You just became a mother, and have decided to provide him with the best possible nourishment, breast milk. However, there is an unwanted guest: breastfeeding pain.
You knew it could hurt a little bit at first, as other mummies and many experts had told you, but you were not expecting it to hurt that much... Or that long! Painful breastfeeding can be a real problem, especially if you had your mind set on nourishing your new baby and were looking forward to it. In fact, correct latching isn't as easy as it seems, and it is behind most breastfeeding problems.
In the following article, we'll be addressing the issue of breast pain breastfeeding, the possible causes and solutions. If you just became a mum or are about to become one, don't miss the following lines!
Is it normal to have breastfeeding pain?
Well, that depends on the pain and how long it lasts. Many people think that painful breastfeeding is normal, but, even if it is common and normal to some extent at the beginning, you shouldn't assume that you need to endure it, just like that.
And why is it normal to some extent? Well, at the beginning, you are likely to suffer a little pain due to the milk ejection reflex, that is, when your milk lets down. Not all women feel pain, but it's fairly common to feel it. It can be a pressure, tingling, slight aches, discomfort or pins and needles - or absolutely nothing. This kind of pain is mostly due to your breasts accommodating to their new function. You will get used to the feeling so you're not supposed to feel pain anymore.
If after the first few feeds you still feel breastfeeding pain, you shouldn't just accept it and endure it - it means that there is something going on.
Why do I have breastfeeding pain?
In most cases, breastfeeding pain, as any other issue related to breastfeeding, like a blocked milt duct or mastitis, has its primary origin in incorrect latching. In fact, it is a very common problem, because, as we said before, latching correctly isn't as easy as it may seem. Your baby needs to put all the nipple in his mouth, not just the tip. If you see a line that crosses the nipple or that your nipple is too sharp once your baby stops feeding, it means that he needs to grab a wider area of it with his little mouth. Besides breastfeeding pain, incorrect latching can be the cause of the breastfeeding not working, and can end up in other more serious problems such as mastitis.
However, there are other causes, such as:
- Incorrect use of the breast pump: It's OK to use a breast pump, but make sure to use it correctly, as it can also cause damage. Use it gently!
- Thrush: It's a common infection when breastfeeding, unfortunately. You will recognise it because your nipples will be sore and reddish. You may also discover small white dots in your baby's mouth and tongue. If you see any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
- Too much milk: During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, some mothers produce too much milk, which can cause pain. However, if your baby latches correctly, your milk production will adjust to his or her needs little by little.
- Engorgement: With this new guest on your breasts (milk, that is), your breast tissue swells, which paradoxically makes the let down harder... and more painful.
- Tongue-tied baby: Some babies have trouble latching because they have a short frenulum, so they can stick out their tongue enough to suck correctly. If you suspect this is what happening, take your baby to the paediatrician.
Should I go to the doctor?
If the breastfeeding pain doesn't go away, yes, feel free to call the doctor or to ask for the advice of a lactation consultant, who can help you and your baby with latching. If you notice something off with your breasts, go to the doctor immediately, since you will want to avoid a blocked milk duct or mastitis.
Can I continue with breastfeeding?
Of course you can, but you don't need to endure the pain if you don't want to. With the help of a lactation consultant, your baby should be latching correctly soon and thus the pain should go away, but if it's too much, you can take a break. Use a breast pump softly and take a break from breastfeeding for 12-24 hours. However, keep in mind that some babies have a hard time going back to the breast once they've tried the artificial teat, as it's easier to suck.
If the pain doesn't go away, don't forget that formula milk is a perfectly valid and healthy option. Yes, breast milk is the perfect food for the baby, but if it's too painful and you and your baby are both suffering, there are other options. You don't need to feel forced to do anything that doesn't feel right.
Do you have any tips for breastfeeding pain relief?
You can use cool water compresses to relieve the pain, as well as breastfeeding pads while you're not feeding your little one, so your nipples are protected. There are certain hydrogel compresses that can help. But one technique that is sometimes overlooked by mummies is the healing properties of their own milk! That's right - after a feed, you can spray your nipples with a bit of your breast milk and let it dry.
If the pain is too much, you can take some paracetamol or ibuprofen, which will help lots. However, we recommend to consult with your doctor about the right dosage first.
How can I prevent breastfeeding pain?
As you can imagine after reading this article, the best way to prevent breastfeeding pain is getting your baby to latch correctly. Ask for a meeting with a lactation consultant if you have trouble with nursing, but the best option is to be prepared before giving birth. Don't miss your antenatal lessons, for a start, and after giving birth don't leave the hospital without getting expert advice from nurses and lactation experts. Don't forget to check some other articles we have published about the topic, like these breastfeeding tips. Make sure your baby empties both breasts so you don't get blocked ducts, and always offer to him the breast that hurts the less
There are other things that you can do to prevent breastfeeding pain, like dress with comfortable, light clothes and prefer cotton fabrics over synthetic ones. Finally, remember that stress is still your enemy. The more comfortable and relaxed you are while breastfeeding, the more comfortable and relaxed your baby will be.
Have you ever dealt with breastfeeding pain? What did you do about it? Share your experiences and recommendations with other mummies who may be going through the same thing. All help is welcomed in these cases!