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What is Vasospasm and how can it affect how I breastfeed?

Raynaud’s (Ray-nose) Syndrome is the loss of blood flow to some extremities due to a spasm in the blood vessels (vasospasm). This usually affects the fingers and toes but it can affect the nipples as well. A breastfeeding mum with Raynaud’s Syndrome can experience debilitating nipple pain that usually occurs during or following feeding and may last for hours.

Poor positioning and poor latch while breastfeeding which may cause damage to your nipple, your nipple going white in colour as well as extremely painful, is presumed to be the cause of Raynaud’s Syndrome in breastfeeding mums. As Raynaud’s Syndrome occurs when the blood flow is limited or cut off, the effects of Vasospasm can be made worse in the cold. You may be more prone to this if you suffer from circulation disorders or migraines.

Although it’s an extremely rare occurrence, there are things you can do at home to help relieve symptoms.

What you can do below to help with Vasospasm:

  • Stop smoking. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and can increase blood vessel constriction.
  • Avoid the cold. Heat will usually stop the vasospasm, which will increase blood flow to the nipples and help alleviate the pain, even your warm hands can help. While nursing, keep the opposite breast covered and warm.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake and avoid other stimulants. Check labels to make sure soft drinks don’t contain caffeine.
  • Rub warm oil on nipples after a feed. Press forward from the base of the nipple which helps blood flow forward into the nipple.
  • Avoid decongestants and avoid oral contraceptive pills.
  • Use a good-quality breast pump that has a smooth, comfortable action.

We have developed a FREE 90-minute breastfeeding workshop that allows mums to gain the most up-to-date and evidence-based information, equipping mums with the knowledge and confidence to begin their breastfeeding journey.