I’m a breastfeeding newbie and really struggling. My LO is almost 3 weeks old, and our BF journey started rocky right away. He had a tongue tie and upper lip tie that were fixed by day 3, but in the meantime he was cluster feeding and my nipples became black and blue, split, and bleeding.
Day 3 night at home was a nightmare, and the lactation consultant recommended I pump exclusively on day 4, supplement with formula when needed, and do saline baths on my nipples for 24 hours to help things heal (LO had no dirty diapers in 13 hours, so she was worried my nipples were so damaged they weren’t giving LO anything). It worked and we were back to nursing by day 5, but I’ve been struggling with what I thought was low supply ever since. LO will nurse for 1-2 hours and STILL gulp down an entire 2 oz bottle of either pumped milk or formula immediately after.
Last night, my left breast became so swollen and painful and rock hard on the top that I can barely take it. It’s excruciating. LO is trying to nurse but is really frustrated on that side, and when I hand express, milk only comes out of a single pore on the bottom, nothing else. Is this a clogged duct or engorgement? It’s the entire top of the breast, not a lump, and only my left breast. Right is normal and comfortable to nurse. Pumping is yielding next to nothing, but I used to get 1.5-2 oz from the left. I’ve tried hand expressing, massage, nursing, pumping, cold compress, warm compress...I’m in so much pain! Help!
nectarine / 2461 posts
@foodiebee: this sounds so difficult but want to cheer you in for keeping at it It sounds like one or more clogged ducts to me. Do you have a hand pump, by any chance? Sometimes people say those work better for resolving. I’m sure others will weigh in with good advice on this but I thought of this Lucies list article whereshe talks about it, she apparently got them a lot. Hopefully this link works:
The other thing that saved me for pain was after the salt water nip bath (sea salt and HOT water in a shot glass)—cover your nipples in lanolin. My favorite brand of lanolin is the one by Medela, but use real lanolin, not that earth mama angel baby butter bullshit. Use a ton, like you are frosting a cupcake. This saved my relationship with breastfeeding. I did it like 10-12x a day. It was pretty much all I did for a couple weeks. But then I came out the other side and it was fine.
And IMO if you need to supplement, don’t feel bad! Breast isn’t best, fed is best. I supplemented with my first baby in the beginning, did a couple months ebf, went back to supplementing at 3 months, and continued to breast feed and pump until he turned 1. Any combination that works for you and keeps you sane is fine. You’re doing great even though it’s toe-curling miserable pain it’ll get better.
apricot / 410 posts
Oh I’m sorry you’re going through this! If milk isn’t flowing out, that sounds like clogged ducts to me too. I struggled a ton with them, and they can be so awful. It probably won’t help immediately in the moment, but taking sunflower or soy lecithin was a lifesaver for me in keeping clogged ducts at bay or helping me clear them more quickly when they came on. I took a “maintenance” dose daily, and upped it when I had a clog. I also found that heat and hand expressing helped most. Here are a few things that usually worked in combination:
-filling a bowl with warm/hot water and dangling the affected breast into it for a while, then hand expressing while still leaning over. Gravity seemed to help.
-in the shower, running the water over the affected area while hand expressing
-holding a heating pad over the affected area while massaging it (which hurt, but often helped) while expressing
I hope you start to feel better soon!
grapefruit / 4466 posts
Sounds like a clogged duct. I was very prone to them and hated them with a passion. It is important to get the clog worked out as quickly as you can, as otherwise it can lead to mastitis (not trying to scare you, just a heads up because mastitis sucks).
Here are a few things I learned:
1) People will recommend sunflower lecithin. Try it, it may help you. I unfortunately had a bad GI reaction to it - later learned a couple of other bees had as well - but it took me awhile to realize that was the culprit and so I spent a couple of weeks with horrible stomach pain. After that, I used soy lecithin instead - which is very similar - and only when I had a clog (rather than as a daily preventative), and it was fine. So definitely try it to help get the clogs out, but just be aware that can be a side effect.
2) Heat will help. You may want to even sleep with a heating pad for the first couple of hours at night. Put heat on it before trying to work it out.
3) Hand express like crazy in a hot shower. I know it's so, so painful, ugh, but I realized with time that the best bet was to be really aggressive with hand expressing. And keep persisting at it until milk was shooting out everywhere.
4) In addition to a clogged duct, it could be a clogged pore on your nipple that's gotten gunked up with milk. Dissolve some Epsom salt on a hot washcloth, stick in in your bra for a few minutes, and then gently exfoliate. If it's a clogged pore, this should help.
5) I never found vibrating an electric toothbrush on the clog to be that helpful, but some people have luck using this approach to break it up.
6) Often the only thing that worked was dangle nursing repeatedly. That is when you lay the baby on their back, get on all fours on top of them, and shove the breast in their mouth from that angle. I hated it, but gravity really does help.
7) For me, pumping just made it worse. I needed my LO to get it out. He did not like taking the breast with the clog because not much was coming out, but I had to be persistent, as I needed him to get it out so I wouldn't get mastitis!
8) Clogs are caused by your breast not being fully emptied after each feed. I was getting horrible ones nearly daily until we fixed my LO's tongue tie at 11 weeks. After that it got a lot better, but I still got them periodically, as I think he was never super great at emptying my breasts. Probably your LO has not yet learned how to effectively use the new range of motion in her tongue, and it should get better with time. Also definitely schedule a follow up with the IBCLC because the tongue tie won't always be fully corrected on the first go (most likely it's fixed now, but better safe than sorry).
9) The only pump that was not a disaster for me with clogs is the Spectra. I learned from the IBCLC that this is very common, and most women who have issues with clogs respond better to the spectra. Switching to it from a Medala one was also a game changer. Not something you need to worry about after one clog, but just a heads up in case its relevant later....
I'm sorry it is so difficult and painful. I really struggled for the first few months, but am still breastfeeding my 17 month old and now love, love, love it - the snuggles are the best. And haven't had a clog since around 12 months when we moved to just feeding at wakeup and bedtime Definitely don't mean to suggest that it's always best to push through and breastfeed for an extended period, but just to say that a rough start does not mean it will stay that way....
cherry / 109 posts
I'm so sorry you are going though this. I has a similar, awful nursing experience too. I had a cracked nipple that my daughter opened every 4 hours for weeks as she was essentially biting me with a lip and tongue tie. I stopped nursing that nipple at 6 weeks and just pumped it till it healed. Pumping turned out to be far less stressful for me so I EPed for 6 months. I wish I had given myself a break sooner. My daughter was fine maybe even better on formula. I was already suffering from post partum anxiety so I'm sure my terrible time nursing added to my experience. It was actually so bad that it is one of the main reasons we are one and done. I don't want to go back to that place. The first time we gave my daughter formula at 6 weeks, I cried in my room alone while my husband fed my daughter "the poison". I needed that formula feed so I could get ahead in pumping. Before that I was pumping 20 minutes before I thought she would be hungry to have the next feed reading. It was beyond stressful. Please do what you need to do to keep your sanity and health as well
I'm not convinced that it is breatmilk that makes for a healthier child but rather the connection that someone who is more likely to breast feed is more educated and therefor is more likely to have access to better health care and resources.
The fact that you are still committed to breastfeeding shows that you will do whatever you need to for the health and development of your child and that makes you a great mom!
I remember feeling so terrible that I didn't enjoy breast feeding, it didn't feel natural, and I actually hated it. I had a love hate relationship with pumping because it allowed me to continue to breast feed but also hated being hooked to a machine every 4 hours which eventually stretched to 6.
You are dong a great job!
persimmon / 1111 posts
It's a clogged duct. Resolve it now before it turns into mastitis. What I did is hop in a really hot shower and roughly massage it. Think a 13 year old getting to cop a feel for the first time. Then get a haaka pump and suction it on as you nurse on the good side. Then switch to the bad side and massage it while he nurses. Every 10 minutes really massage the bad side until milk comes out. My electric pump was worthless, but the haaka was great.
If you don't get it resolved today, the threat of mastitis is bad enough that one of the single best ways to resolve it is to have your partner suck on it. That grossed me out, but I was tandem feeding my 2 year old and he was able to resolve the clogs way better than my newborn.
Mastitis is seriously the worst thing ever, so if your breast starts getting red and streaky or you get a fever, call your OB/MW right away.
And you're doing great, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. By 6 weeks it gets so much easier. That may seem like an eternity right now, but the hardest part is behind you.
nectarine / 2433 posts
I'm so sorry, this sounds truly awful!!
I also heard a good way to get rid of a clogged duct is to put conditioner on a wide-tooth comb and kind of brush it out. That helped. I got mastitis three times and it really wasn't that bad, I didn't need meds or anything, just some rest and ibuprofen helped a lot.
kiwi / 662 posts
Thank you for all the responses!! I’ve been doing all of these tips all day and I’ve seen great improvement, but I haven’t gotten it to go away completely. How long do you have before it turns into mastitis? LO is clearly not talented yet at feeding and I’m equally as bad at hand expressing (but trying to learn super fast!).
grapefruit / 4466 posts
@foodiebee: I don't think there's any set time, just increases the risk that bacteria that enters through the nipple can get infected if milk is pooling there, doesn't necessarily mean it will. Often it took me a day to get it fully out, so completely normal. I also sometimes found that the area could stay a bit swollen for a day or so after getting it out, so it would still feel a bit lumpy. Ugh, really hope it feels better soon, seriously one of the things I enjoyed least about my son's first year....
kiwi / 662 posts
I think it’s gone!!!! Don’t want to jinx myself, but I spent 10 minutes massaging with all my might (seriously, could not press harder on it physically, OUCH) and now nursing, and it finally feels soft! Thank goodness bc I really didn’t want to have to ask DH to help Thank you thank you thank you, everyone!!
PS @LCTBQE: @Elizabear: thank you for your comments re: supplementing/mental health with BFing. I am also in the fed is best camp, but it’s surprised me how much I have had to work through emotionally with supplementing, even believing fed is truly best. I plan to keep trying to contribute breast milk if I can to LO’s diet, but today has been a wake up call for my emotional state too.
Also, whew but doing that all-fours-gravity feeding was difficult 2+ weeks postpartum with a 3+ tear!!
nectarine / 2461 posts
@foodiebee: yayyyy so glad to hear this! Good for you for muscling through it I understand completely about how it can be emotionally painful to supplement—actually just weaned my 10-month-old last week for a number of very good reasons, and I’m such a cheerleader for Fed is best—but I’m still so sad about it. There is something very satisfying about providing that breast milk and keeping up the breastfeeding relationship, I guess it’s the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution butting in !
@periwinklebee: omg this is an amazing summary
@Pollywog: you crack me up
grapefruit / 4466 posts
@foodiebee: That's awesome! TMI maybe, but once I asked my DH to help because I was really desperate, and it did absolutely nothing. He was like, "I'm trying as hard as I can", but somehow was not even getting any suction. Probably because he was completely grossed out by the prospect
Also, supplementing was the best thing for our bf relationship. I've supplemented since 2 months, and it would have been better for everyone if I'd done it sooner. Even now, LO gets a cup of cow's milk at bedtime in addition to bf (my supply is pathetic). Like, I made my life really difficult by not doing it initially, and then everything was so much easier with absolutely zero negative consequences.
@LCTBQE: Clogged ducts were the absolute bane of my existence. Like when I think back to what sucked about the newborn days, for me it's clogged ducts. And dangle nursing