A persistent myth about breastfeeding is that it’s normal for it to hurt in the beginning. I often hear moms say they were told to ‘tough it out’ for the first six weeks. But if breastfeeding hurts, something is wrong.
Most painful breastfeeding scenarios start with improper positioning or latch. Sometimes all it takes is a small adjustment to mom’s or baby’s body for a huge amount of relief.
Check Your Positioning
Make sure you are holding your baby tummy-to-mummy, with no space between the two of you. Your baby’s head should be at breast level, and his body should wrap around yours. When you look down at your baby, you should see that his ear, shoulder and hip are nicely aligned, and that he doesn’t need to turn his head to latch. While baby’s hands do sometimes get in the way, allowing your baby to ‘hug the breast’ with hands on either side is sometimes useful for getting a nice close position with your baby.
Learn to Latch
With your baby’s head at breast level, align your nipple with baby’s nose, wait for baby to open wide and tip his head back slightly, then bring baby quickly to the breast. Baby’s chin can be buried in your breast, and his nose may be just touching. His lips should be flanged out, not puckered. If baby keeps letting go, or seems to be holding tight with his gums, be sure you have enough support under the breast so that gravity doesn’t pull it down out of baby’s mouth. You can do this with your hand, or with a rolled washcloth. If your baby’s cheeks are dimpled, you hear a clicking sound, or your nipple is misshapen after a feeding, it’s likely that your baby’s latch needs adjusting. Trying to get an asymmetric, deep latch as described above is the best solution.
Notice Your Nipples
For some moms, mild soreness is normal in the first week of feeding. Your body may simply need to get used to stretching in ways it hadn’t done before (especially every 2 hours!). If you develop broken skin or blisters on your nipples during this time, it may take a while for them to heal, even once positioning and latch are adjusted. You can use lanolin, coconut oil, or olive oil after feedings. Nurse on the least sore side first. Get help so that the damage isn’t prolonged.
Could it be you baby?
Sometimes babies have oral anomalies such as tongue-tie, lip tie, cleft palate, bubble palate, etc. that makes breastfeeding painful for moms. Sometimes the solution is time and patience, and sometimes intervention is necessary. Working with your baby’s doctor and a knowledgeable breastfeeding professional can help you determine the best course of action for your family.
The best thing to do if you experience pain in the early days of breastfeeding is to have a feeding observed by a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). She will be able to help adjust your positioning and your baby’s latch for increased comfort, and can help you solve any other issue that may be prolonging the pain you feel with feeding.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt – if it does, don’t suffer through continued pain. Get help so you can enjoy a long, pain-free nursing relationship.
Written by Michelle, lactation consultant, Lamaze instructor, writer and editor, and mom to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.