There may be times when breastfeeding is challenging. Never ignore any issues you may have – talk to your health visitor, midwife, GP or breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible, they will be able to help you sort it out quickly.
Here are some common breastfeeding issues, and tips on what to do.
Mastitis makes your breast tissue inflamed and painful. You might notice a lump and some redness around the sore area. Sometimes the inflammation turns into an infection. Mastitis can make you feel achy and run down, with flu-like symptoms or a fever.
Usually, mastitis affects one of your breasts, but can sometimes affect both. Signs and symptoms of mastitis often develop quickly and can include:
If you're breastfeeding, mastitis is usually caused when the milk in your breast builds up faster than it's being removed. This creates a blockage in your milk ducts (known as 'milk stasis') and can be brought on by:
If you aren't breastfeeding, mastitis can be caused by infection. The infection could happen if your nipples are sore or cracked, or through a nipple piercing.
If you catch the early signs of mastitis, it's quick and easy to treat. If the pain continues for more than a few days, it may be a sign that you've got an infection, and it's time to make a GP appointment. Your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics, which should clear up the infection in a few days.
The main thing to do is carry on breastfeeding (even though it may be extremely painful). By stopping breastfeeding, the blockage will only get worse. Even if you have an infection, breastfeeding won't harm your baby (although your milk may taste a little salty).
Make sure your baby is latched on properly and aim to feed 8 to 12 times a day (including at night). Try putting a warm flannel over your breast before feeding, this will help ease the pain and encourage the let-down reflex.
After feeds, make sure any leftover breast milk is drained by expressing by hand or with a pump.
Don't leave it too long. If you feel that you're not improving and continuing to feed regularly isn't making a difference, see your doctor. They'll be able to assess whether your mastitis is caused by an infection. If it is, you may need antibiotics.
There are various ways you can help ease the pain and inflammation:
Luckily, once it's diagnosed, mastitis is easy and quick to treat. But remember, prevention is better than cure – here are some of the ways you can reduce the risk of mastitis in the first place:
If you'd like some confidential breastfeeding advice, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212 (9.30am-9.30pm, seven days a week).