Many women find that their nipples not only feel sore after every feeding, they are red and pointy instead of round and smooth – all indications that her baby is not ‘latched on‘ properly. The “latch” is the way a baby connects to the mother’s breast. Even when a baby is latched on correctly, the new mother may develop a sore or tender spot in her breast, or even a painful lump. This commonly results from a plugged milk duct, or the beginning of an infection known as mastitis. So if there is pain and tenderness along with fever, chances are that she might have a breast infection. So it is important that the nipples are kept soft and supple by applying lanolin based cream on the nipples. Continuing to feed on that breast is important because breastfeeding helps open the milk ducts. Yeast infection or thrush can also develop even after successful nursing. It is an uncomfortable condition on the surface of the breast skin. This infection will likely affect both the mother and her baby.
During lactation it is not unusual for the breasts to be “lumpy”. The milk ducts fill and empty many times each day. Most of the time, if not caused by a blockage, lumps in a nursing mother’ s breasts are galactoceles or benign milk- retention cysts or by inflammation due to plugged ducts or mastitis.
A plugged duct is a sore, tender lump in the breast. Clogged, blocked, or plugged ducts result when the milk ducts do not drain effectively. Plugged ducts can result in a breast infection, but in most cases, just come and go without causing any medical problems. If the breast is inflamed, hard, and tender, it is sometimes referred to as a “caked breast” and occurs in one breast at a time. The treatment is essentially the same: rest, apply heat, breastfeed often on the affected side, and use antibiotics only when medically necessary.
Nipple discharge, or colostrum, is a normal part of pregnancy and motherhood. Colostrum is a form of milk that is secreted from a mother’s nipples. It provides the first nutrients to the baby outside the womb, until her breasts begin making milk a few days after birth. Many women experience colostrum leakage throughout pregnancy, and even after giving birth.
Early in pregnancy, colostrum is thick and yellowish in colour and turns almost colourless as childbirth approaches. Colostrum is rich in proteins, Vitamin A, and contains lower amounts of carbohydrate than normal milk. Colostrum also contains antibodies which a mother passes on to the baby. This protects the baby from various bacterial and viral illnesses.
Within two to four days of childbirth the mother stops producing colostrum and begin to produce transitional milk. About two weeks after that she will begin to produce the mature milk that will nourish her baby. Breastfeeding should begin within the first hour of the baby’s life, when suckling instinct is the strongest. The baby’s first feeding is an educational experience for both the mother and her baby.