How do you check for lumps in your breasts while breastfeeding?
Women are constantly reminded to check for lumps in their breasts. But this can be tricky (and scary!) for breastfeeding mamas, since lumps can be quite common and totally normal when lactating. Usually lumps in a breastfeeding mom are a full or clogged milk gland/duct -- if this is the case, the lump should get smaller and/or resolve after nursing or pumping. Treat the lump with warm moist heat, gentle massage, and effective emptying. It is very rare for a breastfeeding mom to develop breast cancer, but it's not impossible, so it's very important to seek care as soon as possible if you notice anything suspicious. Monitor the breast. If the lump persists for more than a week with diligent treatment for a clogged duct, it's a good idea to contact your health care provider. Other signs that suggest you should contact your health care provider include the lump being "fixed" (not moving when you touch it) and/or if the skin around the lump has a puckered/dimpled look, like the skin of an orange.
Can You Get A Mammogram While Breastfeeding?
Getting a mammogram (or any x-ray) while you are lactating is safe for mom and baby. The x-ray used in a mammogram does not impact the quality or safety of breastmilk, so it’s not necessary to interrupt breastfeeding or "pump and dump" for a mammogram. Lactating breasts (breasts that produce milk) are more dense than non-lactating breasts, which can make reading a mammogram more difficult. Let the radiologist know you are breastfeeding and, if possible, nurse or pump immediately before the test to help empty the breasts.
Can You Breastfeed If You’ve Had Breast Cancer?
Having a history of breast cancer doesn't automatically mean you can't breastfeed. Every mom's situation is different. Work closely with your doctor and a lactation consultant to figure out what's safe and what will work best for each breastfeeding "dyad" (what we call the mom/baby pair). Usually, unless mom is currently undergoing chemotherapy, it's safe to breastfeed. Breastfeeding from a breast that has or had cancer will not and can not give baby cancer.
Even if mom has had breast surgery, it's possible to make breast milk. Every surgery is different and will impact milk production differently. For example, if mom has a history of a lumpectomy (a surgical procedure where a discrete portion of the affected tissue is removed), typically that breast produces/transfers milk in glands that were not affected. If mom has a history of a single mastectomy (surgical removal of one breast), it's still possible for mom to produce/transfer milk on the untreated breast -- and amazingly, mom often makes enough milk to sustain babe! If mom has a history of a double mastectomy, it's still possible for mom and babe to have a breastfeeding experience using a supplemental nursing system ("SNS") to allow baby to feed at mom’s chest. Remember, there are many different ways to breastfeed your babe.
For general information and expert advice on breastfeeding, check out our free Breastfeeding 101 course, taught by a leading International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.