Most women who breast feed their baby experience no problems. In some cases complications can occur. Cracked nipples can be very painful and is typically caused by the baby not getting enough of the nipple in the mouth. Engorgement is the backing up of the breast milk so that the breast becomes tense and sore. Mastitis is an infection in the breast tissue in the lactating breast. An abscess is a severe infection that may require surgical drainage.
Cracked nipples are usually caused by the baby being in a poor position while breast feeding. When the baby does not get enough of the nipple and breast tissue in its mouth the nipple can be traumatize and become cracked. The treatment is to try to prevent the condition in the first place by being sure the baby has as much breast tissue in the mouth as possible. There are creams that can help as well. Lanolin cream is usually the most effective. This can be purchased without a prescription. Lanolin cream is placed on nipple after breast feeding. It can be very soothing and help promote healing of the cracked nipples. Sometimes cracked nipples can be caused by a yeast infection. If this is the case antifungal creams or oral antifungal medications may be necessary.
Engorgement can occur when the breast produces more milk than what is expressed. This causes the breast to become tense and painful. The treatment for engorgement depends on whether the mother desires to continue to breast feed. In women that are still breastfeeding the treatment is to feed more or to pump if necessary. Warm compresses can be placed on the breasts prior to breastfeeding or pumping to help the flow. If the goal is to stop breast feeding then avoiding all breast stimulation will usually relieve the engorgement. Ware a tight sports bra and avoid any breast stimulation. The idea is to be very clear to the body that no m,ore milk is needed. If the breasts are manipulated or stimulated this may get misinterpreted by the brain as a call for more milk which can make the engorgement worse. Raw cabbage leaves placed against the breasts under the bra and changed every one to two hours can help dry up the milk supply and relieve engorgement. This is only in the case where the women does not plan to continue to breast feed.
Mastitis is an infection in the breast tissue in breasts that are producing milk. It typically happens if an engorgement is not relieved. The symptoms of mastitis are similar to engorgement with the addition of redness in the skin and warmth to the touch. Mastitis is very painful and cause cause a fever in the mother as well. It is still safe to breast feed or pump and it is important to try to keep the breast milk flowing. Antibiotics are an important part of the treatment of mastitis and need to be started as soon as possible. Most of the time mastitis goes away quickly witha combination of antibiotics and breast feeding or pumping. If mastitis is not treated promptly an abscess can develop.
A breast abces is a serious infection that occurs in one area of the breast. It will be hot to the touch, red, and very painful. These often require drainage and antibiotics. Sometimes the drainage of a breast abscess can be done in the office. If the abscess is severe, surgical drainage in the operating room can be necessary.