If you’re experiencing nipple pain while breastfeeding, we’ve got good news. It can be fixed. Let’s take a deep dive into why it happens and what you can do.
Does breastfeeding hurt? Is it supposed to? What am I doing wrong?
Of course breastfeeding can be a wonderful time of special bonding, but man!
It can be hard in the first few days and weeks.
So if you’re experiencing breastfeeding nipple pain, read on. We can help.
In this article: 📝
- How long should nipple pain last while breastfeeding?
- Why do my breastfeeding nipples hurt?
- How to make my nipples stop hurting while breastfeeding?
- Should I stop breastfeeding if my nipples are sore?
How long should nipple pain last while breastfeeding?
Some nipple tenderness is to be expected in the first few days of breastfeeding.
It should soon subside though, and while you may feel a gentle tugging from baby, it should not give you any discomfort.
Premature babies might take a little longer to get a comfortable latch than full-term babies.
If you’re still experiencing nipple pain after the first few days, it’s worth checking for possible causes.
Breastfeeding is not meant to hurt long term. Read on.
Why do my breastfeeding nipples hurt?
Once you’re past the first few days of breastfeeding, there are a couple of reasons why nipple pain could be happening.
The most common causes of nipple pain while breastfeeding are:
1. An incorrect latch
A good latch is vital for breastfeeding.
How on earth do you do this, you ask?
The basics are that baby should be facing you tummy-to-tummy, with their nose facing your breast.
Then, their mouth should be open wide to take in as much of the areola as possible.
This page from the American Pregnancy Association has more good tips for getting a proper latch.
It’s easier to get a proper latch if you start when baby is not super hungry.
A hangry baby might be too stressed to focus on learning to latch.
Early feeding cues are usually things like baby sucking on their hands, or moving their head side to side, “rooting” for the breast.
A tongue-tie can prevent a proper latch.
It’s when the frenulum (the thing that attaches the tongue to the base of the mouth) is too short.
It can be assessed by a lactation consultant and treated by your pediatrician or an ENT.
Inverted nipples can make it tricky for baby to grasp enough of the breast to latch properly.
But luckily, inverted nipples are unlikely to prevent breastfeeding altogether.
You can try some gentle pumping and special exercises to help draw the nipple out.
2. Releasing the suction before ending the breastfeeding session
It’s crazy, but those babies can create a heckuva vacuum against the breast as they feed.
Trying to unlatch them without breaking that seal can be very painful 😬.
You can try waiting till baby is asleep at your breast after a feed and just letting them softly unlatch on their own.
Or, you can gently insert a clean finger into their mouths to break the suction.
This can be really useful if you need to adjust their latch!
3. Body positioning
It’s important to be comfortable when breastfeed your baby.
You’re going to spend quite a bit of time doing it, after all!
A comfortable position will make it easier for you to keep baby’s head and body in a good spot for a good latch.
This page from La Leche League has a great list of common breastfeeding positions to try.
4. Conditions such as thrush or mastitis
Thrush is a fungal infection that can be passed between mom and baby and requires medical treatment.
If you are experiencing shooting pains in the nipples, hot itchy nipples, or any pain that does not improve with better latching, it could be thrush.
If baby has white patches in their mouth, they too will need to be treated with an oral antifungal.
Luckily it does not cause them any discomfort and is 100% treatable.
Thrush is fairly common. As it thrives in moist environments, the best prevention is to keep breasts dry and change breast pads regularly.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue caused by a blocked milk duct.
You may feel feverish and achy and your breast may be red, hot and inflamed.
Often treated with antibiotics, check in with your doctor asap if you begin to feel unwell while your breasts are sore.
5. Uncomfortable bras
Sadly (or maybe not so sadly), postpartum is generally not the time for a lacy push-up bra.
The ideal bra for breastfeeding, particularly if you’re having pain, is stretchy and made from natural fabrics.
Check out our favorite nursing bras here.
6. Potential irritants
During this time, you may find your nipples more sensitive than usual.
Avoid any soaps or perfumes that could irritate the delicate skin.
If you’re looking for a lotion or balm to soothe your nipples, try pure lanolin (like Lansinoh brand products).
You can also dab some of your own breast milk on the nipple and let it air dry.
How to make my nipples stop hurting while breastfeeding?
Here’s a checklist of things to try if you’re struggling.
- Check baby’s latch, or look for a tongue tie or inverted nipples.
- Check in with your local Le Leche League or a lactation consultant.
- Remember to release the suction!
- Try a different feeding position.
- If you suspect you have thrush or mastitis, see your doctor.
- Make sure to change breast pads regularly.
- Wear comfortable bras designed for nursing.
- Use pure lanolin or breast milk to protect cracked or painful nipples.
- Cold compresses, like cabbage leaves, can help with inflammation and soothe after a feed.
- Try using a nipple shield to ease your pain.
Should I stop breastfeeding if my nipples are sore?
The general consensus from experts is that it’s seldom necessary to stop breastfeeding in the case of sore nipples.
They tend to heal up quickly when underlying problems are addressed.
Sore nipples and breastfeeding do not have to go together.
If you’re struggling, you can always gently pump if you find it more comfortable, while you’re figuring things out.
And remember, don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it.
Le Leche League is an incredible free resource that runs with the help of volunteers.
And check out our top breastfeeding tips from Peanut mamas who’ve been there.
Breastfeeding can be hard. It’s also rewarding, frustrating, special, tiring, wonderful, and tricky.
Sometimes all at once. Kinda like parenting in general!
You’re doing great mama. You’ve got this.
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