While the joy of nursing your newborn baby is unparalleled, often this happiness is short-lived for mothers who experience breastfeeding complications. Mid-night feeding sessions are challenging as it is. However, these are made worse when accompanied by cracked, sore nipples, rashes, or painful breastfeeding. However, with the correct latch of the baby and the correct aftercare for the mother, breastfeeding can be a joyful and fulfilling experience.
Breastfeeding is important as breast milk provides newborns with essential nutrients, including fat, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins. It also helps the mother and the baby bond. Health Shots got in touch with Dr. Anagha Madhuraj Kulkarni, Lactation Consultant, to understand how breastfeeding is the best for newborns.
“Breastfeeding can significantly lower the risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for babies, while mothers experience reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, promoting bonding, growth, brain development, and protection against illnesses,” she says.
However, when breastfeeding complications can often make this new journey very painful.
Breastfeeding is typically painless with proper technique, including the mother’s sitting position, baby’s position, and a deep latch. Pain may arise if these aspects are not managed correctly. “A deep latch is a key factor in preventing nipple pain and soreness. When the baby latches onto the breast deeply, it allows for proper milk flow and reduces friction on the nipple, minimising the risk of cracks or abrasions. It’s essential to recognise that while transient discomfort may occur during the initial days of breastfeeding as both the mother and baby adjust; persistent or intense pain is a signal that something may need attention,” says Dr Kulkarni.
Rashes on the breasts are quite common while breastfeeding. These can be allergic reactions. In fact, some rashes might also occur due to breastfeeding, wherein the sensitive skin around the nipple might get inflamed due to constant feeding. In fact, moisture of breast milk or tight fitting bras might cause this rash as well.
Another point to remember is rashes caused on the baby’s skin due to breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding usually doesn’t cause rashes. However, there might be a risk if the mother consumes allergenic foods that can be transferred to the baby through breast milk. The substances and compounds present in breast milk can vary based on what the mother consumes,” says Dr Kulkarni. Common allergenic foods include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and fish. If a breastfeeding mother consumes these allergens and her baby has a predisposition to allergies, it’s possible for the allergenic proteins to be transferred to the baby through breast milk. This transfer can potentially lead to skin reactions such as rashes, eczema, or hives.
Improper breastfeeding positions and poor latching can lead to blocked ducts. “A blocked duct is when the milk ducts become narrow, causing tenderness. Mastitis, a breast infection, results in redness, swelling, and flu-like symptoms. The causes for this include skipped feedings, insufficient suckling, and external distractions,” avers the expert.
Typically, breastfeeding should not cause pain. However, soreness may occur initially, but proper latching techniques can prevent cracked nipples. “Another thing to keep in mind is that pain, including neck, back, or shoulder pain, should not be experienced during breastfeeding,” explains Dr Kulkarni.
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Certain women may have flat, inverted, or large nipples and this may lead to be poor latch. Other complications include low milk production, engorged breasts, hyperlactation and breast abscess. “Sometimes, some women may experience difficulties that include latch difficulties, nipple vasospasm, thrush infections, and emotional challenges as well,” says Dr Kulkarni.
The answer to this is thankfully, yes! Breastfeeding complications can be prevented with proper precautions. “It is essential to gather relevant information on breastfeeding techniques, understand the baby’s hunger cues, maintaining correct feeding patterns, and seeking guidance from a lactation consultant,” explains Dr Kulkarni. Support from family members contributes to a positive breastfeeding journey, preventing issues such as engorged breasts, blocked ducts, and mastitis.