How ice can help new mumsBreastfeeding can be a great way to nourish your baby and strengthen the mother-child bond.
But it can also be downright painful – especially if you’ve ever experienced engorgement, a blocked milk duct, or mastitis.
Let’s look at each condition and see how a breastfeeding ice pack can help.
Pain during breastfeeding: what is engorgement?When a new mum’s milk “comes in”, it’s normal for her breasts to feel heavy and uncomfortable. But sometimes, new mothers make more milk than their baby can drink. This can lead to engorgement, where breasts become very hard, swollen and tender. Not only is it painful, but it can make it hard for the baby to attach properly.
Tip: The Australian Breastfeeding Association suggests you can relieve engorgement by breastfeeding often, ensuring your baby is attached properly, and massaging your breast before and during a feed. Cold packs can also relieve pain.
What’s a blocked milk duct?A blocked duct happens when the milk flow is obstructed. When the milk can’t drain properly, it builds up behind the blockage and can lead to a tender lump or spot in the breast. You might also have reddened skin and could get a painful white spot on the nipple.
Tip: Even though blocked milk ducts are different from engorgement, the treatment advice is quite similar. The Australian Breastfeeding Association suggests you feed your baby often, rest as much as you can, wear loose clothing, and massage the lump towards your nipple during feeds. To help relieve pain and swelling, they also recommend using an ice pack after the feed.
What is mastitis?If a blocked milk duct doesn’t clear properly, it can even lead to mastitis. This happens when the milk behind the blocked duct is forced into nearby breast tissue.
Mastitis is a painful infection and needs to be treated straight away. It leads to localised tenderness or pain, which is more intense than you get with a blocked duct. The breast is usually red and swollen, the skin might be shiny, and you might have a fever, joint aches, and lethargy.
How to treat mastitisThe Australian Breastfeeding Association and Children’s Health Queensland have some detailed advice for how to treat mastitis. But in a nutshell, they recommend you:
- Continue to breastfeed your baby to help clear the blockage
- Try changing feeding positions
- Apply warmth to the sore breast for a few minutes before a feed
- Gently massage the breast while your baby feeds
- Use cold packs after a feed to help reduce swelling and relieve pain
Breastfeeding ice packs: how can ice help relieve breast pain?Even though these are all different conditions, they can all lead to pain and inflammation. For this reason, the Australian Breastfeeding Association suggests using cold packs after a feed to reduce swelling and pain.
You can try the old wives’ tale of using frozen cabbage leaves, or you can try an RE3 chest pack for a mess-free alternative.
Our tip? New motherhood is exhausting and can be stressful and painful. Be kind to yourself, accept any and all offers of help, and rest whenever you can. Please don’t ignore any pain or discomfort, but know that the pain will be temporary if you follow medical advice. We’re right behind you, mama!