Breastfeeding and breast pain

This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions. The editor of the blog is Dr Cristina Romete.

Breastfeeding can at times be quite uncomfortable for some women, especially at the start but when breast feeding is constantly uncomfortable, or suddenly becomes very painful, it is important to see someone about it.

At ROC private clinic our GPs can help to work out what the cause of pain is and discuss the best ways of treating it, whether that be a breast infection requiring antibiotics, tongue tie in your newborn that requires referral for release or a problem with latching your little one on that could do with referral on to a lactation consultant.

There are a number of potential causes of breast pain. Here is a rundown of the more common ones:

Engorgement

This refers to the breasts being very full of milk and is often experienced in the first few days after birth when milk begins to come in. Pain is often in both breasts and usually comes on just before the next feed is due, when the breasts are at their fullest.

Engorgement will often settle after those first few days once the milk supply adjusts but some of the best ways to manage it include:

  • A well fitting bra that isn’t too tight
  • Hot/cold packs to ease the discomfort
  • Simple analgesia
  • Breast massage
  • Expressing milk

If the discomfort is high or doesn’t seem to be improving, it is incredibly important to see a lactation consultant and check that the baby’s latch is as good as possible.

Blocked ducts

Ducts can become blocked by milk and this leads to a very painful breast, with localised tenderness and occasionally a visible bleb on the nipple.

Blocked ducts can then turn into galactoceles (smooth painless breast swellings that when pressed will result in milky discharge coming out of the nipple).

Treatment for blocked ducts includes:

  • Massaging the breast gently with a firm massage towards the nipple to try and unblock the duct
  • Continuing to feeding from that breast frequently
  • Warm showers and baths can be very helpful and if there is a bleb on the end of the nipple it can be gently encouraged off with a flannel when bathing
  • If your GP is concerned about a galactocele, they will often refer you to a breast specialist to confirm the diagnosis

Mastitis

Mastitis should be suspected in women presenting with:

  • A painful breast
  • Fever and/or generally feeling unwell
  • A tender, red, swollen and hard area of the breast

Many have heard of mastitis but what most don’t realise is that mastitis can be infectious or non-infectious.

It is difficult to distinguish between the two yourself and so everyone with symptoms of mastitis should see a doctor.

A doctor will take a history and examine the breasts, then make a diagnosis and put together a plan on how to best treat this incredibly painful condition.

Non-infectious mastitis

Mastitis that is not caused by an infectious organism is usually expected to settle within 12 to 24 hours and is treated much the same way as the conditions described earlier by encouraging the baby to continue feeding from that breast, warm/cold compresses and simple analgesia.

Infectious mastitis

This condition requires antibiotics and if left untreated can lead on to a breast abscess and/or sepsis. Therefore unless a medical professional has examined and confidently ruled out infectious mastitis, it is always best to seek medical advice if mastitis is a possibility.

At ROC clinic our doctors have plenty of experience treating breastfeeding women. Dr Claudia Carmaciu at the London branch has a special interest in women’s postnatal health and has a lot of experience helping and treating nursing mothers.

If you have any postnatal concerns or would like to discuss breastfeeding or breast pain further, call or e-mail us to book an appointment.

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