21 Home Remedies for Breast-Feeding Discomfort

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Many mothers give up breast-feeding in frustration because they don't realize that things will get better with time and practice.

Throughout your pregnancy, you probably imagined how wonderful the breast-feeding experience would be for both you and your baby. All you could think about was looking down into that tiny, trusting face and feeling the closeness between you and this new little being. So naturally, when it finally came time to put baby to breast, you were excited. But now, you're in agony. Your nipples may be painful, cracked, and bleeding. Or perhaps your breasts are uncomfortably swollen. The milk may not flow when you need it to and may seem to flow uncontrollably when you most wish it wouldn't (like when you're standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at a dinner party). So where are those tender, happy moments you've seen in the magazine and television advertisements? 

Well, hang in there. Those moments do happen, just not always right away. The problem is, many mothers give up breast-feeding in frustration because they don't realize that things will get better with time and practice. They also don't realize there are steps they can take to decrease breast-feeding discomfort and increase nursing success. This article will give you the helpful nursing home remedies that can make breast-feeding a rewarding and comfortable experience for you and your baby. Before we begin, we should examine the sources of breast-feeding discomfort.

As far as what causes breast-feeding pain, it depends on where the pain occurs. Pain in the nipple, for example, is most often caused by the baby latching on to the nipple incorrectly. Nipple discomfort can also result from a certain fashion choice and therefore tends to be more prevalent in American women: Women in the United States are more likely to wear bras, which protect the delicate nipples and leave them more sensitive to the friction and exposure that comes with breast-feeding. In contrast, many foreign women go braless much or all of the time and often sunbathe in the nude, which gradually toughen the nipples. As a result, they experience less discomfort when they begin nursing a child. Preexisting conditions, such as inverted nipples or nipple sensitivity that developed during the pregnancy, can also lead to breast-feeding discomfort.

Pain in the fleshy part of the breast, on the other hand, is most often caused by engorgement of the breast with milk. This is most likely to occur during the first few days after your milk comes, before your body has a chance to adjust its milk production to the needs of your baby. Initially, a woman's body makes enough milk for twins, but then gradually changes its milk production based on the amount of milk regularly removed from the breasts. So if you are nursing only one baby, your body gradually lowers the amount of milk it produces to match the amount consumed by the single baby. (You'll discover shortly why this is an important point to remember.)

Engorgement can also occur any time the amount of milk produced exceeds your baby's ability to siphon it off, such as when the baby's appetite is diminished due to illness. Mild cases can even occur between feedings, especially if feedings are spaced several hours apart or if a feeding is unexpectedly delayed. Fortunately, no matter the cause, the engorgement will naturally resolve itself within a few days if not sooner (as long as you don't do anything that encourages your body to make too much milk).

To prevent discomfort from turning you off to breast-feeding, it helps to keep in mind that breast-feeding is a learned skill, and you'll need time, practice, and patience to make it a comfortable, successful experience. It's also important to remember that the early days of nursing may leave your breasts a bit tender and sore, but pain, cracking, blistering, or bleeding means there's a problem that needs to be solved. Fortunately, most breast-feeding problems can be remedied, and the pain either alleviated or prevented, with some fairly simple adjustments.

In the next section, we will delve into some home remedies that can ease the transition into breast-feeding.

For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Breast-Feeding

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. To help ensure proper form, hold your  baby in one arm so that the front of her  whole body is facing yours.

The home remedies and techniques that follow can help you solve your nursing difficulties so that breast-feeding can truly become that beautiful bonding experience you always hoped it would be.

Make sure the baby latches on correctly. It bears repeating that incorrect positioning of the breast in the baby's mouth is by far the most common cause of nipple pain and damage in breast-feeding women. You DO NOT want your baby to clamp onto the nipple itself. Rather, the nipple should be at the back of the baby's mouth, near the throat, so her lips and gums close around the areola (the circle of skin surrounding the nipple that is a different color than the fleshy part of the breast). Otherwise, you are likely to experience pain or pinching as soon as the baby latches on, and over time, the tender nipple skin is likely to crack and bleed, opening the door to infection.

To help ensure proper form, hold your baby in one arm so that the front of her whole body, not just her head, is facing yours. Using your other hand, place two fingers above the areola and three below to support the breast and "steer" the nipple. Be sure your fingers are behind the areola, so they won't get in the way as your baby latches onto it. Brush the baby's lower lip with the tip of your breast to get her to open her mouth wide. Then quickly pull her in close and slide your nipple into the back of her mouth before she can close her mouth around it. If you feel a general tenderness or a sharp, pinching pain when the baby first latches on, chances are you were not quick enough, and she latched on to the nipple rather than the areola. If so, simply remove her from your breast and try again until her mouth closes around your areola and her sucking no longer causes you pain.

Ease the release. If you need to remove the baby from your breast, don't just pull the two apart. First break the suction that's holding them together. Do this by gently sliding one of your fingers between the corner of the baby's mouth and the breast. Otherwise, it can feel like you're trying to pull a working vacuum cleaner off your nipple.

Use a prop. Try putting a pillow on your lap to help you hold the baby near your breast, so that his mouth is level with your nipple. If you hold him too low, he will tug downward on your breast, and will likely end up with your nipple between his gums as he nurses.

Nurse, nurse, nurse. There was a time when new mothers were encouraged to nurse their babies only at set intervals spaced several hours apart. But this approach often left the babies hungry and cranky and left their mothers' breasts painfully full between feedings. Thankfully, most baby doctors now believe that during the first weeks after birth, the baby should be offered the breast whenever she shows the early signs of hunger and should be allowed to continue each feeding until she is satisfied. (Early hunger signals in a newborn include an increase in alertness or activity, rooting, or mouthing; crying is actually a fairly late sign of hunger.) That generally translates into a minimum of 8 to 12 feedings in every 24-hour period (try for a feeding at least every two hours, except perhaps during the night, when you may be able to feed slightly less often), with each feeding lasting at least 10 to 15 minutes. Even a sleeping infant should be woken up to feed if it's been four hours since the start of her last feeding. Having the baby's crib in the same room that the mother is sleeping in during these first few days or weeks can make such frequent feeding a little easier.

Many doctors say that by letting the baby nurse almost continuously, especially during the first 12 to 24 hours after your milk comes in, you may be able to avoid the initial engorgement that normally occurs when the milk comes in; your baby will slowly but steadily siphon off milk, preventing the fullness from reaching the point of pain. But even if you can't completely head off engorgement, frequent feeding will help ease your discomfort during the week or so after birth that the body may need to adjust its milk production to suit your baby's needs.

If you instead trap yourself into feeding the baby on a preset schedule, only offering the breast every three to four hours during the day and letting her sleep as long as she wants, your milk will come in and make your breasts look and feel as if they're going to explode.

Try the "burp and switch" strategy. Always begin feeding the baby on the sorest breast or the one that seems to be the fullest. After five minutes, burp him and switch breasts. Keep switching and burping every five minutes until he is through feeding. This "burp and switch" method ensures that the baby drains both breasts sufficiently, rather than tanking up on one and leaving the other one painfully overfull.

Some more handy home remedies to take the pain out of breast-feeding are discussed in the next section.

For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

More Home Remedy Treatments for Breast-Feeding

The joys of motherhood can be seriously challenged if breast-feeding your infant is painful or uncomfortable. Here are some more home remedies to take the discomfort out of feeding the baby.

Warm up for feedings. Fifteen minutes before feeding your baby, warm up your breasts. Try soaking a bath towel in hot water, wringing it out, and then laying it across your breasts. You can even cover the towel with a plastic garbage bag to help it retain heat longer. After removing the towel, massage each breast from the fleshy part down to the nipple to encourage the release of milk into the nipple. You'll be glad you did since an empty nipple is much more likely than a full one to be painful during nursing.

Express if necessary to ease engorgement. If breast-feeding on demand has not prevented painful engorgement and your breasts are so full and hard that the baby cannot latch on properly, it is okay to express enough milk by hand to ease your discomfort and allow your baby to suckle. But you should avoid expressing too much additional milk by hand or with a breast pump. That's because the body doesn't know the difference between a pump and a baby's mouth, so whenever milk is siphoned from the breast, the body thinks it's being used by the baby and makes more to compensate for that loss.

So the more you express, the more milk your body will produce, which is not exactly what you want when your breasts are already uncomfortably full. (If your baby is ill and unable to nurse when engorgement occurs, however, ask your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for advice on pumping to ensure an adequate supply of breast milk when your infant can once again nurse.) If you can avoid sending your body such a mixed message, it will automatically lower its milk production to suit your baby's needs, and the engorgement will pass.

Stand in a warm shower. Allowing the water to spray directly on the breasts usually causes milk to drip from the nipples, which can relieve some of the pressure from engorgement. But unlike pumping, this technique doesn't prompt the body to produce more milk. It just provides a little welcome relief. Another option: Take off your bra, fill a sink with warm water, and splash it onto your breasts.

Air them out. Try to expose your nipples to air whenever possible to help toughen them up and to prevent continuous contact with moisture, which can cause nipple irritation, soreness, and even damage. If you finish nursing and immediately put a nursing pad and bra back on, you're likely to get some milk leakage; the pad and bra will then hold this moisture against the nipple. Consider keeping your bra flaps open (on a nursing bra) or going braless under a light T-shirt for at least 15 minutes after feeding. If you were planning to nap after a feeding, you might also consider napping braless.

Wear a supportive bra that breathes. A good-quality bra that fits well will provide support and help protect your breasts from additional trauma. Be sure it's not too tight, which will only add to your soreness. And opt for one made of a natural fiber, such as cotton, that allows air flow and encourages evaporation. Bras made of synthetic fibers may hold in heat, increase sweating, and trap moisture against the breast skin.

Try "cold storage." Between feedings, put ice packs on your breasts, and wear a bra to hold the packs in place (put a thin cloth between the ice pack and the breast skin, however, to prevent frostbite). Some women use bags of frozen peas or carrots as ice packs, but here's an even better idea: Fill four resealable freezer bags with unpopped popcorn, and freeze them for use as ice packs. Not only do the popcorn kernels hold the cold longer, they don't turn mushy as they warm. And unlike most commercial ice packs, the bag of kernels will mold more closely to the shape of your breast.

Skip the soap. Although you don't want the nipple skin to be moist for extended periods, you also don't want it to become dry, chapped, irritated, and cracked, which can leave them vulnerable to infection. So when you bathe, try to avoid using soap directly on the nipples, since this will strip away the natural skin oils that keep the skin supple and hydrated.

Try some olive oil. If you notice that your nipples feel dry or chapped between feedings, smear on a bit of olive oil, some expressed breast milk, or an unscented, dye-free ointment that contains lanolin.

Massage the nipples with an ice cube. It's not a cure, but numbing the tender area will provide temporary relief from pain caused by breast-feeding.

Ice baby's gums. Babies will commonly gnaw on anything they can fit in their little mouths to help relieve the pain of teething. When your baby begins to cut teeth, therefore, don't be surprised if he or she tries to use your nipples as a teething aid. To help numb baby's gums and relieve some of the teething discomfort while defending your nipples, try refrigerating or freezing a clean, wet washcloth and allowing him or her to suck on it for a few minutes prior to nursing on each breast.

Take acetaminophen if you develop a fever. It is common for women who are nursing to develop a low-grade fever as high as 100.2 or 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Acetaminophen should help lower the fever and make you feel a little better, and it is generally recognized as safe for occasional use during breast-feeding. Still, to be on the safe side, check with your doctor before taking this or any medication while you are nursing. For a list of precautions to take before trying an over-the-counter fever-reducer, click here.

Or take ibuprofen, especially if you feel achy. There's no denying it: Breast-feeding is a workout, and like a tough session at the gym, some days it will leave you with aches and pains. On such occasions, ibuprofen may provide relief (it will also help lower fever). Again, however, it should be used only occasionally and only with your doctor's approval while you are breast-feeding.

The worst-case scenario for breast-feeding would be a breast infection. In the next section, we'll examine what causes infections of the breast and some home remedies for them.

For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Breast Infections

Cracked and bleeding nipples brought on by those first few days of breast-feeding can leave you vulnerable to infection of the breast, called mastitis. While it is rarely serious, mastitis can be quite painful and cannot be cured without the use of an antibiotic.

Signs that you may have mastitis include:

  • a reddened area on the fleshy part of the breast that is painful to the touch and ranges from the size of a quarter to the whole side of the breast
  • a fever of up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • general achiness
  • chills

The symptoms tend to come on rapidly, and you may experience only one or two of them or all of them at once.While you will need to see a doctor if you suspect you have mastitis or any other breast infection, there are a few home remedies you should try on your own as your infection is being treated: Relieve clogged milk ducts. Another problem that can cause breast discomfort is a clogged milk duct. It is characterized by a hard, uncomfortable lump in the fleshy part of the breast that can be very tender to the touch. It isn't usually accompanied by a fever. To relieve the pain of a clogged duct, pack the breast in heat before feedings, get the baby to nurse on the infected breast first, and massage the hard spot the whole time the baby is nursing to loosen up the milk and unclog the duct. A clogged duct usually resolves itself within 24 hours. If the pain and other symptoms of a clogged duct don't clear up in that time, contact your doctor. Milk that remains locked in a duct for more than a day raises the risk of infection, because the fluid may leak into the breast tissue, where it creates a moist environment for bacteria to reproduce.It's important to keep in mind that a pattern of problems can occur when a minor problem with breast-feeding is not addressed properly. This pattern often begins with sore nipples. Unless adjustments are made to the breast-feeding technique and other care taken to ease the discomfort, the nipple soreness may prompt the mother to limit breast-feeding, which in turn can lead to engorgement. Engorgement may promote clogged ducts that, if slow to resolve, can lead to breast infection. On the other hand, paying prompt attention to sore nipples and engorgement can often prevent the clogged ducts and infection from ever developing.Now that we have you breast-feeding like a natural, it's time to look at how to stop. Our final section will offer some home remedies on how to wean your baby off of the breast.

For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedies for Weaning Your Baby

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Some babies decide to wean themselves and one day  simply reject the breast for good.

Once you get through the initial discomfort of breast-feeding, nursing generally becomes easy and relatively painless, until, of course, that fateful day when you decide it is time to wean your baby off the breast. Weaning can be more than emotionally uncomfortable for you, it can also cause physical pain. That's because as you decrease feedings, it takes a little time for the body to catch on and produce less milk in response, so the engorgement of those early days often returns.

 

There is no consensus among doctors on the best way to wean a baby. Some recommend stopping all at once, while others advise mothers to adopt the more gradual approach. For Mom, it is a little more comfortable to do it slowly, but some babies decide to wean themselves and one day simply reject the breast for good.

If you choose to wean the baby gradually, start by eliminating one feeding every two days or so. Make the morning and evening feedings the last ones you drop, since most babies have an intense desire to nurse at these times. It is also important to never drop two feedings in a row. In other words, if you typically breast-feed your baby twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and twice in the evening, avoid dropping one morning feeding one day and another morning feeding two days later. Instead, try dropping one morning feeding, then an afternoon feeding, then an evening feeding.

As far as the pain of engorgement that can result, there are a few things you can do. Applying gentle pressure to the glands can limit the amount of milk they hold, so try wrapping an elastic bandage or towel around your chest. You can also reduce engorgement and swelling with ice packs, which will decrease circulation in the breasts. And with your doctor's approval, you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the pain of engorgement. For a list of precautions to take when trying an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, click here.

Finally, try to avoid any extra stimulation to your breasts, which will cause them to produce more milk, which is the last thing you want during weaning.

Breast-feeding can be one of the strongest emotional bonds between a mother and a child. With some planning and the home remedies in this article, that experience can be relatively free of pain and stress.

For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.