Don’t worry—these problems are nothing major! Keep reading to learn about the common causes of breastfeeding pain and how to make feeding your baby everything you dreamed it would be.
Is Breastfeeding Pain Normal?
Although breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, pain can stem from a couple of issues. You might have expected some short-term pain, understand that continuous discomfort is not normal. Yes, breastfeeding does improve as you and your baby gets more experienced, but even initial pain should be minimal or nonexistent. In fact, any nipple pain could potentially cause damage and decrease your milk production—something no mother wants.
The good news is that these problems can be easily fixed once you have identified the reason. Pinpointing the issue is the first step, though.
1. Get The Best Latch Possible
More often than not, painful nipples are the result of a poor latch. Symptoms of a poor latch include sore nipples and uncomfortable breastfeeding. Your nipples might also look flattened, creased, or squashed once your baby releases your breast. Skin might start to crack and blister. Also, you might notice that your baby is fussy when feeding instead of calm and may even chomp down instead of cupping your nipple with their mouth.
To get the latch correct, try the following method: Tease your baby’s mouth to get them to open wide, kind of like a fish at the surface of water. As soon as they open up, place your nipple near their nose and bring your baby closer to you. Doing so helps the baby tip their head back so the nipple moves deeper into their mouth. Their lips should flare outward instead of curling inward. Make sure their chin is against the breast and that the tip of their nose is touching too.
If the latch is correct, you will see their jaw moving (not up and down) and their ears wiggling slightly. You will also hear swallowing sounds. When your baby stops suckling and the nipple comes out of their mouth, it should look the same as it had when it went in—no compression or marking.
2. Avoid Using Pacifiers and Bottles For A While
In order to prevent ongoing engorgement and to get a good routine going, you should avoid using pacifiers or any other nipple-shaped object outside of your own breasts before 2 weeks postpartum. While it might be tempting to give your baby a pacifier when they are hungry, you should feed on demand to aid in stimulating milk supply and flow. Your body and your baby need time to adjust to the process, after all. Your both new to this!
3. Feed on Demand and Get Skin-to-Skin Contact
As we started mentioning above, feeding on demand has benefits. First, feeding on demand means that when your baby is hungry, they are getting the food they crave. Second, it is so much easier to get a comfortable latch with a baby that isn’t fussing because they are starving. Learn to see the cues of their waking, such as eyes moving beneath the eyelids and hands that open and close, so you can catch them right as their hunger starts to grow. Skin-to-skin contact is also relaxing for the both of you. When your baby is soothed, they will often get a better latch than when they are thrashing around.
4. Avoid Yeast Infections and Mastitis
Nipple soreness could be the sign of a health condition. If you have symptoms like a burning, stabbing, or sharp pain in the nipple along with a pinkish or reddish rash, you could have a yeast infection (thrush). You baby will also have symptoms like white circles inside their mouth and on their palate. They might be exceedingly fussy, too.
But where does this come from?
Every person has yeast in their system, but it can overgrow in the right conditions. If you have been on antibiotic treatments or have iron deficiencies, you are at risk of getting a yeast infection. You will need to see a doctor.
To help balance out your microbiome and prevent these kinds of issues from happening, you should take some probiotics, like acidophilus supplements, and eat yogurts or other foods that have live and active cultures.
Mastitis, on the other hand, can be confused for a yeast infection in the early stages. Then, it turns into a hot and tender area that is hot to touch. Usually, you develop mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary tissue, due to plugged ducts or infections.
If you suspect you have a plugged duct, use warm water and heat to soften the breast. Try to massage out the plug. In the event the duct remains backed up, you may need medical assistance.
5. Get All The Support You Need
When it comes to breastfeeding, you need three kinds of support: body, breasts, and baby support. Before you start breastfeeding your child, you need to be relaxed. The less tension your body feels, the more painless the feeding will be. Find a position where you have support for your arms and back. Put your feet up. If you nurse in bed, make sure you have plenty of pillows. Always bring your baby in towards your breast rather than bending over or hunching, since this will hurt your back.
Your breasts are going to be heavier, after all. Make sure you can comfortably hold your breast in the C-Hold—where your hand cups the breast, letting the thumb rest above the nipple, adjacent to your baby’s nose.
Lastly, you support your baby the right way. Moms tend to prefer one of two holds: cradling or the football hold. You are free to choose what works for you, but you want to be able to control the situation as much as possible. Your baby will get a better latch when you can hold the comfortably at the point where their mouth is directly opposite the nipple. Should your arms get tired, you can always use pillows or folded blankets to support you and the baby.
Sometimes, even with support, you might need some extra help. In that case, reach for some lanolin oil or hydrogel pads to soothe cracked, dry skin around your nipples. Stock up on nipple cream to keep your breasts healthy and you happy.
Wrapping It Up
Pain from breastfeeding is not an ongoing event. You should rarely feel any pain at all. Understanding the root of the pain can help you overcome the problem, making the breastfeeding sessions more enjoyable for you and your baby. Use the tips in this article to help you pinpoint the issue.
And remember that there are plenty of tools and soothing creams to help make the experience all the more enjoyable.
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