Low Milk Supply Breastfeeding
The number one cause of low milk supply breastfeeding is disruption in breastfeeding. For example, when the pain caused by sore/cracked nipples aggravates while breastfeeding, that in turn forces yourself to do, say a four-hour routine, instead of breastfeeding on demand; this will become a disruption in natural breastfeeding.
Another cause of low milk supply could be hormonal imbalance (e.g. hypothyroidism).
Other causes include breast surgery, medication and losing a huge amount of blood while in labor.
Another interesting fact is that low milk supply can be attributed to the baby’s sleepiness. If the mother is unable to feed at night because the baby is very sleepy, the level of prolactin (the hormone that alerts the breasts to produce milk) production slows down. Apparently, prolactin is more active at night than the day. Hence, feeding at night gives a signal to continuously make milk.
We talked about ways to ensure healthy and balanced milk supply for breastfeeding here.
Sore and Cracked Nipples
Bear in mind that a few days of breastfeeding will naturally bring about sore nipples. What if the pain exists for a couple of weeks from the first time you have breastfed? What causes sore nipples anyway?
First is difficulty latching on and this is the most common cause of sore nipples. If it hurts, just start with the whole latch on process again. Also, if you intend to repeat the latch on process, do not just pull your nipple out; instead, insert your finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth just above the tongue. Start teasing the infant’s lip soon after.
Second, aside from being sore, if the nipple starts to crack or bleed because of irritants like soap or washing detergent left on clothes, you may:
- Apply lanolin ointment to the affected area;
- Wet the affected area with a few drops of breast milk since it contains substances that aids in healing and rounds infection too;
- Wash the affected area only with warm water;
- Consult a doctor if you are still uneasy despite all the healing methods are tried.
Sore or cracked nipples will not affect the baby. Even a little blood in the milk will not even affect the child. If you can bear the pain then you may definitely go ahead with breastfeeding. Otherwise, you may extract milk and have it stored in a bottle for your baby until you fully recover and can go on with breastfeeding.
Sore nipples may also indicate thrush. It is a fungal infection that develops in warm, sugary and moist places like the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding.
Most probably, you know that it is a thrush symptom when there is a burning sensation in the breasts. The nipples are itchy that even donning a loose top can become uncomfortable. Nipples become reddish and shiny and become too sensitive to touch.
The tricky part here is that, some moms may not even notice the symptoms of thrush. Thus, if the baby starts to develop white patches that look like cottage cheese or milk curd on the roof of the mouth, tongue and gums, which cannot be wipe away easily, chances are the child may have been affected by the fungal infection. Thrush can also cause diaper rash since the infection passes through the digestive system, excretes it through the feces which gets into contact with the skin protected by the diaper.
In this case, it is best to see a doctor. At home, wash and sterilize all the toys your baby puts in the mouth, kill the fungus in your and your child’s clothes by washing them at 60ºC, wash hands often and you may integrate probiotics to your diet (example of foods with probiotics are miso, kimchi, pickled vegetables and yoghurt) to subdue thrush.
The breasts have a very high milk-supply, so much so that they become hard and difficult to latch on to. The solution to this is simple: feeding on demand. It means feed whenever the baby wants, for as long as the baby wants. This keeps the milk supply on a balanced level.
What if after feeding the baby, your breasts still feel uneasily engorged?
You can definitely express your milk. The term expressing (in breastfeeding) means to take milk from the breast without the baby sucking for it. Expressing milk can be done either by hand, a manual pump or an electric pump.
An interesting tip to ease the pain of engorged breasts: place fresh cabbage leaves (preferably chilled from the fridge) in between your bra.
Stimulate your nipples – do they retract or protrude? If they retract then there will be a bit of a challenge in breastfeeding.
Fret not though. All it takes is to express some milk by the use of your hands or with a pump until you can draw the nipple out. This may seem a bit time consuming but remember that practice makes perfect.
Once you have become more experienced in breastfeeding, you will be able to get the correct timing to have your nipples protruding and ready for feeding.
When milk is not drained completely, the ducts (tubes that carry milk from the tissues to the breasts) get clogged leaving a hard lump on the breast plus soreness and redness. A bleb (a spot about 1mm in diameter and is colored white) is also formed by those fragments of fatty material from the milk.
Blocked ducts can be caused by long stretches of non-expression of milk, a bra that is too tight and even stress.
To get rid of blocked ducts caused by bleb, gently rub it with warm, clean, damp flannel after taking a shower. Give the affected breast to the baby to make sure it is completely drained. See to it that the feeding gap is well balanced (if you cannot feed on demand) and that the baby is latched on properly every breastfeeding session.
This is mostly caused when the breast makes milk faster than it is dispensed (milk stasis). The “progression” is from breast engorgement to milk stasis to mastitis wherein the mother will now experience chills, headache, exhaustion and fever. Aside from the causes mentioned, you can get mastitis from clothing (e.g. tight bra), breast injury or by simply the infant favoring one breast over the other.
As a solution, continue to feed the child on the affected breast, as mastitis becomes worse if you seize doing so. Expressing milk, feeding on demand and proper latch on are integral components in getting rid of mastitis. Gently massaging the breasts while feeding help circulate the flow of milk too.
I hope you enjoy this little post and feel free to chime in with a comment. Let me know if you have any personal review or experience, or if you have any questions about the post. 🙂
Have fun breastfeeding and if you like this post, do share it with your family and friends. After all, sharing can always accelerate and make the learning curve easier for new or expecting mothers!