Benefits of Breastfeeding; Management, Prevention and Treatment of Breastfeeding Pain and Conditions such as Mastitis, Clogged Ducts and Engorgement. By Rachel's Remedy.
Breastmilk is the perfect food
Breastmilk is the gold standard for infant nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months (meaning only breastmilk and no formula, juice or even water), and up to at least the first year of life with combined foods.
Breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby’s digestive system, and has all of the nutrients, calories and fluids your baby needs to be healthy. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk protect babies from illness. Formula does not have the same substances to protect your baby from diseases and infections.
Health benefits to Mother and Baby
The health benefits to breastfed babies and breastfeeding mothers are seemingly endless. Some include:
Families can save between $1200-$1500 on infant formula in the first year alone. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90% of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs. Breastfed babies have 1/3 the medical expenses to that of formula fed babies.
Proper Latch is Essential for Successful Breastfeeding
A good latch is critical for successful breastfeeding for your baby and for your breast health. If your baby is bobbing his head, bringing his hand to his mouth or acting squirmy, he’s probably hungry. Don’t wait until your baby is crying to feed him. In order to help your baby latch on to your nipple, try to avoid giving your baby any pacifiers or artificial nipples.
The first milk that comes in is called “colostrum” and is yellowish and thick. It is very rich in nutrients and has antibodies to protect your baby from illness. Colostrum changes into mature milk within one week of birth, which has the perfect amount of protein, water, fat, sugar and nutrients for your baby’s optimum health and growth.
Make sure you are in a comfortable position (if on a chair, use a stool for your feet, have water next to your chair, use a breastfeeding support pillow). Hold your baby skin-to-skin against your belly and support your baby’s head as he searches for your breast. In order to get a good latch, your nipple and areola need to go far back into your baby’s mouth.
Signs of a good latch include:
- It feels comfortable and does not hurt or pinch (if it hurts it’s a sign your baby may not be latched on properly).
- Your baby is relaxed and does not have to turn his or her head while drinking.
- Your nipple is deep in your baby’s mouth - make sure your baby sucks the areola (dark part around the nipple), not just the nipple as this could cause sore nipples.
- You hear or see your baby swallow.
- Your baby’s top and bottom lips should be turned out (“fishlips”). Use your index finger to pull out his lip if necessary.
- Your baby’s chin indents your breast.
- You can see your baby’s ears wiggle.
If you do not have a good latch, gently put your finger between your baby’s mouth and your nipple to break the seal, and then try again.
Management and Prevention of Breastfeeding Pain and Conditions
Breastfeeding can be the most beautiful and rewarding experience for both you and your baby. Don’t let breastfeeding pain derail your breastfeeding goals or enjoyment. Take comfort in knowing there are simple ways to relieve your pain and treat your conditions. Here are some tips to deal with common and painful breastfeeding conditions.
Generally: A good latch is one of the most important ways to help avoid common and painful breastfeeding conditions. Proper positioning helps ensure that your baby drains the milk from all areas of the breast equally. Don’t skip feedings and don’t allow yourself to become engorged. Drink plenty of water and get as much rest as you can (with a baby). Don't get discouraged! Just like anything worthwhile, it may take some work and some time to get it right. If you are having trouble, call your doctor or a lactation consultant in your area. The La Leche League is a wonderful resource.
What it is: Engorgement happens when your breasts become uncomfortably full, or “engorged” with milk from missed feedings, or fewer feedings.
What to do: Engorgement is best managed by frequent nursing, and moist heat applications to the breast just before nursing, and cool compresses applied to the breasts after nursing and between feedings to alleviate swelling, congestion and pain. Moist-heat compresses, especially before feeding, helps to increase circulation and brings the hormone oxytocin to trigger milk let-down, which will provide relief of uncomfortable engorgement.
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Unrelieved engorgement can be a precursor to mastitis, so be careful not to allow uncomfortable engorgement to persist or long intervals to elapse between feedings.
If you are weaning, use the cold compresses rather than warm so you do not increase your milk-flow or encourage additional let-down.
What it is: Milk flows through milk ducts in your breast and out the nipple. One of those ducts becomes clogged if milk builds up and forms a blockage.
A clogged or plugged milk duct can be very painful and should be treated immediately as it can develop into mastitis. Clogged ducts are caused by inadequate draining of the breast, engorgement, skipping feedings or change in your feeding schedule, improper latch or positioning, or wearing clothes or bras that are too tight.
Symptoms: A tender lump in one area of your breast or pain in one area of your breast that may or may not hurt when you touch it or when your baby nurses.
What to do:
- Nurse often. It is important to continue nursing even if it is painful, and to make sure to drain the breast as much as possible with each feeding. When you start nursing, begin on the side that has the clog first to ensure the most drainage.
- Moist heat applications to the affected breast before each feeding and between feedings. Moist-heat promotes drainage and relief of clogged ducts. (Click here to see how Rachel's Remedy can help!)
- Gently massage the breast beginning on the outside and working your way toward the nipple.
- See your doctor if at any time you develop a fever, have flu-like symptoms or the lump increases in size or redness.
What it is: A blockage of milk that builds up at the nipple is called a “milk bleb” or “milk blister.” A nipple pore that is blocked by milk causes the bleb. If the bleb blocks the flow of milk completely, a plugged duct or mastitis can result. A milk bleb looks like a tiny white shiny bump or dot on the nipple, and can cause severe pinpoint pain when your baby feeds or when you pump.
Symptoms: Very severe pinpoint pain on the nipple that looks like a white dot.
What to do:
- Nurse Frequently.
- Apply moist-heat before each feeding and between feedings to soften the bleb. Check out Rachel's Remedy for the easiest and only FDA-cleared way to apply moist heat - click here.
- After you apply moist heat, gently rub the surface of the nipple with a warm cloth to open or loosen the bleb.
- Breastfeed or pump right after you apply the moist heat and again, rub the nipple with a warm cloth.
What it is: Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast. If your mastitis is due to an infection, it can produce generalized aches, swelling, burning, redness, pain, flu-like symptoms and may require antibiotics. If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately. Mastitis can occur anytime during lactation, and is most common during the first 3 months of breastfeeding.
Mastitis may be caused by bacteria, poor latch, restriction from a tight bra or baby carrier, use of a manual breast pump, a clogged duct, missed feeding(s), not fully draining the breast during feedings or while pumping, engorgement, exhaustion, and cracked or sore nipples.
What to do: If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, or have a lump that increases in size or redness, or you develop a fever, see your doctor immediately because antibiotics may be necessary to treat infective mastitis. Additionally, moist-heat compresses should be applied for 20-minute intervals, 4-8 times per day, and before feedings.
Non-infective mastitis can be treated by:
- Moist heat compresses, applied for 20 minute intervals, 4-8 times per day. Rachel's Remedy can help! Click here to learn more about our FDA-cleared Breastfeeding Relief Pack.
- Frequent breastfeeding with full breast drainage. Moist-heat compresses should be applied before feedings and can help drain the milk, whereas cold compresses may be applied after feedings to help relieve pain.
- Drink plenty of water and get as much rest as you are able.
Let-Down and Milk Flow
Some women have difficulty with the let-down response, also known as the milk ejection reflex. Moist-heat is a well-recognized method to help with let-down and increase milk flow. Studies have shown that women can significantly increase their breast milk levels with the use of moist heat. Warm water compresses can increase the amount of breast milk by improving vascular tone, and by preventing the stasis of milk, which helps in milk let down. Heat applied to the breasts prior to nursing can be helpful in improving milk flow and enhancing milk let-down. Click here to see how Rachel's Remedy can help improve let-down and milk flow!
Nipple Pain, Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Nipple pain can range from an uncomfortable feeling to severe pain with cracked, sore or bleeding nipples. Moist-heat compresses are a very effective way to minimize nipple pain. Moist-heat compresses have been shown to be effective in treating sore nipples and superior in reducing pain, compared with the use of lanolin or dried breast milk.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon of the nipple - vasospasms that cause extreme pain, burning, numbness, throbbing, prickliness or stinging. Immediately after nursing, your nipple may appear white and the burning and other pain may also begin. A vasospasm is a constriction of the blood vessels in the nipple that can be triggered by a shallow latch, exposure of the nipple to cold temperatures (even just the nipple being exposed to the cooler air after the baby finishes nursing), nipple cracks or trauma and certain medications can trigger a vasospasm. The pain may be felt right after breastfeeding or between feedings.
What to do:
- Keep warm – cover your breasts and avoid exposure of your nipple to cold.
- Moist-heat compresses – but when removing, dry nipples completely.
- Don’t smoke – nicotine can increase episodes of vasospasm.
- Work on a better latch.
We hope you find this Benefits of Breastfeeding Resource Guide helpful and informative! Be sure to check out Rachel's Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs for comfort, relief and to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Click here!
Economic Benefits Sources: CDC; HealthyChildren.Org; Bartick, et al. Pediatrics The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis 2010; 125;5 e1048-e 1056.
Engorgement Sources: Giugliani, E. Common problems during lactation and their management. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2004; 80(5 Suppl): S147-54. Neifert, M., Seacat, J. Medical Management of Successful Breast-Feeding. Prevention in Primary Care, Pediatric Clinics of North America. 33(4) 1986, August. 743-63. Resmy V, Nalini S.J., Sumathi, G. Effect of Lukewarm Water Compress On Prevention of Nipple Pain and Breast Engorgement Among Primiparous At A Selected Hospital In Chennai. Journal of Science. 2014. 4(10). 620-624.
Clogged/Plugged Ducts Sources: Walker, M. Conquering Common Breast-feeding Problems. J Perinat Neonat Nurs. 2008. 22(4). 267-274 Heller, M., Fullerton-Stone, H., Murase, J. Caring for new mothers: diagnosis, management and treatment of nipple dermatitis in breastfeeding mothers. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012. 51: 1149-1161 Healthychildren.org
Milk Blebs/Blister Sources: Walker, M. Conquering Common Breast-feeding Problems. J Perinat Neonat Nurs. 2008. 22(4). 267-274. Heller, M., Fullerton-Stone, H., Murase, J. Caring for new mothers: diagnosis, management and treatment of nipple dermatitis in breastfeeding mothers. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012. 51: 1149-1161.
Mastitis Sources: Spencer, J. Management of Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women. American Academy of Family Physicians website. 2008, Sept. 15; 78(6). Foxman, B D’Arcy, H, Gillespie, B., et al. Lactation Mastitis: Occurrence and Medical Management among 949 Breastfeeding Women in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 (155)(2): 103-114. Strong, G. Provider Management and Support for Breastfeeding Pain. JOGNN. 2011; 40, 753-764. Healthychildren.org
Let-Down and Milk flow Sources: Resmy V, Nalini S.J., Sumathi, G. Effect of Lukewarm Water Compress On Prevention of Nipple Pain and Breast Engorgement Among Primiparous At A Selected Hospital In Chennai. Journal of Science. 2014. 4(10). 620-624. Neifert, M., Seacat, J. Medical Management of Successful Breast-Feeding. Prevention in Primary Care, Pediatric Clinics of North America. 33(4) 1986, August. 743-63.
Nipple Pain, Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon Sources: Resmy V, Nalini S.J., Sumathi, G. Effect of Lukewarm Water Compress On Prevention of Nipple Pain and Breast Engorgement Among Primiparous At A Selected Hospital In Chennai. Journal of Science. 2014. 4(10). 620-624. Heller, M., Fullerton-Stone, H., Murase, J. Caring for new mothers: diagnosis, management and treatment of nipple dermatitis in breastfeeding mothers. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012. 51: 1149-1161. Walker, M. Conquering Common Breast-feeding Problems. J Perinat Neonat Nurs. 2008. 22(4). 267-274.
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