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Life after birth : Problems when breastfeeding

Leaking breasts

It is common for breasts to leak between feeds in the early weeks of breastfeeding. It tends to settle or diminish as a 'supply and demand' pattern is set. Your breasts may also leak while feeding.

  • Use breast pads and wear them inside your bra to absorb any leaks

  • Change breast pads often

  • You can also use breast shells to catch the milk, if your breasts are leaking a lot. Remember to sterilise the shells before use.

Sore and cracked nipples

  • Use a specialist and moisturising nipple cream.
  • It is usual for nipples to be sore, cracked and tender in the first few days as they have not toughened up enough yet. If your baby is not latching on properly, she may be chewing your nipples and damaging the soft tissue, hence making them sore and painful.

  • Keep your nipples clean and dry.

  • Avoid using soap on your nipples as it may dry them further

  • Try to get some air to your nipples. Sleep without anything on top at night (keep a towel underneath if you are leaking).Try using breast shells to help circulate air around the nipples

  • Help your baby to latch on correctly. Your health visitor may be able to help If feeding is very painful, try expressing from that breast for a day

  • Use a breast shield if feeding is painful. With a shield, the baby sucks through the shield rather than the nipple directly

  • Squeeze out a little milk; rub it on your nipples and allow it to dry naturally. This will help as breastmilk contains natural antiseptics


When the milk 'comes in', usually on the fourth day of breastfeeding when colostrum is replaced by mature breast milk, you may find that your breasts become hard, swollen, sore and uncomfortable. This is called engorgement and is caused by excess milk in your breasts. You may feel feverish and weepy.

To ease the discomfort:

  • Place a warm flannel over your breasts for several minutes before a feed to soften your breasts.

  • Massage your breasts gently and try expressing a little milk to ease the pain.

  • Your sucking baby is the perfect solution to the pain, so try and feed the baby.

  • Use breast soother for warm or cold relief.

Blocked duct

Sometimes you may find a hard, tender, red lump in the breast. This means that one of the milk ducts is blocked. You can try and clear the duct by:

  • massaging the lump gently

  • bathing the breast in warm water

  • putting your baby to the affected breast (it might be painful) and massaging the lump while feeding

If any of the above don't help, you must see the doctor as it could be a case of mastitis.


Sometimes, when a milk duct is blocked, it may get infected with bacteria (which enter the milk ducts through the nipple) and result in mastitis. You may have flu-like symptoms.

Urgent medical help is required if you have mastitis because if left untreated, it may lead to a breast abscess.

The doctor will prescribe antibiotics and it is important to finish the course. Continue feeding from the infected breast. You may want to use breast shields to help with the pain while feeding. Another alternative is to express the milk so that the breasts are emptied completely.

Breast abscess

If mastitis is left untreated, you may develop high temperature, nausea and dizziness. Also, the lump in your breast will become hot and firm. This condition is called a breast abscess and you will need to go to the hospital to get the lump drained.

Food for thought...

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