What Is Raynaud's Phenomenon?
Raynaud’s phenomenon, also known as blanching of the nipple is now a common breastfeeding problem, affecting up to 20% of all women of childbearing age.
Reynaud's is not caused by breastfeeding, but is due to abnormal spasms of arteries that supply blood to your nipples, causing the restriction of blood flow and therefore numbness, burning, and pain. The skin of the area usually also turns blue, and then when the blood starts flushing back, the skin becomes a reddish color.
Here is the full explanation on Wikipedia.
Sometimes mothers with Raynaud's disease are treated for Candida albicans infection (thrush), which makes it really difficult for the mother to find relief. That’s why it is so important to let your doctor know about all the symptoms you are experiencing.
How Do You Know if You Have Raynaud's?
It is usually the color changes of your skin that will indicate Raynaud's. Raynaud’s syndrome usually occurs during very hot or cold temperatures and also when experiencing emotional stress. You don’t have to be pregnant or breastfeeding to develop Raynaud's, it can affect your fingers, toes, and earlobes too. Not all women who have nipple or breast pain or even nipple blanching have Raynaud disease.
Most times, mothers who breastfeed with Raynaud's say that the pain occurs right after their baby has stopped breastfeeding. They say that their nipples turn white and feel as though they are being clamped down by a vice grip. After a while, the blood starts to return to the area, resulting in red nipples.
Signs of Raynaud's During Breastfeeding
- Excruciating nipple and breast pain during nursing, pumping or at other times when your nipples are cold or wet.
- Triphasic or biphasic color change in the breast or nipple area. (white nipples)
- Sometimes the areola changes shape.
- Intense throbbing breast or nipple pain.
Treatment for Raynaud's Phenomenon
- Nifedipine (high blood pressure medicine) has been given and used to treat Raynaud’s symptoms with excellent results, because of its vasodilator effects. (safe to use while breastfeeding)
- Making sure that your baby is latching on correctly, can also lessen the pain and eliminate any other sources of nipple pain associated with breastfeeding.
- Try to stay calm and in a stress-free environment.
- Stay away from coffee or any other caffeinated drinks, as these will worsen the symptoms of Raynaud syndrome.
- Eliminate alcohol from your diet, alcohol also has a worsening effect on Reynauds.
- Avoid quick temperature changes to your nipples.
- Keep a warm cloth handy for after breastfeeding, this keeps your nipples warm after your baby stops breastfeeding.
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid medications like pseudoephedrine, oral contraceptives, and beta blockers.
- Supplements that can relieve Raynaud's are Evening primrose oil and fish oil taken over a 6 week period.
- Aerobic and cardio exercise has been found to relieve symptoms.
- Vitamin B6. 150-200 mg once a day for four days, followed by 25 mg/day once a day.
- Many mothers have reported that massaging olive oil into the breast and nipple does give relief and decreases the occurrence of the vasospasms overall.
- Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, which can lower the amount of blood moving through the blood vessels.
Pumping with Reynaud's
"I pump exclusively because my daughter can't latch, even with lots of lactation support.
I have Reynauds and have frequently seen the effects in my feet and hands, and I have horrible pain from it in my nipples, even with pumping exclusively.
I tried all of the other "remedies" and nothing worked so I am starting Nifedipine and am hoping that will work, the only downfall is that my blood pressure is already low so my doc is a bit nervous about how this will be affected by the meds."
"Breastfeeding is not always the best or simplest answer for every baby and mother. Sometimes some problems make it difficult or impossible. Reynauds is a challenging condition. It is imperative to stay on top of the condition, symptoms, and monitor treatment.
It seems like you are working on a solution with your doctor and have tried several options already.
If you are unable to nurse, there are other options besides commercial formula such as donor milk from another mother, or formula.
Whatever you decide to do, you are doing the best for you and your baby, and have done a fantastic job!"
In the end, the mother might decide to pump exclusively if the pain doesn't stop - Here are the exclusive pumping guidelines.