the beginning of breastfeeding your baby, especially at the start of each feed. If the baby is in the correct position this will usually ease very quickly and the nipples will not become cracked. If they do become dry, pure lanolin offers the best relief. If they become cracked try and give more frequent, shorter feeds.
Besides an incorrect feeding position, problems with the nipples can sometimes be caused by a fungal infection. This is more likely to occur in mothers or babies that have recently been treated with antibiotics. The use of a probiotic may reduce any undesirable side effects from antibiotics. Consult your naturopath for further assistance with fungal infections.
A complication that is caused by bacterial infection that may arise from cracked or bleeding nipples is a breast inflammation (mastitis). An untreated engorgement can also lead to mastitis. If the infection becomes severe it may be necessary to take antibiotics. The use of a good strong probiotic will reduce any undesirable side effects from antibiotics while breastfeeding. It is advisable to consult your naturopath for which one will be effective for you.
Every two to three hours breastfeed on the affected side, or if more comfortable use an electric pump to drain the breast. Between feeds the inflammation may be relieved with quark or cabbage leaves, however do not place on the nipple or areolae and follow professional instructions. A cold compress is also a suitable option.
Engorgement can occur at any time during breastfeeding. It occurs when a milk duct becomes blocked, the affected part becomes hard and sensitive. Relief can be obtained from breastfeeding regularly on the side that is affected, placing the baby in a position in which the baby’s chin is aligned with the engorged spot. It may take several attempts to relieve a blocked duct. An electric breast pump may also be used is necessary to provide relief.
Not having enough milk is a big fear for first time breastfeeding mums. Newborn babies and those going through growth spurts will want to feed a lot. Regularly breastfeeding a baby showing signs of demanding more milk will quickly regulate the supply. A baby is most probably getting enough milk if they are gaining weight, have 6-8 wet nappies and 2-5 dirty nappies per day.
If you feel that your milk supply is not keeping up with demand, there are a few helpful supplements that may assist. Galactagogues are a type of herb that promote milk supply. These include fenugreek, fennel, goats rue, blessed thistle and alfalfa. Ask your naturopath for further advise on how and when to take these herbs may be best for you.
Too much milk is also a challenge for mother and baby. With too much milk a baby may repeatedly choke, and mothers breast may become quickly engorged. Only breastfeed from one breast and only drain enough milk from the other with a pump to obtain a noticeable relief of pressure. Then cool this breast for 15-20 minutes with quark or cabbage leaves. After a few days the supply should have stabalised.
Do not use cabbage leaves for longer then 2 days or 3 times a day. If you feel that your supply is not regulating according to the demand, there are some herbal supplements that may also assist in decreasing the milk supply. Consult with your naturopath.
Nutrition is also very important to ensure a good milk supply. See my blog on optimal nutrition for the nursing mother for further information.