Many new moms experience milk leakage at one time or another -- especially early on when milk production levels are still being established. While leaking is harmless physically, it can be kind of embarrassing.
How to Avoid It: Try not to miss feedings or go longer than normal between feedings.
How to Treat It: Place disposable nursing pads in the cups of your bra to absorb wetness and prevent milk from leaking through your shirt. Avoid pads with plastic liners that can trap moisture against your skin and cause sore nipples. If you feel your milk letting down in a situation where you can't nurse your baby, gently pressing your breasts to your chest wall (you can do it inconspicuously by crossing your arms and squeezing your arms against your breasts gently) will often stop the leaking.
It is normal for your breasts to feel full and heavy during the first few weeks of nursing, but if you find that you are feeling discomfort beyond that time -- specifically, your breasts feel hard and uncomfortable -- you may be experiencing engorgement. The cause is usually inadequate milk removal. For example, your baby doesn't nurse often or long enough and your breasts become overfilled with milk.
How to Avoid It: Nurse your baby often -- eight to 12 times a day with both breasts, if you can. Don't skip feedings, and continue to nurse your child during the night as well as during the day. Be sure that your baby is positioned correctly and is latching on well so that your breasts are emptying of milk.
How to Treat It: Express milk between feedings, either manually or with a breast pump. Take a warm shower or place a warm compress on your breasts to encourage milk flow. Some doctors recommend using a warm compress while nursing and following up with a cold compress between feedings. If you are severely engorged, warmth may aggravate the situation (by increasing blood flow to the area), so consider trying cool compresses as you express the milk.
Babies who are given a pacifier or bottle in the early weeks of breastfeeding may become confused when faced with their mother's breast. The result: Baby may not be able to latch on correctly or may reject the breast completely. This means that he may not get enough milk and your breasts can become engorged from not emptying.
How to Prevent It: Don't give your baby a pacifier or bottle until your nursing routine is firmly established -- usually at least three to four weeks after delivery.
How to Treat It: Depending on how long your baby has experienced nipple confusion, you may want to contact a lactation consultant for advice. In the meantime, monitor your baby's diapers to determine whether he's getting enough to eat.
Cracked or Sore Nipples
Improper positioning of your baby during breastfeeding is the most common cause of cracked or sore nipples. When your baby is positioned correctly, your nipples will be at the back of his mouth, safely away from the pressure of the gums and tongue.
How to Prevent It: Make sure your baby has the proper latch-on technique. If you feel pain, gently remove your baby from your breast and let him latch on again. Also, position your baby close to your body with his mouth and nose facing your nipple to make it easier for him to latch on properly.
How to Treat It: When nursing, start with the less painful side since your baby is likely to suck most vigorously early in the feeding. At the end of the feeding, apply some fresh breast milk to your nipples to soothe them. Human breast milk has antibacterial properties so it can reduce the chance of infection, say the breastfeeding experts at La Leche League. If you are still in pain, talk to your doctor about using a cream or vitamin E on your nipples. He can also check for signs of infection.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.