If you have problems with breastfeeding, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Most nursing problems are easy to correct when caught early. However, recognizing these problems can be difficult, which is where health professionals like Dr. Ebanks and our team at Cayman Islands Surgery Center can help. Dr. Ebanks underwent extensive training and has years of experience diagnosing and treating breastfeeding problems.
Common Breastfeeding Problems
Most new mothers and infants are able to breastfeed. But problems can and do happen, and they can make nursing a painful and difficult experience. These issues are most common in the early postpartum period and include:
Thrush is a common cause of breastfeeding problems that can affect both mother and infant. This fungal infection is caused by the overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast and can appear on the nipples or a baby’s mouth. Nipple thrush causes uncomfortable symptoms such as:
- Sharp and stabbing nipple pain
- Pain deep in the breast
- Burning and itching
- Swelling of the areola and nipple
- Shiny, red and flaky nipple skin
Oral thrush in babies, on the other hand, can lead to:
- Cracked skin around the mouth
- Diaper rash
- Nursing strike
Thrush is easy to treat with medication and good hygiene; however, it’s important to get diagnosed by a professional since many other infections can affect the nipple and oral cavity.
If you have sore or cracked nipples due to breastfeeding, the underlying problem may be a common infant feeding issue: the baby not latching properly. Improper latching can lead to the baby’s tongue rubbing and pressing against the nipple, causing pain and cracking.
A lactation consultant, midwife or health visitor can help correct latching problems early on, before they start to cause you significant discomfort.
Low milk supply
Many mothers worry they have a low milk supply. But low milk supply is rare, and most women are able to produce enough milk to breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue nursing for as long as needed. Occasionally, milk supply may be too low to meet a baby’s needs.
Most issues with low milk supply are easy to correct with proper feeding techniques, frequent feeding and occasionally medication.
Clogged milk ducts
Milk can become clogged inside a duct due to engorgement or poor drainage. This problem often happens if the breast isn’t completely emptied following a feed or when you skip a feed or two. While clogged ducts usually resolve on their own, the problem can also advance into mastitis, an inflammation of the breast.
Common signs of a clogged milk duct are:
- A tender lump in one or both breasts
- Painful letdowns
- Relief after feeding/pumping
About two-thirds of nursing moms experience this problem at some point. Treatment involves massaging, applying warm compresses and draining the breast.
If a clogged milk duct does not resolve on its own or is left untreated, it can progress into mastitis. Mastitis is inflammation of the breast that may sometimes lead to an infection.
Mastitis can cause symptoms such as breast pain and swelling and flu-like symptoms. Women often mistake these symptoms as a normal part of being a new mom. But pain and discomfort are never a normal part of breastfeeding.
If you suspect you may have mastitis, empty your breast, wait for a couple of hours to see if your symptoms subside and contact your doctor if they do not. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent further complications. You can still breastfeed even when taking these medications.
A rare complication of untreated mastitis is a breast abscess, a painful buildup of pus. This problem usually requires needle aspiration or surgery.
If mastitis does not resolve with conservative treatment, it might develop into a lactational abscess. Instead of a hard mass you might start to feel fluctuation (the area gets soft and filled with fluid), which is a sign that you may have developed an abscess. The skin over the area might get shiny and thinner and eventually break, if the abscess starts to drain spontaneously. Lactational abscesses can be treated with usually multiple aspirations to prevent surgery, scarring and drainage through the skin.
If you think you may develop a lactational abscess we invite you to make an appointment with Dr. Tanja Ebanks, who will refer you for an ultrasound and suggest an ultrasound guided aspiration procedure or surgery, if necessary.
Treating Breastfeeding Issues
Most breastfeeding issues are easy to treat if caught early. Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby need to learn as you go. Problems can interfere with your attempts to breastfeed, but don’t let that discourage you from bonding with your baby. With guidance from a professional, nursing can be easy and problem-free.
At Cayman Islands Surgery Center, Dr. Ebanks and our team of specialists can help you get into a good nursing routine. For breastfeeding problems that require medical attention, you can make an appointment with Dr. Ebanks. We can then diagnose your particular issue and offer guidance, medication, and in rare cases aspiration or, surgery.
Make an Appointment
If you have problems with breastfeeding, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tanja Ebanks. Dr. Ebanks is a general surgeon who also specializes in treating a wide array of breast conditions.
To learn more about your options, call Dr. Ebanks today at +1 345 946 0067. You can also fill out our online contact form to have a staff member call you at a more convenient time. You can message Cayman Surgery directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
How common are breastfeeding problems?
Issues with breastfeeding are very common. Studies show that up to 70 percent of mothers report difficulties, most commonly cracked nipples, fear of insufficient milk, pain and fatigue.
How do you prevent breastfeeding problems?
You can prevent many breastfeeding problems by learning as much as you can about breastfeeding, being prepared and speaking to a lactation specialist if problems arise. Addressing issues as soon as they appear also prevents bigger problems from developing.
How to solve latching problems?
Many factors can affect a baby’s ability to latch properly, including premature birth, infections, tongue-tie and a cleft palate. Knowing what is causing your baby’s latching difficulties is the first step in correcting these issues. Your baby’s pediatrician should make sure no health problems are affecting your baby’s ability to latch before they refer you to a lactation consultant for more guidance.
Can I breastfeed after breast or nipple surgery?
Yes, new mothers can breastfeed even after having breast or nipple surgery. Even if you produce a small amount of milk as a result of your surgery, your baby can benefit from antibodies and other important compounds in breastmilk.
Can inverted nipples cause breastfeeding problems?
Inverted nipples shouldn’t pose any problems in feeding your infant. As long as your baby can take a big portion of your breast into their mouth, there should be no problem.