If you are breastfeeding, chances are that you are experiencing some level of pain. It’s one of the biggest and most common having problems breastfeeding.
You may have also heard that breastfeeding pain is not normal. That experiencing pain while breastfeeding means that you’re doing something wrong. *insert eyeroll here*
Maybe that’s true. Maybe. However, you are not (yet) an expert in breastfeeding and natural instinct or not, neither is your baby.
So before we move on to giving you some awesome breastfeeding tips for pain, I want you to ignore the people who say that breastfeeding pain equates to YOU doing something wrong. Because while I can give you some tips to avoid breastfeeding pain, some pain might be inevitable.
Because you, new mama, don’t need any more stress in your life. You are doing the very best that you can and giving your baby the best possible start in life, and even if pain from breastfeeding isn’t “normal”, I guarantee it’s incredibly common.
My first child latched really well from the beginning, but guess what? It STILL hurt. I’m gonna just go ahead and say it, not from a medical professional’s perspective but from a real-life mom’s perspective: Breastfeeding hurts even with a good latch.
**If you’re struggling with getting a good latch, it’s definitely something that you need to correct ASAP. Learn how to get a good breastfeeding latch.
Breastfeeding in the first few weeks is AWKWARD, even if you’re a seasoned breastfeeder because every baby is different. A less than perfect latch (and maybe even a perfect one!) is going to equal some pain in the beginning, but why can’t we just say that this is normal? Should we expect that our little newborns should latch perfectly after going through the trauma of childbirth?
I say no.
This post is going to walk you through the different types of pain related to breastfeeding, and how to treat that pain, so that you can get on to the enjoyable part of breastfeeding, when you’re both pros and breastfeeding is the easiest thing that you do with your baby all day.
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Breastfeeding Tips For Pain
Breastfeeding Pain Relief For Nipples
Unless you have something else going on, like engorgement or blocked ducts, you’re pain is probably located in the nipple area.
Related: When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier, Faster And Less Painful?
Make sure that your baby is latching well, and then use these tips for breastfeeding nipple pain relief.
- Use a warm salt water soak- mix one cup of warm water with a ½ teaspoon of salt
- Get an ointment prescription from your doctor
- Get some cooling pads like these Medela Hydrogel tender care pads– these pads provide instant cooling relief for pain. You need to check out the amazing reviews that these pads have!
- Use coconut oil, lanolin or organic nipple balm after each feeding
- Consider temporarily using a nipple shield, but only for a short time to make sure that your baby can switch back to nursing without it easily
- Let your nipples breathe and stay topless as much as possible
Breastfeeding Pain Relief- Home Remedies
Home Remedies For Cracked Nipples
While nipple pain is to an extent normal when beginning to breastfeed, cracked, bleeding nipples are pretty extreme and likely not normal.
Make sure that along with treating the pain you have also identified the cause.
- Apply Fresh Expressed Breast Milk- Massage your breast in order to express some milk, and apply it to your nipple. Then let air dry. If you have thrush, do NOT do this.
- Use A Cold Compress- Cold compresses can be made out of a washcloth or by using an ice pack. Applying cold to the affected area can help to alleviate and numb the pain.
- Make this DIY sore nipple remedy from Mama Natural
Mastitis Pain Relief
Mastitis is extremely painful and hopefully something that you’ll be able to avoid. Here are some Mastitis pain relief tips.
- Nurse on that side as frequently as possible.
- Apply hot compresses to the breast for approximately 15 minutes before a feed (warmth stimulates milk production).
- Massage the clogged area, both while nursing and while applying the hot compress or taking a hot shower or bath.
- Take acetaminophen, or better yet, Ibuprofen to treat the pain. Ibuprofen works better as it is an anti-inflammatory.
- Use cold compresses after feedings, which will help to slow milk production, alleviate pain and numb the pain a little.
Breastfeeding Pain And Lumps/Breast Feels Bruised
If you are breastfeeding, and your breast feels bruised, you are likely dealing with a clogged milk duct. It will probably (unfortunately) be your first of many.
I remember getting frequent clogged milk ducts at the end of my baby’s many growth spurts. I used to simultaneously love and loathe the end of growth spurts.
This bruised feeling may or may not be accompanied by a lump in your breast. Another indicator of a clogged duct is pain while nursing, because your milk is letting down but has nowhere to go.
Clogged Milk Duct Pain Relief
- Nurse as much as possible on that side (without ignoring and potentially causing a clogged duct on the other side)
- Massage the affected duct toward the nipple while nursing your baby
- Apply heat before nursing
- Breastfeed with your baby lying down and you hovering over her (yeah, it’s completely weird, but gravity will help to unclog the block in this situation)
Breastfeeding And Shooting Pain
If you’re experiencing a shooting pain during or breast pain after breastfeeding, thrush could be the cause.
With thrush, you might experience shooting pain, burning nipple pain, flaking skin, tenderness and/or sore lumps. With it, pain occurs both during and after feeds.
If you think you may have thrush, you should see a medical professional who can diagnose and treat thrush with prescription medication.
Breast Engorgement Pain
Engorgement is no joke. I remember when my milk first came in with my second child, I was so engorged that I had all of the symptoms of mastitis. I was feverish, my boobs hurt SO INCREDIBLY BAD, I was shaky and nauseous. I was so very sick.
Managing breast engorgement pain is tricky, because you want to remove the milk, but at the same time you don’t want to encourage your body to produce more. Which is essentially what milk removal does.
How to avoid engorgement:
- Nurse on-demand
- Avoid switching sides frequently, which may encourage your body to produce more
- Make sure that baby has a good latch.
How to treat engorgement pain:
- Apply heat or take a short, hot shower before breastfeeding to encourage milk flow (make this short as too much heat can increase swelling).
- Use cold compresses after nursing
- Massage while nursing in order to remove as much milk as possible
- As your doctor about taking Ibuprofen to help you deal with the pain and to reduce inflammation
- Hand express when engorgement becomes painful or pump for a very short period of time. Remember, you only want to express until you have some relief as you do NOT want to encourage your body to produce more milk.
- Apply cabbage leaves- the use of cabbage leaves should only be used in extreme cases of oversupply, as cabbage can quickly reduce your supply. Apply cabbage for 20 minutes no more than 3 times a day, and as soon as engorgement begins to subside, discontinue use.
Sore Nipples From Pumping
If you’re experiencing sore nipples from pumping, you might be pumping all wrong, or you might be using the wrong accessories.
Find the right breast pump suction and speed level
The higher the pump suction and speed, the quicker your pumping session will go and the more milk you will remove. Right?! Wrong. (Don’t worry, I thought so too.)
If you’re pumping at a high speed and with high suction, you might be hurting yourself (literally!). And it’s not going to make the milk come out any faster. It might actually have the opposite effect.
You really need to find what works for you, but here is a suggestion. Start with a higher speed and low suction until your achieve letdown (or use your pump’s letdown function), then lower the speed and raise the suction a little bit.
Make Sure That You Are Using The Correct Flange Size
Using the wrong flange could easily cause some major pain from pumping.
How To Treat Sore Nipples From Pumping
If the thought of firing up the pump again is making your nipples cry, here’s what you can do to soothe the pain.
- Apply nipple cream or Lanolin (or even your own breast milk) to your nipples immediately after pumping.
- Wear breast shells or ice packs in between pumping sessions to help soothe.
- Apply coconut oil, breast milk or nipple butter to the inside of your flanges before pumping. This will help eliminate friction.
What To Do When You Feel Like Breastfeeding Is Too Painful
My suggestion to you is that you take it day by day. Pump if you have to in order to give your nipples a break, and if you’re following the tips above you SHOULD be seeing some improvement quickly.
If you make it through this tough time, you will be amazed at how easy breastfeeding can be!
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Monday 4th of November 2019
Thank You for this!!! Very brand new Mom here whose baby is in the NICU for a few days ❤ First night home (she is still at the hospital) Im pumping every 2 hrs or so and my breasts hurt So badly right now!!! Will be applying your advice!
Tuesday 26th of November 2019
I live for comments like these! Hang in there, new mama! It will get easier, I promise!