Common but not Normal: Breastfeeding Pain

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Breastfeeding is supposed to hurt, right?

That's what we're often told, anyways.

"Rough up your nipples with a towel", "take a deep breath and grit your teeth", and "maybe you should just pump" are things that are frequently told to new breastfeeding parents. 

There is a lot of misinformation and bad advice that still circulates today. While pain is common it is certainly not normal by any means.

Well within the realm of normal are mild soreness and tenderness to touch, especially during the first week or two of nursing. Outside of "normal"?

Almost everything else.

Pain is never normal. Pain will almost always indicate a problem of some sort.

Painful Latching

If there is pain during your entire nursing session, chances are baby is latched incorrectly. Typically this is a good indicator that the latch is too shallow. To remedy this, insert your pinky gently into the side of baby's mouth to break the seal and pull them away from the breast. Relatch baby, making sure they're taking in all or almost all of the areola. If there is a struggle, unlatch baby and try holding your breast and pulling the nipple from nose down to help baby open wide.

Painful Letdown

Painful letdown can sometimes be an indicator of an oversupply issue. While oversupply sounds like a great thing, it can actually be accompanied by a host of problems. Having too much milk can lead to issues like clogged ducts and Mastitis. Another issue that can be indicated by painful letdown is some sort of breast infection (such as a yeast infection). A "pins-and-needles" discomfort is 100% normal. If it is more than that, though, it's often a sign of a problem. 

Cracked/Bleeding Nipples

Cracked and bleeding nipples are often the main issue that is swept under the rug. "Push through, it's supposed to hurt...". If your nipples are cracked or bleeding, there is a problem. Some problems, such as dry skin or improper pumping, are easily remedied. The most common problem that causes these issues, though, is an improper latch. It's important that the latch be remedied or these issues may persist. When nipples are cracked or bleeding, dry healing has been found the most effective and ideal. Introducing bacteria of any sort can lead to infections. Keeping your nipples clean (with just water) and dry are the keys to aiding healing.

Pushing through mild discomfort can make the difference when establishing a breastfeeding relationship. Pushing through pain, though, can be the breaking factor. It's important that if you begin to notice pain issues that they are addressed by a professional. Give your doula a call, visit the hospital IBCLC, or attend a breastfeeding support group.

Whatever you do, don't suffer in silence. There is help and you don't need to be in pain!

Take Care.

♥ - M