I wasn’t so sure about it at first, breastfeeding that is, partly because I wasn’t breastfed as a baby. And partly because for so many years I wasn’t interested in having kids! So I’d never given it much thought. But when I was pregnant and lying around like a beached whale, I read about it. And the more I read, the more committed I became to breastfeeding my baby.
Of course everyone knows about the benefits breastfeeding has for baby. For one, it gives their little immune systems a huge boost. But it also has fabulous benefits for mamma. Every time you breastfeed your baby it releases 2 hormones – oxytocin and prolactin. And these do something rather unusual … they increase your intuition! (I was surprised too.) And believe you me, intuition’s something that really comes in handy when you’re a mamma.
And let me not forget to mention … research is now showing that breastfed babies are smarter! (if you want to read more about this, google Dr Williams Sears or get a copy of this book, The Baby Book (affiliate link) It’s fabulous.
Anyway, despite its many benefits, breastfeeding can sometimes be one of the most challenging aspects of mammahood. Speak to almost any mum. They’ll have their story. Although it’s natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. The challenges mums have are variable. Some need help getting their babies to latch on correctly right from the start. Others get mastitis (sore nipples, fever, etc, etc). I never had those problems, but I have experienced nipple thrush, cracked nipples and bleeding nipples. It’s not fun but you can get past it.
About a month ago, when Joshi was just three months old, I was breastfeeding him lying down in bed. Once he’d finished I noticed that a bit of blood was dripping out of his mouth. I was horrified. I was mildly less horrified when I realised it was my blood and not his. When I got chatting to some other mums quite a few of them had experienced this too. While it’s not a pretty site it’s nothing to be too alarmed about. Yes, it’s a bit gross, and its grosser still if they have a little puke (as they do) and the colour of their puke is a brown colour rather than its usual lovely milky yellow. But your baby won’t be harmed from swallowing your blood. It’s your nipples that you have to deal with.
To help prevent and heal the cracks you can use lansinoh. You can buy it from the pharmacy. It comes in a small tube which you can carry around with you wherever you go. It’s been a lifesaver for me on far too many sore nipple occasions. You just put a bit on your nipples after your baby’s had a feed. It not only helps your nipples heal. It also prevents them from drying against the material of your bra, which in turn prevents the top layer of your nipple skin from being pulled off when your remove your brassiere! Ouch!
To help the cracks heal you can also express a tiny bit of your breastmilk and smear it over your nipples after feeding. And you can rub organic coconut oil on your nipples between feeds.
What else? Ah yes, hydrogel pads. In a moment of desperation I took someone’s advice and bought a pack of ‘rite aid hydrogel pads’ for my boobs. I really wasn’t keen on the chemical smell that was coming off those pads, but I was desperate. And very sleep deprived. And I really didn’t have the time or energy to do any research on it at the time. Anyway, the pads helped a lot. I wore them for a day and expressed for one day to give that boobie a complete rest from Joshi. The pads really did the job and within no time the cracks had healed and feeding was running smoothly again.
Until a few weeks later … the same thing happened again. More blood. However, by this time I’d had a chance to do a bit of research and decided that I’m not so happy with the hydrogel pads any more. Don’t get me wrong … I was grateful for them in my hour of desperation, but I really wanted to find some natural alternatives that would be better for me and Joshi.
I heard that cabbage helps, so I bought a huge organic cabbage, and yes, I did it. I put cabbage leaves on my boobs. (So if you come around and find a few lying around the house, you’ll know why). Not sure how much they really helped my cracked nipples, but they’re meant to be great for when your boobs are engorged (busting with milk).
Next I googled ‘natural alternatives for healing nipples’ and came across marshmallow root. I was really pleased coz I already had some in the bottom kitchen drawer (as you do). I think it was left over from a while back when I needed to move some phlegm off my chest. I t’s good for so many things. Mr Google said, “Marshmallow roots make wonderful soaks that soothe tender tissues and sore nipples, open clogged ducts and tubes, powerfully draw out infection, and diminish the pain of engorged, inflamed breasts. Steep two ounces of dried marshmallows root overnight in half a gallon of water just off the boil. The texture of the finished brew should be slippery and slimy. Heat as needed, pouring the hot liquid into a sink or basin and soak your sore and aching breasts!”
So I tried it. I was willing to try anything! I had boiled it up the night before, with a bit of water and it had been left to stand for a day. I then reheated it but instead of putting it in the basin and putting my boobs in the basin I got two small booby shaped containers and put them in there! (Yes, it’s a skill! My yoga training came in handy here.) Again, I’m not sure if it really helped the cracks or not, but it was nice and warm. By the way, marshmallow root has absolutely nothing to do with the marshmallows that kids love, which are made from glycerin from pig’s skin, bones, ears and snouts trotters (plus heaps of white sugar).
There are a few other nipple healing remedies I’ve heard of …
- Using Multi-Mum Alovera impregnated breast pads
- Spending time in the sun with naked breasts (preferably not when out shopping)
- Soaking cotton wool pads in camomile tea and using these as breastpads, etc, etc
But now I’ve had enough. No more breast-feeding discomfort for me! I’m taking it to the next step. I’ve booked a 2 hour appointment with a professional lactation consultant. And she’ll be coming over to our place to help me get on top of this boobie problem. Apparently that’s the best option out of them all, so I’ll let you know how it goes!
Mums, if you’ve got any solutions to offer for sore nipples, please post them here!