Painful breastfeeding is very common in lactating mothers. However, prevention is feasible, and care relies on what the cause is.
The triggers that are most common include:
- A baby who does not latch well
- Adjusting to this new skill
You could have more than one cause of painful breastfeeding. Kindly read further to learn more about the potential causes and how to treat as well as preventing painful breastfeeding.
Have the latch tested
Breastfeeding always takes time, and to get the proper latch, many babies and mothers need to practice. A good nursing latch, deep on the breast, can get the most milk for the baby and keep you from suffering.
In any variety of ways, a baby may have trouble latching, and a latch that is too shallow is a common issue. Remember, it’s called breastfeeding, not feeding on the nipple. Your baby’s lips need to be around most or all of the areola when breastfeeding.
A shallow latch puts excess suction right on the nipples and becomes painful, causing to have bruises on your nipples.
How to pick up a good latch
To facilitate a successful latch:
- Keep the baby’s chin gently down and open as they reach the breast to feed.
- With your nipple, tickle the upper lip of the baby and wait until their mouth is wide open (like a yawn) before softly steering them toward the breast.
- If they do not latch well at first, take them off and start over again.
- Ask nurses to check the latch of your baby during your hospital stay if you deliver at the hospital. Ask your midwife or doula for advice if you delivered at home.
- Use a nipple guard only briefly and with a lactation consultant’s guidance.
Contact a lactation counsellor if you continue to have problems, discomfort, or your child appears upset while breastfeeding. A licensed consultant can provide personalized assistance, and most accept health insurance.
Some hospitals have a staff consultant that you can talk to during your stay. Ask if your hospital hosts breastfeeding support courses.
Helping your infant unlatch
It is important to break the suction before pulling them off if you need to unlatch your infant to avoid sore nipples. Stick your finger gently between your breast and its gums to break the suction to help the baby unlatch, and then direct the baby’s head away from your chest.
Treat tongue-tie, if your child has this disorder
If your baby has a tongue-tie, persistent sore nipples can occur, and thus resulting in painful breastfeeding. A tongue-tie can only be diagnosed and treated by a doctor or licensed lactation consultant. The treatment could be surgical, or they might be able to help you work around it and still learn how to get a good latch.
Adjust the hold
During breastfeeding, how you sit and carry your child will influence how comfortable it is for you and the baby. A variety of breastfeeding positions are available. To try all of them, you need to find books and online tools or ask for advice from a lactation consultant.
A safe hold will keep the face of your baby parallel (horizontally or vertically) to your breast, and keep the tummy in contact with your body.
To get a stronghold, you will need to:
- Hold the baby’s hips and face turned toward you while breastfeeding
- Avoid getting tired, so try several positions and change positions
- Consider using accessories, such as a breastfeeding pillow or footstool if they help
- Keep the baby tight to your breast instead of crouching over them
When the breasts get so full of milk, engorgement occurs. This happens if you nurse for too long or if you’re still in the early stages, and your supply is adapting to the needs of the baby.
Engorged breasts are likely to hurt, and they can also make latching onto the breast more difficult for your infant. Before breastfeeding, you may need to release a little bit of milk if this happens.
Try one of these milk release methods:
- Lean over a sink and use a compress with a soft, wet towel on one breast at a time
- Make use of a breast pump to squeeze a little milk (you can store it if you want)
- Gently rub your breasts and let the milk trickle out when you’re in the tub
Every time you nurse, your nipples get wet with milk. That can contribute to thrush, which is an infection of the nipples with yeast. Thrush can be passed through during breastfeeding between mother and infant.
A thrush nipple can be bright pink and hurt a lot, and it requires to be treated by a physician. Dry between feedings to prevent thrush. You can blow on or pat your breast with a baby towel, or you can walk around topless to air dry.
Use mild soap on your nipples after bathing, and rinse thoroughly. If you happen to leak milk regularly, make use of breast pads, and adjust them regularly to avoid trapped moisture. A breeding ground for yeast is moist bras and nipples.
Keep your nipples moisturized
While you’d like make sure that your nipples are clean and dry, you might need to moisturize them. Nipples are responsive and, could crack and bleed during breastfeeding if they become too dry.
At the drugstore, you can find a variety of nipple creams. It is crucial that you use only baby-safe nipple products because they place their mouth directly on your nipple.
Please read the labels of the product and ask your doctor which creams they recommend. Clean the area with water then use a nipple cream. Apply the lotion right after you feed your baby so that your skin has enough time before the next feeding to absorb it.
Select the right breast pump shield size
Using the wrong sized breast shield will cause your nipples to become irritated and sore. The amount of milk that you produce while pumping can also be influenced by it.
You probably need a smaller shield if you see a lot of your areola within the guard when pumping. You will also need a bigger guard if your nipples are rubbing against the inside of the shield.
To pick the correct shield, follow the guides of your breast pump brand. You can acquire new shields online and at major stores. You can also contact the pump brand directly to know where to get various sizes of guards.
As your breasts change over time, you will also need to change sizes. Make sure that you use a vacuum power and velocity that feels relaxed when pumping. This would not trigger more milk and make the pump too powerful, but it may hurt you.
Check for and treat milk blebs
A milk bleb is a pore of a blocked nipple, and it occurs on the nipple like a tiny white or yellow blister. You can try olive oil (a folk remedy) to massage it, but do not pick it as it can result in bleeding and infection.
To see if that releases the barrier, you can also try applying a warm compress and then squeezing out some milk using your hands. If you have a sore, or recurrent blister, speak to a doctor.
Apply cool compresses
After breastfeeding, cool compresses can help soothe sore nipples by reducing swelling. A cool compress can be used both on your breast and nipple as well as under your arm.
Use a piece of cotton, like an ice pack, between your skin or something cold. Never directly add an ice pack to your skin. Apply a few minutes at a time with the compress. You can do this on and off for some hours until the swelling is minimized.
Wear a supportive bra
To avoid chafing, pick a breathable bra. Look for nursing camisole tops that have more stretch if you find it challenging to get a bra that fits as you adjust to your milk supply and breast size. Some physicians do not suggest breastfeeding underwire bras, so ask your doctor what’s right for you.
Using pads with hydrogel to soothe sore nipples
Hydrogel pads can help soothe pain regardless of what causes sore nipples. Brands such as Lansinoh and Medela produce pads from hydrogel. You can make use of them at room temperature, or place them in the refrigerator for further cooling.
Gel pads also keep the nipples from sticking to the bra fabric and chafing them. If your nipples are already broken or bleeding, this is incredibly helpful.
If a child is teething, provide teething toys
If your baby is some months old and you get sore nipples unexpectedly, pay attention to see if your baby is messing around or gumming while they should be feeding on your nipples.
Give a teething ring and do not allow your nipple to have baby gum during or between feedings, even if there are no teeth yet. Use the above tips to unlatch your baby if your baby bites you and will not let go.
When to seek assistance
Most women feel breast pain when they start to breastfeed for the first time, so don’t wait too long to get help. The first few days and weeks are critical for both mother and child to know about healthy breastfeeding.
If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, contact your paediatrician immediately. An indication that your baby is not getting enough milk is when you don’t get much wet diapers every day.
If the pain gets serious or you have some symptoms of mastitis, call your doctor right away. Mastitis is a breast tissue inflammation that often causes infection.
The symptoms of mastitis include:
- Breasts warm to the touch
- Swollen or sore breasts
- Pain or burning while nursing
Painful breastfeeding is normal in women who lactate, but these symptoms can be controlled and minimized in several ways. Ask for advice from experienced mothers and work with your doctor to prevent and treat any causes of painful breastfeeding.
Ensure that you take proper care of yourself while breastfeeding so that it’s a mutually beneficial experience for you and your child.