Three breastfeeding related conditions that commonly affect new mothers:
When you begin breastfeeding, your breasts will start to produce accelerating levels of colostrum (highly concentrated milk). When this colostrum ‘comes in’, you will notice that your breasts feel bigger and fuller; these sensations will be compounded by the increased blood flow and lymphatic fluids in the area.
Breast engorgement occurs when you produce more milk than your breasts can hold, resulting in throbbing sensations and other symptoms like hard, flat nipples and stretched, shiny skin.
The main problem with breast engorgement – aside from the discomfort – is that it can prevent your baby latching properly. In turn, this will stop the breast from draining correctly and could lead to further issues such as blocked milk ducts and mastitis.
Clogged milk ducts are extremely common in the first year of breastfeeding. They occur due to excessive compression, which can be caused by all manner of factors, from swelling or bruising in the breast area through to the breast not being sufficiently emptied during each feed. Mothers who alternate between breast and bottle feeds will often experience plugged ducts, as they will not be expressing as regularly, leading to a build up of fluid.
Blocked ducts are not only extremely uncomfortable for the mother – they can also restrict the supply of milk to the baby. This is why it’s incredibly important to address the issue quickly.
Sometimes, home remedies – such as placing a hot pack on the affected breast prior to breastfeeding, massaging the area, and repositioning the baby to ensure he/she is latching correctly – will clear ducts naturally. However, we would always recommend seeking professional help in the first instance to prevent blocked ducts from developing into mastitis, which can be significantly more painful and debilitating.
Mastitis is, quite simply, inflammation of the breast. It’s usually caused by a bacterial infection in the first 6 weeks after childbirth, and often arises as a result of a blocked milk duct (in fact, it can often be mistaken for a clogged duct, especially in the early stages). Typical indicators include a swollen area that feels tender to the touch; a small lump or hard area on the affected breast; nipple discharge; and hot pain that is either constant or that starts when you begin to breastfeed.
As well as impacting their ability to provide a comfortable and effective feed, mastitis can often make mums feel incredibly tired and run-down. Many women report accompanying flu-like symptoms, including high temperatures and lasting bodily aches and pains.
Sometimes, mastitis will disappear on its own after a few weeks or months. But as the condition can have an understandably substantial impact on a mother’s physical and mental wellbeing, many mastitis sufferers choose to seek proactive treatment straightaway.
Therapeutic ultrasound therapy
Using a professional grade therapeutic ultrasound machine, we will deliver high frequency soundwaves to the areas of the breast that feel sore and painful.
Therapeutic ultrasound treatment may help to open the ducts and increase circulation to improve the flow of milk, reduce pain and reduce swelling. In most cases, the ultrasound is effective; our patients often experience an improvement in pain and lump size in just 1 to 3 sessions.
The ultrasound procedure itself is unobtrusive and painless. It’s suitable for most patients, although we do not recommend this therapy if you are pregnant; if you have an existing infection; if you have pre-diagnosed heart and circulatory problems; or you have an electronic or metal implant near to the area that needs to be treated. You can learn more about our approach to treating common breastfeeding conditions with therapeutic ultrasound therapies by clicking here.
Regular lymphatic massage is a physical, practical way of reducing swelling in the breast by stretching the nearby lymphatic channels and ‘getting the milk moving’. When carried out by a trained professional, this kind of therapy is also highly effective in unblocking milk ducts and loosening milk clots.
Our team can also teach you how to perform basic lympathic massage techniques at home for added relief in between appointments.
Kinesiotaping also supports enhanced lymphatic drainage. It’s a proven, non-invasive treatment that works best when combined with therapeutic ultrasound therapy or lymphatic massage (or both).
Our team will apply specialist hypoallergenic Kinesio Tape® along your lymphatic lines to create a change in pressure underneath the skin that will encourage fluid to move more efficiently between lymph nodes, greatly reducing pain and inflammation.