During Pregnancy- Hormones estrogen and progesterone are now in full force and preparing your body for lactation by causing the milk ducts to become enlarged, which can lead to swelling and tenderness in the breasts and nipples. Other changes that may occur during pregnancy are:
Some women experience all of these changes, some experience very few. The important thing to remember about changing breasts is that the occurrence of any of these, or lack there of, is normal.
Postpartum – Your breasts will change a lot within hours after delivery and more in the next few weeks until they get used to their new role as nutritional resources for your newborn.
When your breasts become overfull and uncomfortable, try applying heat. Hot baths or showers, or even a heating pad or warm gel pack can help the ducts open. Make sure you are feeding or pumping every 2-3 hours to avoid overfilling. If the breasts are so full that the nipples are flattening out, try gently expressing a small amount of milk after applying heat. Expressing before a feeding can relieve the pressure on the nipple and areola so the baby can latch.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling or “hardness”, warmth and redness. It may also cause flu like symptoms like fever and chills. Lactation mastitis generally occurs within the first six to 12 weeks postpartum, but it can happen after. The condition can cause you to feel run down, making it difficult to care for your baby. Sometimes mastitis leads a mother to stop breastfeeding before she initially intended to due to the discomfort, but continuing to breast-feed, even while taking an antibiotic for the mastitis, is better for you and your baby.
When you first detect the symptoms contact your doctor for treatment. Oral antibiotics are usually effective in treating this condition. If your signs and symptoms don’t improve after the first two days of taking antibiotics, see your doctor right away to make sure your condition isn’t the result of a more serious medical condition.
With mastitis, signs and symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:
How to avoid mastitis:
Lactation Nutrition – The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months with your newborn. If you stick to this plan, there are some specific nutritional guidelines breastfeeding women should follow to ensure proper nutrition for baby, but to make sure mom’s nutritional needs are met.
Doctors suggest breastfeeding women should eat an additional 350 calories per day, and drink plenty of water, before you feel thirsty.
There are also certain vitamins and nutrients mom’s need a boost of, including: B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamins D and K. Other vitamin groups that are important for a child’s development, though not solely relied upon breast milk are vitamins A and E, and these may require external supplementation for the baby through a shot or liquid form.
Because of the transference of nutrients from the mother’s diet to her baby’s, if she is not receiving enough of these nutrients in her own diet, she may be at risk for deficiencies that could cause severe health problems like anemia. Additionally, a vegetarian diet, malabsorptive stomach surgery, or other health conditions could exacerbate a deficiency. Blood work to determine these levels can be helpful in guiding a specific diet for a new mom.