Any breastfeeding mom will tell you that their first experience with breastfeeding was beautiful. It’s a great time to bond with your baby while providing nourishment. However, what is seldom talked about is that breastfeeding a newborn hurts, especially in the beginning.
Friends and family might tell you that it was a painful experience for them, too, but they toughed it out. If you mention it to a lactation nurse or your pediatrician, you’ll rightly hear otherwise. Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt, and often toughing it out can make the situation worse or cause health issues such as mastitis.
Factors contributing to stinging pain in the breast while breastfeeding includes cracked nipples, an incorrect latch, tongue and lip ties, and blocked milk ducts.
Getting tips from friends and doctors can be very helpful when trying to navigate the road to successful breastfeeding. You and your baby have to work together as a team and, with your help, your baby will start gaining weight and thriving. Meanwhile, you’ll relax and bond with your baby while he or she eats, pain-free.
Relieve Nipple Pain While Breastfeeding with Balms
As if all the changes your body went through during pregnancy and birth weren’t enough, your first postpartum week brings even more changes that can directly affect the skin around your nipple and areola.
Keep nipple pain during breastfeeding at bay by treating the area fast with medical-grade lanolin. Lanolin ointment or hydrogel dressings encourage your skin to stay hydrated and protect the healing process without scabbing or crusting.
If you are concerned about your newborn consuming lanolin or other medicated balms, you can use breast milk to treat mild nipple pain. The sugars found in breast milk have natural antibacterial properties. Applying a small amount to the nipple and areola after breastfeeding, and allowing it to air dry, provides a moisturizing barrier, wards of infection, and won’t upset your baby’s sensitive stomach.
Make Breastfeeding Less Painful with Correct Latch Techniques
If you’re sure that your nipple pain while breastfeeding isn’t caused by broken or sore skin, it’s possible that you and your baby need to work on latching. An improper latch is frustrating for your baby and painful for you.
When your baby’s latch is effective, the entire nipple is pulled deeply into your baby’s mouth, all the way to the back. A poor latch causes your baby to grab onto your nipple shaft, instead. You’ll notice that your nipple looks creased or pointy, and it will feel tender after your baby releases it.
While this can be a very stressful experience for both baby and mother, it’s not a reason to panic. Most hospitals have lactation consultants available for support and advice, and the cost is usually covered by insurance.
Some hospitals may ask you to make an appointment to visit the lactation office, but improving your latching technique and positioning will be worth it because it may mean an end to your breastfeeding pain.
Stop Breastfeeding Pain by Feeding Your Baby Frequently
Feeding your baby frequently may seem obvious, but it’s essential to adhere to a regular feeding schedule for a few reasons. First, feeding your baby often prevents engorgement. Engorgement happens when your breasts are too full. They will feel firm and tender, and may also leak.
Additionally, breast milk is easily digested and passes through the baby’s system quickly. Shorter, more frequent feedings mean your baby isn’t coming to the breast hungry which means a more relaxed breastfeeding experience.
For less pain, while breastfeeding, a baby needs to eat 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Schedule a feeding session every 2.5-3 hours to keep your baby full and your breasts comfortable. Expressing a bit of milk immediately before feeding will soften your nipples, making it easier for your baby to latch.
Remember to keep a breast pump close by to express any excess milk to prevent nursing pain from engorgement. These vital equipment pieces are usually covered under your insurance and can help you stay on a feeding schedule when you’re away from your baby.
Alleviate Breastfeeding Pain with Hot and Cold Therapies
If you find yourself engorged despite your best efforts, there are some easy home remedies to alleviate breast pain. Applying moist heat to your breasts or taking a hot, 5-minute shower may help to get your milk flowing.
After feedings, apply a cold compress for extra relief from swelling. Apply the compress to your breast for 10 minutes and then remove it until your skin is warm to the touch. Repeat if necessary.
Do not apply cold compresses before feedings or when your breasts are engorged. Cold therapy can cause the ducts to become blocked, increasing your risk of infection and mastitis.
Know Which Pain Medication is Safe While Breastfeeding
If you experience severe engorgement even after expressing milk, pumping, or feeding then it’s time to call your doctor. Be on the lookout for intense breast pain while breastfeeding, or signs that your baby still seems hungry after eating.
Mastitis is an infection of breast tissue that causes breastfeeding to hurt. Symptoms that characterize mastitis include breast warmth, tenderness, swelling, and a burning or sharp breast pain while breastfeeding your baby. You may also notice redness at your breast, along with a fever of 101° or higher. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are all considered safe for relieving breastfeeding pain if you do not exceed the maximum daily dose, and only take them short-term. If you have mastitis or another infection, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics, which are also safe while breastfeeding.
Often, breastfeeding hurts, but beginning breastfeeding pain should only be temporary as you and your baby get to know each other and feed together. If the pain persists, there may be underlying issues such as poor latching techniques or physical abnormalities, preventing your baby from feeding properly.
Consult your doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant if you wish to continue breastfeeding, but need help to avoid breast pain. In the end, teaming up with skilled healthcare providers and working together with your baby can help you smooth out the bumps on your road to successful breastfeeding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Balms are great because they keep your nipples hydrated and help them heal without creating scarring or scabbing. Try using balms containing medical-grade lanolin.
If your baby has a sensitive stomach, you can also use your breast milk to alleviate mild pain and moisturize the painful area. Your breast milk has some antibacterial properties, so it can help your nipples begin to heal.
Using correct latch techniques, lanolin balm, and pain medications can help make breastfeeding less painful. Try working with a lactation expert to learn the best latch techniques. Your partner can also help you find the best latch position.
If your baby bites, pull him or her away and gently say no. Eventually, your baby will understand that biting will end feeding time.
Try feeding your baby frequently, but for shorter periods. The breaks will give you a chance to put balm on your nipples to relieve the pain and give you more frequent relief.
Vary your sitting position so that all areas of your breast drain.
You should also frequently check for hard lumps that could indicate plugged ducts. Apply warm compresses and massage while feeding to alleviate the discomfort.
Heating packs can help increase your milk supply and encourage let-down. If you suffer from engorged breasts, plugged ducts, or mastitis, a heating pack can reduce your discomfort and help with swelling.
Place a cold pack on your nipples after breastfeeding for a welcome cooling sensation. If your nipples are very sore, put lanolin balm on before using the cold pack. The cream will moisturize your nipples while the pack soothes them.
Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are all considered safe for relieving breastfeeding pain if taken responsibly.
Before taking any medication, talk with your doctor. They can recommend alternatives if your preferred OTC medicine isn’t safe.