Although the word on the street is that breastfeeding may hurt, the reality is that it isn’t supposed to. While you might have some initial discomfort with breastfeeding, more intense or longer lasting pain can be a sign of a problem.
HOW MUCH PAIN IS TOO MUCH PAIN?
Particularly in the early days of breastfeeding, the initial 30-60 seconds after your baby latches may feel a bit pinch-y, which is completely normal. Typically as the feeding continues, the baby loosens their latch and it becomes more comfortable. Pain that lasts the entire feeding or is severe could be a sign of a problem.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY NIPPLES ARE SORE?
If your nipples are sore but the skin is intact, it’s likely that they’re adjusting to having a lot more action than they’ve ever had.
A shooting pain in the breast or nipple could indicate thrush, an overgrowth of yeast that can affect mothers’ nipples in addition to babies’ mouth and diaper area.
Cracked, bleeding, or blistered nipples are typically a sign of a poor latch which could be due to a variety of factors. Meeting with an IBCLC to determine the cause of the problem would be your best bet, but in the meantime, utilize some Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, plain old coconut oil, or expressed milk to soothe and heal your nipples. You might also consider a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO).
MY BREASTS ARE SORE–NOW WHAT?!
Sore breasts could be a sign of thrush, as mentioned above, but typically sore breasts are due to engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis.
- Engorgement is an inflammatory process that often occurs within the first few days of mature milk “coming in.” Cold packs, cabbage leaves, over the counter pain relievers, gentle breast massage, and frequent nursing are the best remedies for engorgement. If you’re so engorged that your baby is having trouble latching, try reverse pressure softening.
- Plugged ducts occur when milk flow is obstructed. You will likely notice a hard knot where milk is “stuck.” Frequent feeding, breast massage, and heat can assist with comfort and helping the plug to pass. To prevent future plugged ducts, massage while breastfeeding or pumping to make sure the breast is being fully drained, and take care that bra seams are not digging into specific areas of your breast.
- Mastitis is more serious than plugged ducts and involves an infection within the breast. The milk itself is not infected which is why it’s best to continue breastfeeding or pumping to continue draining the breasts frequently. Comfort measures mentioned for plugged ducts can also be used, but it’s important to contact your provider as it is likely you will be prescribed antibiotics.