Posts tagged mastitis

How to Avoid Common Breastfeeding Challenges

I have been breastfeeding Baby Roku for 6 months and am so happy that things are going smoothly! It was not always this way though. I had a very difficult time for the first 3 months. He was getting enough to eat, as indicated by his above average weight gain, but I was in severe pain. I had mastitis twice, both times with a fever above 103. I could not imagine breastfeeding without pain as I walked around my house without a shirt for almost 90 days. I dreaded the days I had to wear a bra and cringed at the thought of wearing a sports bra to the gym (let alone the pain that would occur from the ‘bounce’ during cardio).

I wanted to love to breastfeed so bad so I did a ton of research online as well as obtained help from a few different lactation consultants in my community. I also attended my local La Leche League Meetings for support. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, I highly recommend that you do all of these things before switching to formula. Every day that I was in pain, I committed to one more day of breastfeeding and, fortunately, Baby Roku and I made it through the tough times and are successfully breastfeeding today…and I love it! I had really only planned to nurse him for 6 months, but now that things are going so well I plan on nursing him for at least a year. Another reason that I have decided to breastfeed him for longer is that I now have a better understanding of the massive benefits that he will obtain from breast milk over formula. I also like knowing what is in his food. As someone who eats mostly raw, I know what is in everything that I eat. I don’t feel like I would ever really know what is in formula including any residual BPA that might be absorbed into the formula from the container.

I would like to help moms that are having breastfeeding challenges to do their best to stick with it! I have put together some tips that helped me get through the rough period in the beginning, and I really hope that it will be helpful if you are having troubles similar to mine before deciding to switch to formula.

Proper Latch
Not until about 3 months into breastfeeding did I feel like Baby Roku and I consistently had a proper latch. There are a lot of great resources online that provide illustrations of how the proper latch should look. Here is a link to a great resource for advice on obtaining the proper latch: How to Latch. I looked at a ton of stuff online and still had trouble. I obtained one-on-one support before leaving the hospital and also consulted with 3 lactation consultants over the phone. I also went back to the hospital with Baby Roku to sit with the lactation consultant for an hour as she watched me feed. However, there was one piece of advice that really helped me finally overcome my challenges. I could not get Roku to open his mouth wide enough before latching. Someone from La Leche League told me to try lowering his head before pulling him in for the latch. So, instead of having his head right in front of my breast, bring his head in from below. This totally worked! I had been nursing him with the boppy pillow much too high. I thought the perfect position of the pillow was directly in front of my breasts, so I propped it up on the arms of my glider and set him on top. Once I lowered the boppy pillow, his mouth came from below which (magically) made him open his mouth much wider. This was a great start!

Pain Relief
Heat is your friend. Not only does it help to relieve pain, it helps your milk flow faster. Heat for about 2 minutes before feeding. If you are really sore, apply a cool compress after feeding. Pain IS NOT inevitable, however I tried very hard to do everything correctly and still had pain. I purchased some ice/hot packs that were available at target with their nursing supplies. I ended up buying 2 packs; one set I kept in the freezer and the other available for heating. Don’t overheat the packs because you can burn yourself and also ruin the packs. Also, even though the heat may feel good, do not heat for a long period of time. This can make the problem worse. A nice warm shower along with massage helps with pain relief. I started to do this every morning and found it to be a critical step in my daily routine.

What did NOT work for me was any kind of packaged soother that did not have a hole in the middle. My nipples were extremely sore, so covering them up with something only made things worse. If you do use something that covers the entire area, do not wear under your bra for a long period of time. You need to keep this area dry and free of any moisture.

At first I did not feel like I was producing enough milk. Then, literally overnight, I became engorged. I think this was when Roku was about 4 days old. I tried to pump, but nothing would come out. Unfortunately for me, this led to my first case of mastitis. One way to try and avoid this is to put a cabbage leaf over your breast. This actually worked very well for me to reduce engorgement.

How to Avoid Mastitis
After speaking to other mom’s, so many have had varying cases of mastitis. It can be very painful. It can be prevented by reducing engorgement (see above) and not wearing tight fitting clothing. You should also make sure that your breasts are dry before putting on a bra. My doctor gave me advice that ended up leading to another case of mastitis. He told me to use the plastic dome shaped devices that are used for inverted nipples in order to keep my bra from touching my skin. This temporarily relieved the pain of my skin touching cloth, however the pressure of the plastic ended up clogging my ducts causing another case of mastitis! I would just recommend being bra-less and shirtless as much as possible if you think you are getting mastitis. How can you tell if you have mastitis? An area on your breast will be bright red and hot. You will probably have a fever. In my case, I had a fever of over 103. Whatever you do, do not stop feeding your baby on that breast. Your baby is more efficient than a pump for extracting the milk and that will help to reduce the engorgement. It hurt a little at first when I started to nurse, but it actually feels a lot better once the baby latches. If you can position them so that there lower jaw is on the affected area, that helps too. If you are able to do this, the sucking motion actually massages the affected area and reduces the pain. With a high fever, you might think the last thing you would want to do is nurse your baby! However, it is actually it is not that bad if you just where something cool (or nothing at all), drink plenty of water, and relax, knowing that your baby will not get sick from you.

As far as taking antibiotics if you have mastitis, I would have to say that it is different in every situation. I decided not to take the antibiotics I was prescribed and ended up getting much worse with an extremely high fever. After one day of antibiotics, I felt better. I would probably seek a homeopathic remedy had I been educated about the possibility of this at the time.

Crying While Feeding
My hungry baby would cry while I was feeding him and I could not figure out why. Was it because of something I ate and he didn’t like the milk? Was he already teething at 3 months? It is so hard to know why, but in my particular case I finally found out it was because he was TIRED! He had just woken up only 1.5 hours ago, but he was already tired. He wanted to eat, but needed to sleep. After learning that he needed a nap so soon after waking, I made sure to feed him a bit earlier. I was feeding on cue, but at this particular time of day I anticipated the tired spell and fed him before it started. Another reason he cries while feeding is because he needs to burp. Try pausing the feeding to burp your baby to see if that helps them relax. They may also be crying because it is taking to long for the milk to come out. You can apply heat (as mentioned earlier) to help the ‘let down’ occur faster. The most important thing to do is to try your best to read their cues and not give up!


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In Honor of World Breastfeeding Week – My 4 Favorite Breastfeeding Accessories

I have been breastfeeding for about 5.5 months now and thought I would share a few of my favorite accessories.

If you are going to use nursing pads, I found a much better option than the disposables. A friend of mine gave me her left over box of disposable nursing pads. I used them until they were gone, however I just did not feel right throwing away a pair every day (and sometimes more!). So I looked online and actually found organic, reusable nursing pads. There is a wide variety including organic cotton and bamboo. They are both good for your delicate skin and the environment!

Organic and Washable Nursinp Pads

Organic and Washable Nursinp Pads

An item that I found that absolutely saved me are hot/cold gel packs. I chose the ones that have a hole in the middle. When I first started breastfeeding we were having some latching problems. Needless to say, I was pretty sore after feeding Baby Roku on several occasions during the first three months. So I would keep a pair of these in the freezer to soothe myself immediately after feeding. I kept another pair handy to heat up before feeding. Heat helps the ‘let down’ occur much faster which makes it easier on you and the baby. After getting mastitis twice, I found that heating before feeding kept me from having pain as well as clearing up any clogged ducts which kept me from getting mastitis a third time! Applying heat before pumping also helps you get the process started much quicker! I believe I purchased mine at Target, but you can find them online. There is a brand called “BustBuddies” that offers hot and cold pads.

Here is my advice on Nursing Bras: Don’t waste your money. You might find it useful to have one or two, but I much preferred buying the “Essential Basic Bra” from The Gap. There are no hooks or adjustable straps. I purchased them in size XL (I would normally wear size M) and found them to be very comfortable (and wireless!) and made feeding very easy whether coming from the top of my shirt or underneath. I was at The Gap this weekend and they are only 2 for $30! If you are going to buy a nursing bra, I love the “Bravado! Designs” line. They have many wireless options and the material is very light and comfortable.

This Bra from The Gap is a Great Alternative to Nursing Bras

This Bra from The Gap is a Great Alternative to Nursing Bras

My last favorite breastfeeding accessory is my pump. I have only used this one and have no complaints. It is the Ameda “Purely Yours” Breast Pump. It is a double pump that is easy to use and completely BPA free. I even loved the little bottles that come with it. They are BPA free as well. I have the one that came with a tote which is convenient for travel or taking to work.

Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump

Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump

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