Four years ago, I learned that breastfeeding with undiagnosed Raynaud’s disease was a nightmare. I wasn’t aware that breastfeeding a newborn could be so difficult or so painful. For three years now, I have felt God calling me to share this with any other mom that is tearfully trying to breastfeed with Raynaud’s disease. So, I wanted to share some tips and products that helped me breastfeed with Raynaud’s disease until my children were 15 and 18 months old!
What is raynaud’s Disease
According to Mayoclinic.org, Raynaud’s disease is when some areas of your body become numb, cold, and/or painful when exposed to cold temperatures or when you are stressed. Arteries that supply blood to your skin become restricted, decreasing blood flow to these areas. This disease usually affects the hands and feet; however, in rare cases, it can be found in the nipples. Raynaud’s disease is more likely to affect women. You can read more about Raynaud’s disease here.
So, why does this make nursing so painful? Raynaud’s can cause excruciating pain that radiates across your chest and back while nursing. The pain can linger for hours after nursing, which ultimately leads to more stress in a breastfeeding mother. The more stress, the worse the arteries’ restriction. You can see the vicious circle.
Complications with Breastfeeding a Newborn
Breastfeeding a newborn is no small feat. I know for some moms it isn’t difficult at all and baby latches perfectly the first time. However, for someone breastfeeding with Raynaud’s disease, the pain takes your breath away. I remember thinking, “There’s no way this is right, who in the world would do this month after month?”
On the outside, everything looks “just right” according to lactation specialists and on the inside, you’re screaming not so nice words. I remember gritting my teeth, tasting blood and grabbing anything I could to get through the pain.
I remember scouring the internet looking for help. Information about Raynaud’s disease in women’s breasts seemed so limited. And I’m a 10-page
Since newborns have smaller mouths, it is even more restricting on mom’s arteries when she is breastfeeding with Raynaud’s disease. The worst part about any of this is that a lot of doctors, lactation specialists and postpartum nurses have limited information about Raynaud’s, too. So, finding out what works and doesn’t work, in the hospital or shortly after going home, is pretty discouraging. It was for me anyway.
Free Encouraging Printable for download
The challenges of breastfeeding with raynaud’s Disease
Both my daughter and son were born quite small. However, my son was only five pounds, nine ounces, so he had a tiny mouth. For the longest time, my doctor thought we had thrush. After trying several rounds of meds for myself and baby, my doctor finally said she thought it might be Raynaud’s disease. She wasn’t sure as she had never had a patient with it in their nipples before.
I am extremely stubborn, so I was determined to not buy formula for my babies. I have stomach problems and wanted them eating that “liquid gold” only my body produced. The desire to breastfeed, even with Raynaud’s, was the passion I needed to plow through the pain and continue on.
With my daughter, the pain eased up around the time she was four months old. It felt like an eternity! However, my son was smaller, as I mentioned, and we struggled a lot longer. Things would start to get easier and then we would be back to square one when a tooth was bothering him. His latch would be tenser, so my Raynaud’s would flare up and my stress would increase.
I wanted to share some tips and products that really helped me through the difficult times with breastfeeding. So, if you are a new mom, you can have some of these pointers right from the get-go, instead of learning them after months of pain.
Tips for Breastfeeding with Raynaud’s Disease
I am a planner, so my husband and I strategically planned both kids for the winter months when real estate is a bit slower, in our cold state of South Dakota. I wanted him to be around to help with
Another piece of advice is to continually change
Nurse or pump in warm rooms. I realize first hand this isn’t always possible. When I went back to work, briefly, after having my daughter, the only place in my office to pump was a cold back room. It was a nightmare for Raynaud’s and let down. Do yourself a favor and bring a space heater, blankets, you name it!
When I was sore lactation specialists would tell me, all the time, to ice my breasts for relief and to reduce swelling. Do not ice your breasts, I repeat, DO NOT ice your breasts. You are a rare breed and that will not help. Lol!
Have a pediatric dentist assess for both lip (top and bottom) and tongue ties. You could be experiencing the pain of one of those on top of your Raynaud’s.
Products that will help Breastfeeding with Raynaud’s
Warm, soft cotton breast pads were so essential. This way, if I was really sore from a nursing session, they were a gentle material. They are washable and easy to throw in some vinegar, if babes and I did have an episode of thrush. This particular set of cotton breast pads is great because they come with warm/cold packs. After nursing sessions, you can run them under warm water for when you want to increase blood flow. You can also heat these in
2. Heating Pad
A large heating pad like this one is great for increasing blood flow to the area after a nursing session or even to cover yourself with while you pump – if you have a hands free pumping bra.
These things are seriously my favorite. I am done nursing and still wear them to bed or under a t-shirt. They are so comfortable and they keep your breasts warm. These nursing tank tops have a built-in bra and are really supportive. You can add your cotton breast pads right into the built-in bra and throw on a t-shirt. Boom, you’re good to go.
The best part about these tank tops is that they are stretchy, so you can wear these while you’re pregnant, if your bras are starting to dig in and too tight. So. comfortable! And a 2-pack for $28, that’s amazing for nursing tank tops.
4. Hand Warmers
If you are at the office and need soothing relief or are running after a toddler, you can slip these hand warmers into your bra behind your breast pads. They’re like a cordless heating pad! Great for when you are headed into the cold grocery store or running out to a doctor’s appointment with sore breasts.
Last but not least, these sticky gel pads will help a
Breastfeeding with Raynaud’s: Medication
If none of these “at home” tips and products are helping you breastfeed with Raynaud’s disease, I would consider asking your doctor about medication.
I was a case where the medication had no effect. Everyone responds differently to medication though!
You are a momma and you can breastfeed your baby as long as you want. Raynaud’s disease is only a hurdle in the breastfeeding journey and it can be done. Don’t let other moms who have awesome breastfeeding stories get you down… Everyone’s struggle, in becoming
God can help you through!