Only a small percentage of new moms get breastfeeding right from the moment they place their baby to the breast. For many, it can be a difficult journey and without the correct support and guidance they can easily give up, especially when breastfeeding becomes painful.
Feeding your baby is an altogether new sensation. Troubleshooting any pain or discomfort is important, so you and your baby can enjoy a long, comfortable breastfeeding relationship. Try to seek out the advice of a lactation consultant or a clinic sister who’s experienced in breastfeeding.
One of the first sensations you’ll experience is just how strong a tiny baby’s suck is. Your baby’s mouth creates a vacuum seal around your nipple and areola, which is a force to be reckoned with. If your baby isn’t correctly latched to the breast, it can really hurt. A shallow latch is the most likely reason you may experience painful breastfeeding.
What you can do:
Your baby needs to take in a large mouthful of breast. The lower jaw needs to be as low down on the areola as possible. This is a deep latch that will result in the baby compressing the breast to eject milk and not compressing the nipple. If the latch is shallow, your nipple is compressed causing pain.
If your nipple is painful, misshapen, or a scab or bleeding is noted, it’s likely that the latch is shallow. If you’re unable to latch your baby correctly, please seek assistance from a lactation consultant or clinic sister. The only way to prevent trauma to the nipples is to correct the latch.
If the nipple has an abrasion or crack due to a shallow latch, you can try laser therapy to the affected area. This works quickly to heal the nipple. Exposing the nipple to direct sunlight also provides some pain relief. A good lanolin-based nipple cream applied to the nipple helps, too.
Engorgement can occur as the milk transitions from colostrum or “first milk” to mature milk, which causes the breasts to become full and hard. The lymphatic system is on high alert as your body adjusts to the presence of milk in your breasts. The pain can range from mild discomfort to extreme. Your breasts may also become engorged if your baby sleeps for an extended period of time or drops a feed.
What you can do:
The best way to relieve engorgement is to empty your breasts regularly. By feeding your baby at regular intervals, your breasts will adjust to filling and draining. If your breasts are very full and engorged, you can place a warm compression like a warm towel or a happy hugger on them before feeding your baby. This will help to reduce the swelling and allow for the breasts to soften and drain. Engorgement can make it difficult for your baby to latch. Try to manually express a little milk before latching your baby as this can soften your breasts. Cool ice packs or cold cabbage leaves after a feed can also provide relief for engorged breasts.
When to worry about painful breastfeeding
Seek medical attention if your breasts or nipples become red, heated, or if you develop a temperature and feel unwell. This can be mastitis (infection of the breast), which will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Pippa is a Registered Professional Nurse and trained as a Registered Midwife at Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital. She has extensive experience in all things baby related with a special interest in preparing couples for the exciting journey of parenthood as well as supporting them in the weeks that follow the birth. She and her husband Richard are the proud parents of Becca age 6 and Tom age 4. Pippa has a comprehensive private clinic service that includes Childbirth Education classes, a Well Baby Clinic including Immunization as well as Post Natal and Lactation support. With over 5 years of running a private clinic facility and raising 2 children Pippa comes with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience of parenthood.