No woman is born a breastfeeding maven. As with everything else in life, nursing an infant gets better with time and practice.
As a learned skill, it takes more than motherly instinct to overcome various breastfeeding challenges. Tons of patience and constant adjustments are imperative to relieve the discomfort and swelling that go with it.
While it can be unpleasant and wearisome for the first few days or weeks, there are simple steps that you can do to turn your breastfeeding frustrations into a nursing success.
When to use heat and cold packs when breastfeeding
Heat from breastfeeding gel packs encourages milk production, promotes milk flow and relieves breastfeeding discomfort and other conditions. Hence, warm packs are best used before feeding your little one.
On the other hand, cold compress reduces breast inflammation and soothes sore nipples. Cold therapy with gel backs can be applied after nursing.
These natural forms of therapy are favorable to breastfeeding mothers because it does not require them to take potentially harmful pain and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Home remedies for common breastfeeding problems
As a natural reflex, your milk supply will increase exponentially after giving birth. As your mammary glands strive to keep up with your milk supply, breasts can become heavy and painful.
Unfortunately, if your breasts are full and hard, your baby can’t latch on properly, leading to a frustrating breastfeeding session for both mother and child.
To relieve swelling, you may perform the following remedies at home:
Nurse as often as you can – The ideal feeding time interval is pegged at one to three hours. However, any nursing mother would know that this is not doable all the time. For one, not all babies are active feeders; and second, most mothers need to be separated from their babies for work and other reasons.
However, using heating therapy prior to attempting to breastfeeding can help stimulate milk production.
- Pump your breast – To help relieve the pressure and discomfort, express milk manually for a few minutes until you feel better. Do this with caution, as it can accelerate milk production, leaving you with more engorgement problems.
- Use warm packs before nursing – Warm breast packs can promote milk let-down and ensure steady milk flow. These further reduce breast pain and nursing discomfort.
- Massage your breasts – Massaging your breasts while nursing relieves discomfort. You can also pump milk out of the other breast to ensure that both breasts are fully emptied.
- Use cold breast packs in between feedings – While waiting for the next nursing session, use cold breast packs to soothe pain and discomfort.
- Wear a proper nursing bra – Make sure your nursing bra is comfortable and allows your breasts to breathe. Underwear made from cotton and other natural fibers work best to avoid potential breast infection.
Clogged milk ducts
Clogged milk ducts is another common problem faced by breastfeeding mothers. This occurs when the tube carrying milk from the breast lobules to the nipple suffers from poor drainage. As a result, painful lumps form after milk backs up and stays in the breast.
A breast that’s not completely emptied, a baby who’s skipped a feeding session and a mother who’s suffering from stress are a few of the main reasons the milk tubes get clogged.
If left untreated, obstructed milk ducts can turn into an inflamed breast tissue or mastitis.
Below are useful tips to address the issue:
- Use a warm compress before breastfeeding – Use warm breast packs about 15 minutes before feeding your baby. The heat coming from the packs promotes circulation, opens milk ducts and encourages milk production.
Unlike regular gel packs, breast packs are uniquely shaped to cover your breasts entirely. They are easy to use – just pop it in the microwave or simmering water for a few minutes until it reaches the desired (warm) temperature.
- Massage your breasts – While getting the baby to nurse in the affected breast, lightly massage from the top, fleshy portion of your breast going downwards and over the nipple.
- Toughen your nipples – Continuous contact with moisture may cause nipple irritation, soreness and damage. As you’ll probably leak milk a few seconds after nursing, consider keeping your maternity bra open for a few minutes or skip the bra altogether to help toughen your nipples.
- Check your bra – If you cannot stand going through the day without a bra, ensure that your nursing bra fits well and offers full support and protection. Ideally, it should be made from cotton and should not be too tight.
- Use cold packs after nursing – In between feedings, a cold breast pack greatly helps in reducing the swelling and easing discomfort.
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue and is likely triggered by an infection. Apart from infection, clogged milk ducts that are left untreated may also lead to mastitis.
Breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness, fatigue, fever and chills are among mastitis’ common symptoms. Even if it strikes predominantly nursing women, mastitis can also affect non-breastfeeding women and even men.
Addressing mastitis is basically the same as how you would treat clogged milk ducts, including the use of hot and cold breast packs. The major difference is that your doctor will probably prescribe medications. You can still continue to breastfeed your baby despite mastitis, though.
As it is a more serious condition, additional measures will have to be taken. Look for someone to take care of you and your child, as mastitis can cause fatigue and fever.
Unlike blocked milk ducts, a milk blister (or bleb) is visible from the outside and it refers to a blocked nipple pore. It happens when milk backs up behind a tiny bit of skin that has overgrown a milk duct opening.
It is seen as a clear, white or yellow dot on the areola or nipple and can be painful. An untreated milk blister can also lead to mastitis.
Applying warm breast packs on your breasts will soften the milk duct-blocking skin and will slowly open it. Continue using the packs for at least a week to ensure that the ducts stay open.
Other uses for breast packs
Breast pumps and warm packs
Lactating mothers use breast pumps, whether manual or electric, to store their milk to feed the baby while they are away. Apart from this vital function, regular milk extraction also promotes production and relieves discomfort from engorgement and clogged milk ducts.
These breast packs can be used simultaneously with breast pumps as they are compatible with most types and brands. The packs wrap around the breast and cover the areas that other breast packs cannot.
Home must-haves: heat and cold packs
From pregnancy to childbirth and even beyond, the versatile hot and cold packs are definite must-haves in every home.
When strong medications are best avoided, hot and cold packs are essential in relieving minor pains and discomfort commonly experienced by pregnant women.
During the breastfeeding stage, multi-use heated breast packs are used to soothe nursing discomfort and to promote milk production, while cold packs can soothe breast swelling and nipple aches.
Nipple aches and painful, heavy and leaking breasts are all part of the learning curve for nursing mothers. If you’re having a rather unpleasant breastfeeding experience, don’t fret. There are simple and doable steps to solve most lactation-related problems.
Breastfeeding is key to forming a powerful bond between a mother and a child, and with simple home remedies like the use of warm and cold breast packs, you can make this bonding activity enjoyable for you and your baby.
Do you currently have breastfeeding challenges? How are you dealing with them? Share your stories and tips with us.