We are so lucky here in the UK to have free access to fantastic support in the form of breastfeeding counsellors who belong to amazing charities such as La Leche League GB (LLLGB) and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, offering mother-to-mother support. It is easy to reach for the doctor, midwife, health visitor or homeopath when first encountering breastfeeding problems, but in many cases an effective course of action may be to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor first.
A breastfeeding counsellor’s extensive training means she will tell you immediately if you need to speak to your health professional. Unfortunately, breastfeeding education isn’t extensive amongst health professionals, and conversations can sometimes be difficult, so speaking to a breastfeeding counsellor first will really help you. Being supported by someone belonging to LLLGB, for example, means being supported by someone belonging to the international authority on breastfeeding.
Here are a few of the most common problems encountered by breastfeeding mothers. Carefully note what a breastfeeding counsellor would suggest in each situation before looking at homeopathic remedies that may help.
My breasts are sore
When the early milk, colostrum, transitions into mature milk, there is an enlargement of the blood vessels, leading to a feeling of the breasts swelling. This shouldn’t be painful. Sore breasts can become engorged when the baby does not have unrestricted access to the breast. The solution is simple: encourage your baby to feed as much as possible. The free flow of milk through the ducts will ease the soreness. Speak to a breastfeeding counsellor about your baby’s latch, as correct attachment to the breast is essential to allow effective milk transfer. If your baby cannot have unrestricted access to the breast, then showering whilst gently but firmly massaging in the direction of the nipple may help. If the engorgement is not treated in this way, it could lead to mastitis, where the milk ducts become plugged and symptoms worsen to include a fever and other flu-like symptoms.
Belladonna – sudden symptoms, with redness to the breast, a throbbing headache and much sensitivity to light.
Bryonia – the blocked duct will feel very hard, and as always with this remedy there will be a need to keep the area very still, perhaps by lying on the breast, which can make the situation much worse!
Phytolacca – where the pain is accompanied by sore nipples. When feeding, pain radiates all over the body.
My nipples are cracked and it hurts when the baby feeds
This is often associated with positioning. Babies know what to do at the breast, but sometimes we can get in the way! Less of the breast ends up in the mouth, and the nipple gets damaged. As soon as possible, discuss your baby’s latch with a breastfeeding counsellor. Even with a good latch there may be pain on the first few sucks, but thereafter there is ease. If the pain continues through the feed, then positioning may still need tweaking, or the possibility of thrush may need to be explored.
Once the position is corrected, consider these remedies to aid the healing of the nipple:
Castor equi – excessively tender nipples, where the baby has been in the wrong position for a long time, causing much damage.
Hepar sulph. – where offensive-smelling pus has developed in the nipple, and the mother may be irritable.
Silica – indicated where there is sharp pain on feeding.
Borax – the first remedy to think of with thrush, though there are others for different symptoms. The main indicator is that the baby has a very hot mouth.
My baby isn’t getting enough milk
If breastfeeding is going well, your baby should regain his or her birth weight within 10 days to two weeks. Beyond that means that breastfeeding needs a closer look and definitely needs supporting. Looking at the quantity of wet and soiled nappies your baby produces shows clearly what your baby is taking in. Your counsellor will be able to help you figure out the best way forward, including giving you ideas to increase your milk supply. This can be via a phone call, but there may be a local group for you to go to where a counsellor can take a look at your baby’s latch and discuss general breastfeeding management. More frequent breastfeeding and plenty of skin-to-skin will definitely be recommended.
The problem is so unlikely to be one of milk supply that the main focus should be on seeking breastfeeding support from a counsellor. If it does come down to supply, many mothers speak to another health professional too, as short-term use of pharmaceuticals can help set up your body’s rhythm to work with your baby. If you would rather use other means, a constitutional remedy from your homeopath should do the trick by stimulating your body’s vital force to match the needs of your precious little one.
Reaching out to a homeopath who has extensive experience of the normal course of breastfeeding is a really good idea as you navigate motherhood with your new baby. Breastfeeding in toddlerhood and beyond has its own little challenges, and your breastfeeding counsellor and homeopath can be there to help you.
Benaifer Bhandari is a breastfeeding counsellor, doula, Reiki master and experienced homeopath.
Photo by Criativa Pix Fotografia
First published in issue 60 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.