If you’re new to the breastfeeding scene, or even if this isn’t your first milky rodeo, breastfeeding, alongside its many wonderful nourishing and bonding elements, can be bloody hard and sometimes painful.
And I’m not just talking about the times when your nipples are SCREAMING from being pulled and bitten and sucked and chapped.
I’m talking about the ouch that comes along when the milk that you produce that is meant to literally give life to your fresh little bub does horrendous things to your not-so-fun-right-now bags.
Ask any woman who has breastfed before about clogged ducts and the dreaded MASTITIS.
You will get a resounding IT SUUUUUUUUUCKS.
I myself had some issues with engorgement when my little guy decided it’d be fun to start sleeping long stretches through the night which led to clogged ducts. Thankfully, I never had mastitis but boy have I heard some war stories from other women.
So what were my issues with breastfeeding you ask?
She's not having a great time.
My nipples are small, well I’d say at least smaller than your average nip even with the postpartum plump that seems to happen to your norks. My kids never really had much to latch onto poor bubbas and I always had to like maneuver a hand in place to kind of hold my boob in place when they latched because my nipple just popped out so easily and they could never get a good grip on it. What a curse to have big boobs that don’t work properly.
To add to that I just never made enough milk. The HOURS I would spend pumping to get not even 20mL (and that was from both breasts). And yes I drank the water, I ate the lactation cookies, I had the lactation drinks. I kept at it, I persisted. However both my babies always needed formula top ups and when they realised it was easier to drink from a bottle rather than suck and fight for just a little bit of milk from me they both stopped trying to feed from me and went to the bottle. I lasted about 3 months of struggle, agony and heartache breastfeeding both of them before I had to surrender to the bottle. And you know what? That’s totally ok. That was my journey.
Anyway that’s just my little overshare to give you a bit of background into my relationship with breastfeeding.
And a little side-bar, my LADY LORD the envy I would feel when I would see my friends that just got breastfeeding so easily. No problems with their nipples, ample supply, a baby that latched easily… ooft hats off to you ladies!
But let’s talk get back to what we are here for.
I vividly recall waking up in the wee hours one morning and my left boob was rock hard and SO painful. My son had decided to sleep through a feed and good ol' lefty had decided it actually wanted to produce milk, but it had nowhere to go. So there I was, sore, engorged and had pain every time I touched the boulder that had lodged itself to the left side of my breast above my nipple. I quickly visited Dr Google and saw that I needed to gently massage it out and that a hot compress might work.
One of the perks of owning The Maternity Market is that I have a lot of products on hand, so I was unwrapping one of our Hot/Cold compresses from Molly & Frankie in the blink of an overtired eye. Relief? Yes. Did I still need to like massage it out and feed through the pain? Also yes.
Did you know that engorgement, clogged ducts and mastitis effects around 20% of women? I would anecdotally say that could potentially be even higher just from conversations I’ve had with my friends and family.
What a milky bummer.
Here’s a little quick reference for what they are*:
Engorgement: This happens when milk isn’t fully removed from your breast. It can hit you at any time but is most likely to happen when you’re transitioning from colostrum to mature milk, so early in your breastfeeding journey. It can lead to your boobs feeling hard, painful and swollen. Oh and how lovely, it can also effect milk flow and attachment. Going bra-free before feeding, cold compress for relief and hot compress for prevention, hand expressing and gentle massage can help!
Clogged ducts: This feels like a tender, sore lump or knot in the breast, caused again when a milk duct doesn’t drain properly. This pressure causes the tissue around it to get angry. Massaging and heat can help here. Clogged ducts and mastitis go hand in hand so please keep on top of your symptoms here.
Mastitis: Is where inflammation f*cks you up and causes an infection in your breast. It can not only lead to the symptoms above but can make you feel flu-ey… fever/chills, a racing heart and achey. The right latch from bubs is key to avoiding the big M to make sure your milk is getting out. Early treatment to prevent and reduce inflammation is key but this is the big one where you probably go need to see your GP.
So what do you do if you, like me, start developing pain in your boobs, hard spots or some other symptoms related to breastfeeding?
First of all, take care of your boobs! Boobs rule!
Rest, hydrate, eat, have a feeding schedule, work on your attachment with your little one and stay on top of symptoms! Massage when you need to and use a heat/cold pack as needed. Give your gals the care they deserve.
I want to also mention that classic old wives tale of putting cabbage leaves on your boobs to help reduce inflammation and cool breast/s. But if you don’t have a woollies close by or really don’t want to be bumping into anyone you know in the fresh produce aisle we have something we think is better than a cabbage leaf.
Say hello to the Breasticle. With the ability to both heat and cool the Breasticle is just another option for you to consider when you’re trying to find relief. She has a jazzy shape that allows you to manoeuvre it into just the right place. You can heat her in the microwave or pop her in the fridge or freezer to provide the hot or cold therapy that works for you. She also comes with a soft 100% cotton cover. She’s a cool pack to provide relief and a hot pack to help prevent the dreaded cloggy, engorgy, nasty-masty nightmares that can come with breastfeeding. We love her.
MOST importantly, if you’re having real pain and trouble that can’t be soothed and solved and if you develop a fever PLEASE go see your doctor, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed because there’s bloody nothing to be ashamed of. And in some cases of mastitis you will require antibiotics so it’s best to talk to the professionals.
There is so much that can happen to your body when breastfeeding. On top of what I’ve gasbagged on above there's also this prevailing pressure and judgement that makes women feel like they can't talk about their struggles. And if you find you’re really struggling like I was, I personally am of the opinion that “fed is best”.
You do what is right for you and your little one darl, and you do that unapologetically. You’re doing the best you can and that’s all your baby needs.
* For more information and resources visit The Australian Breastfeeding Association.