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Common treatments for pain during breast feeding.

Posted Jan 07 2013 12:00am


There are many advantages to breast feeding over bottle feeding. However, as a nurse, I often see moms choosing to wean their babies off the breast and onto the bottle earlier than desired, due to breast pain and tenderness. In fact, up to 90% of mothers find themselves suffering from pain during breast feeding.
The causes of nipple dermatitis while breast feeding are numerous. They include irritation secondary to infant position, plugged lactiferous ducts, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, yeast infection, bacterial infection, herpes simplex virus and Raynaud’s phenomenon of the nipple (vasospasm).
Fortunately, there are many treatments for nipple dermatitis and nipple pain so that moms can keep on breastfeeding.
•        Continue breastfeeding: Although it is painful to breastfeed with tender breasts, to relieve pain in the long term, continuing breast feeding is often recommended. A secondary choice is to use a breast pump if the infant feeding at the breast becomes too painful. However, mothers are encouraged to return to breast feeding from the pumps as soon as they can tolerate it. •        Treat pain: To treat the tenderness of the breast and nipple hydrogel pads are often used. They are applied to the nipple post-breast feeding. Although re-useable these pads should be replaced every three days and cleaned routinely after use.  (Hint: put these pads in the refrigerator before use for added relief). •        Assess the latch of the infant: As nipple dermatitis can be caused by mechanical irritation, sometimes the infant's latch needs to be evaluated to ensure that the proper position, depth and technique of the latch are achieved. Consult with a lactation nurse if you need extra assistance evaluating your infant’s latch. •        Check your ducts: To prevent and treat plugged lactiferous ducts it is recommended that women avoid tight fitting bras, breast feed regularly and massage their breasts in the direction of the nipple before and during breastfeeding.  •        Eczema: Eczema is treated by using a low strength cortisone ointment. You should always check with your pharmacist/physician to see is the use of this product indicated and how to use it during breast feeding. •        Infection: Gentian violet is a common treatment for bacteria and yeast infections. You should also check this product with your pharmacist/physician prior commencement. •        Chronic breast pain: sometimes no diagnosis can be found for breast pain; therefore the management of this condition presents a challenge. Women who suffer from chronic undiagnosed breast pain while breast feeding  are encouraged to avoid cold temperatures (as not to irritate the nipples further) , use methods to keep the breast warm (before and during breastfeeding) and avoid vasoconstrictive drugs. If you are concerned that you may have nipple dermatitis, don't discontinue breastfeeding before consulting with a lactation nurse or physician.  Also, don’t be discouraged. You have already made a great decision by choosing to breast feed. With the proper care and treatment your breast pain can be resolved, allowing you to continue providing breast milk for your baby for many months to come.
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