Hey Mama! There are a number of reasons why breastfeeding may be uncomfortable, but don’t fret; there are a number of ways to fix it. As a Mom who has spent a solid three years of her life nursing, I know how much it can hurt at times – but when you figure out what’s going wrong, you can figure out ways to fix it. Here are the top five reasons why it might be hurting when you’re nursing, and ways to fix it so you can get back to enjoying your sweet baby.
Your Milk Has Just Come In: your breasts are large and extremely painful to touch.
The problem: Engorgement. Some moms don’t even notice when their milk comes in for the first time, while others find it a really painful experience (in fact, I personally thought it was worse than labour!). ‘Milk coming in’, or as your medical team will call it, ‘Engorgement’ – tends to happen 2-3 days postpartum. While it can be uncomfortable, know that this too shall pass (and hold on tight to that mantra, you’re going to be saying it throughout motherhood), and your milk supply will even out as you and baby get the hang of nursing.
The Fix: The best way to ease the pain is to feed baby regularly, making sure that bub is positioned correctly and is latching well, and by regularly using cold compresses. It’s okay to go either bra free or to wear a bra – whatever is most comfortable for you. Pumping for comfort may also relieve discomfort. If it’s still hurting, speak to your doctor about taking ibuprofen to relieve discomfort.
It’s pinching and stinging when you try to nurse.
The problem: It’s likely baby isn’t latching properly. If your baby isn’t latching correctly, you might feel a really uncomfortable pinching sensation while feeding. While it might deter you from breastfeeding – don’t be put off! Breastfeeding is new for both you and baby, and it takes time to figure the whole latching thing out!
The Fix: A nipple cream will help you deal with sore nipples while you get babies latch sorted, but then main way to stop the pain is developing a good latch. There are a few tricks to ensure a good latch. Sit with a breastfeeding pillow, and bring baby to you, holding their back and bottom – supporting their head if you need too (you can try out multiple positions – do what is most comfortable). Rub your nipple gentle against baby’s lip to encourage her to open and attach well, and consider making a C or a U shape with your fingers around your breast (it makes your breast smaller and easier for baby to latch onto) and guide into baby’s mouth, aiming for the roof of their mouth.
Take a look at your sweet baby’s little face: if baby’s ears are wiggling and their lips are turned out, while sucking deeply, it’s a good indicator that baby’s latch is good. (More here on what to do if the latch sucks). If it’s not working, stop, and try again. If you’re still struggling to get a good latch, it is well worth consulting a Independent Board Certified Lactation consultation, who will tell you exactly what is happening, and can assess your baby for problems such as tongue ties.
There is a really sore, hard spot on your breast that is causing discomfort.
The problem: A blocked milk duct – or maybe mastitis. You’ve got a hard spot on your breast which is tender to touch, and it might be a little red. You might be experiencing that alone, or you may also note that you’ve got a temperature and feel a bit like you’ve got the flu.
The Fix: Serious stuff first – if you’ve got a large sore lump on your breast (that might be bright red), and are feeling flu like symptoms with a high temperature, you need to hop skip to the doctor (or the ER, if your doctor is shut) – if your doctor diagnoses mastitis, you’ll need antibiotics ASAP. This isn’t something to leave alone – the last thing you need is to develop an abscess that needs surgery. No mama has time for that!
No yucky symptoms – just a really sore boob? Placing cold cabbage leaves on your breasts works a treat, as does massaging them in the shower. If you’ve got an electric toothbrush, or similar device, try using the vibrations to massage the blocked duct – this works a treat. Resist the urge to quit breastfeeding: it’s hard to continue when you’re in an enormous amount of pain, but now is definitely not the time to try get your milk to dry up – and the best thing you can do is to keep feeding baby.
Your nipples are stinging around the clock and look flaky
The problem: It could be thrush! If you are experiencing a burning, stinging pain (and maybe some itchiness) that happens both when you’re feeding, and when you’re not, you could have a yeast infection. Have a look at your nipples and note if they look flaky or redder than usual, or if they are cracked. Also take a look inside your babies mouth – if you have thrush, baby’s tongue might be covered in a white layer.
The fix: Go to your doctor. If they think you have thrush, you’ll be given antibiotics and cream to clear it up – both for you and baby. At home, you can ensure it stops by making sure you keep your breasts dry, changing breast pads frequently, and washing your bras and clothing after you’ve had treatment.
Baby can’t stay latched, and is feeding constantly – and your nipples are hurting
The problem: Baby might have a tongue tie. This occurs when there is a bit of skin that is a bit too short found under babies tongue, making it challenging for baby to feed effectively, and painful for mom. You might hear a clicking sound, and note that your baby is struggling to attach, feed, and isn’t gain as much weight as they should be. They might be unsettled because they’re hungry.
The fix: This is another doctor or lactation consultant issue. Take baby in for an appointment so that doctor or a midwife can look for a tie. If baby has a tie, they might need a procedure to get rid of it. Don’t worry – it’s safe!
My nipples are flat/small, and I’m struggling to get baby to latch
The problem: Everyone’s breasts are different, and getting baby to latch when you’ve got small/flat/inverted nipples can definitely be a challenge. You’re trying, but baby just isn’t able to get on.
The solution: Try expressing – either with a pump or by hand, for a minute before you feed, as it can help make it easier for baby to attach by pulling the nipple out. If this doesn’t fix it, a really easy solution is a nipple shield, which is a small plastic nipple that goes over your nipple and helps baby feed. Moms with flat nipples swear by these, and often find that over time, they don’t need to use them anymore. ]
When in doubt, it’s always best the seek the advice of an independent board certified lactation consultant, or your doctor if you’re worried. Breastfeeding pain isn’t normal, but is quite common. The great news is when you know what is causing the pain, you know how it can be fixed! Good luck on your breastfeeding journey Mama!