Breastfeeding Vasospasms – How to Avoid

Vasospasms occur with the constriction of blood vessels resulting in extreme pain, which worsens in the cold weather.

While vasospasms can take place in any blood vessels within the body, including the heart, brain or eyes, they can also occur in the nipples.

When this happens, breastfeeding can become painful, both during the process and immediately after, and even between feeds.

Although uncommon, vasospasms occur more frequently in women with a family history of Raynaud’s phenomenon, who have poor circulation and are cold often, and those with a low body mass index.

The pain associated with nipple vasospasm may feel like intense burning or throbbing, which can be more intense in the cold.

The tip of the nipple may blanch or turn white, and you may even notice other colour changes, such as blue, purple and red, before they return to the usual colour.

The duration of pain varies, ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes, or sometimes even longer.

Pain intensity also varies and may be low level discomfort or extreme pain. You may feel unable to continue breastfeeding when the pain is at its highest level.

There are some things that can trigger an attack, so its important to do what you can to avoid them as much as possible.

Poor attachment and nipple damage, such as cracked nipples, can trigger vasospasms, so if you’re having trouble, seek advice from a lactation consultant.

Infections, such as thrush, can also cause problems, so keep an eye out for symptoms.

How to Avoid Vasospasms

  • Because coldness can increase vasospasms as well as make them more painful, avoid exposing your nipples to cold air.
  • Make sure your nipples are kept warm, through layered clothing and even breast warmers, which can be purchased through the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
  • Avoid airing your nipples, and try to reduce sudden temperature changes and if you do have an attack, apply a warm pack immediately.

If your symptoms are extreme, there are some medications available, so seek professional help.

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