Dear Kathleen- on nipple damage healing and pumping

We receive hundreds of emails and messages daily from Leakies looking for help and information in their breastfeeding journey.  As so many seek support from us, we are so honored to have the support of Kathleen Huggins, IBCLC and author of The Nursing Mothers’ Companion.  Kathleen is jumping on board with The Leaky Boob to have a regular article answering Leaky questions every month.  The questions will be selected from the huge pool we get in every day to try and help cover the wide range of topics about which Leakies are asking.  These questions are from real moms and represent hundreds of requests for more information in the past few weeks.  Please understand that this is simply the professional opinion of one International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in an informal setting and is not intended to replace the care of a health care provider.  Kathleen is offering support and information, not diagnosing or prescribing treatment.  For your health and safety, please seek the care of a qualified physician and/or IBCLC.  Kathleen does have limited availability for phone or online consultations, see her website for more information.

Dear Kathleen,

My nipples are a wreck following a shallow latch and then thrush with my 8 week old.  After working with an IBCLC that helped fix my daughter’s latch and take care of the thrush, things are improving.  However, my nipples are still cracked and bleeding and I think they just need a break to heal.  The IBCLC I work with suggested I just pump for a little bit until I’m healed and I’m ok with that.  I feel like I’m a bit lacking in the pumping department though and only got 4 ounces the first time I tried with a hospital grade double electric pump and my daughter downed that pretty quickly.  How often should I be pumping to keep up my supply?  How long should I expect healing to take?  How do I pick a bottle that won’t encourage my daughter to prefer the bottle over me?

Thank you so much for your help!

Sore Nipples 

 

Hello Sore Nipples!  I am so sorry to hear that you are still struggling at this point in time! Sounds like you have been through a rough go.  Yes, you and your L.C. are on the right track.  A break from any more trauma is certainly in order.  I am happy to hear that you have a clinical grade pump.  I do hope you have the right size flanges for more comfortable pumpings and for removing the most amount of milk possible.  If your nipples are swelling very much in the tunnel, I would suggest getting the next size flange for more comfortable and effective pumping. Another product, “Pumping Pals”, slipped into any flange, makes pumping even more comfortable and for some moms even more efficient.  You might want to visit their website to see what I mean.  The company is very helpful in getting you the right size flanges to use in your kit and they are fairly inexpensive. With that being said, still many pumps still leave quite a bit of milk on the breast.  For that reason, I suggest “Hands-on Pumping”, that is using your hands to help remove the most milk possible at each pumping.  Please watch Dr. Jane Morton on Stanford University’s website on breastfeeding issue and see her mini-lecture and video of hands-on pumping.

I would like to talk to you more about the condition of your nipples.  If your nipples are still cracked, I would like you to consider treating them with an oral antibiotic.  Mothers with injured nipples longer than 5 days are at a much greater risk of developing mastitis; 75% of moms with open nipples go on the develop a breast infection because of the bacteria in the open areas.  And this seems much more common during the cold weather months.  There was a great study done by two Canadian physicians some time ago that showed the consequences of wounded nipples that were untreated leading to mastitis.  Also, nipples are more difficult to heal when they are infected with bacteria.  For both of those reasons, I suggest speaking with your midwife or doctor about getting treatment for at least 10-14 days.  I don’t think most doctors are aware of this connection, but with your nipples being in this shape so late in the game, I am convinced they are colonized with bacteria.  Yes, I am sure that this makes you worry about yeast, but yeast is much easier to treat than a case of mastitis, which can also lessen your overall milk production.

Mastitis risk with damaged nipples

I do think that getting 4 ounces is about what a baby at this age requires at each feeding.  You will want to aim for about 8 pumpings each 24 hours.  If you are not getting at least 3-4 ounces when you pump, you may want to also consider using some herbs.  You can use fenugreek capsules that are available at most any health food store, 3 caps three times a day. This is probably different that the dose given on the bottle.  I actually find that mothers do quite well using Mother Love’s More Milk Plus, a combination of milk stimulating herbs.  You can visit their website and see if there is a local distributor or order them on-line directly from Mother Love. Nursing teas are a very weak form of any herb, so I don’t recommend them as the primary way to stimulate higher milk production.

Babies typically down a bottle in no time flat and may still act hungry!  This can lead parents to believe that the baby may need more milk.  Four ounces with a slow flow nipple, might help some but keep in mind that many nipples that are labeled as slow flow, really aren’t!  Hopefully, the baby takes 5-10 minutes to drink 4 ounces of milk. There is an old saying, “It takes 20 minutes for the brain to know when the stomach is full!”  So true!  If you are very worried that the baby will come to fall in love with the bottle flow, you might reconsider and have one nursing every 24 hours, but I leave that to your discretion. I think for most babies, if there is a healthy supply of milk, they should return to the breast without too much of a problem.

I wish you every success and very soon!  You are quite a determined mom!

Best wishes,

Kathleen

Kathleen-HigginsKathleen Huggins RN IBCLC, has a Master’s Degree in Perinatal Nursing from U.C. San  Francisco, founded the Breastfeeding Warmline, opened one of the first breastfeeding clinics in  the United States, and has been helping breastfeeding mothers professionally for 33 years.  Kathleen  authored The Nursing Mother’s Companion in 1986 followed by The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning.  Kathleen has also co-authored Nursing Mother, Working Mother with Gale Pryor, Twenty Five Things Every Breastfeeding Mother Should Know and The Nursing Mothers’ Breastfeeding Diary with best-friend, Jan Ellen Brown.  The Nursing Mothers’ Companion has also been translated into Spanish.  Mother of two now grown children, Kathleen retired from hospital work in 2004 and after beating breast cancer opened and currently runs Simply MaMa, her own maternity and breastfeeding boutique.  She continues to support breastfeeding mothers through her store’s “breastaurant,” online at The Leaky Boob, and in private consultations.  
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Comments

  1. I think this is all great advice. I hope your nipples recover quickly! I also found that lanolin helped my nipples heal faster, though I didn’t try an oral antibiotic. You definitely want to avoid mastitis, it is the worst!

    I also just wanted to add a few tips for making pumping easier – you can stick the pump parts in the fridge in between pumping sessions and only wash them every few times. Also, make sure to get a handsfree pumping bra! If you are going to be pumping 8 times a day you will need one. Good luck!!!

  2. So my son is 16 months old and so far is still only breastfeeding from me. He’s never taken a bottle or sippy cup and is still refusing all the above. I planned on breastfeeding him for a year but we’re still here because he has refused any other kinds of nutrition. He has a food aversion and has never taken any kind of baby food or table foods at all. We try daily to get him to eat, we work with an occupational therapist and he goes to the feeding clinic in Cincinnatii, OH. He’s always been 50-75% on the growth chart and very healthy. The only think he’s not good in is he’s anemic. We give him liquid iron and multivitamin which we have to force down him. I know breast is best but I also know he needs more by eating foods. The doctors have thrown out that they may insert a feeding tube if he were to start losing weight. I’m very concerned and wonder if there’s anyone that’s had a similar problem?

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