Vasospasm symptoms are a less common topic discussed in the lactation community. The reason why is not many LCs work with breast pumping moms. However, I see it a few times a day because I only work with moms who breast pump. If you have already sized yourself down and continue to see the following symptoms, the issue is not with your flanges but likely the result of Vasospasms.
What do Vasospasms look like? – It’s when your nipples turn white, blue, purple, or bruised in appearance. Nipples can also become stiff.
Why? -It’s because there is restricted blood flow. This not only affects nipples but for some, it also affects their hands, feet, nose, and ears. If it also affects other body parts, they could have a condition known as Raynaud’s Syndrome/phenomenon. The effects can become worse when your nipples are cold. Such as stepping out of the shower.
Does it hurt? – For most moms, it hurts. It’s uncomfortable, stings like pins and needles. Others only see the discoloration of the nipples and don’t have any pain.
Does it affect my milk supply? – It can. For those that have pain as one of their symptoms, you become stressed and worried. You release cortisol in your bloodstream which can decrease your supply.
What should you do? – If you are comfortable and able to empty in your current flanges, there is no reason to do anything. The discoloration is just a visual annoyance and the blood flow will return a few moments after pumping. If you don’t like looking at your discolored nipples, you can apply heat as noted below.
What if it hurts? – If your vasospasms hurt, apply something that is dry and warm. A simple solution is to fill baby socks with rice and put them in the microwave to get warm. Apply the warm filled rice socks on your nipples a few minutes before you go to pump. Reapply to your nipples after pumping. This first helps prepare your nipples to pump and after you are done, it helps return the blood flow to the nipples and thus, relaxes them and can make it more comfortable for you to pump. When you are in pain, this increases your cortisol levels which can make your supply start to decrease. In turn, with more comfort, you are not as stressed out and it can help your supply get back to normal.
Why does this happen when I pump and not breastfeed? – For most that have mild case of vasospams, when they nurse, they are putting their nipples in a babies mouth which is warm. The warmth is what helps with blood flow. Others have a worse case of vasospasms so they can still feel discomfort and see their nipples are discolored after nursing and this is after they have already corrected latch issues.
Are there other things I can do? – If applying heat does not help and you already have tried several size flanges and you continue to have this issue, talk to your physician. I suggest talking to the nurse on the phone or having them make notes before you go into your appointment. As mentioned, it is not a common condition and they may need to brush up on it. This is even more true if the physician has no knowledge about breast feeding/breast pumping. For those physicians that are familiar with this, they are likely to recommend supplements that have been known to help other moms, such as Vitamin B6 with Niacin, Magnesium and your choice of Fish Oil or Evening Primrose Oil. For severe cases, your physician may prescribe Nifedipine.
Still not sure if the issue is your size or vasospasms? Get your right size now. I cover all of these topics in the Pumping Pretty Support System not only do you get a physical Nipple Queen Ruler mailed to you to size your nipple to the exact product you need, you also get videos, pdfs, links and an exclusive Facebook Group support discussing all the pumping topics, and solutions to have a successful pumping journey.
Doc also prescribed topical nitro-bid for my vasospasms. Both the nifedipine and the nitro-bid worked. I also increased my B vitamins, magnesium, and fish oil.
That’s great to hear!