Breastfeeding should not hurt. Nipple soreness and tenderness during the first weeks is normal as your body begins to learn how to nourish a baby at the breast. When a baby is latched and feeding correctly, there is no reason you should be experiencing any pain, yet so many women suffer from breast and nipple pain when feeding. So when should you call your provider?
Discomfort vs Pain
Discomfort is defined as an annoying inconvenience that is still tolerable. As you adjust to breastfeeding, your tender breast tissue is not used to being sucked on over eight times per day. Thus, things can get a little raw. Using breast compressions for a better let down, using breast milk to heal and treat sore nipples, and alternating positioning can all help with the transition. Discomfort during feedings, might involve mildly chafed skin or a short bout of pain (under 30 seconds) at the beginning of a feed. These symptoms are usually from getting used to breastfeeding in the first 1-3 weeks but typically should not last much longer. Symptoms that cause discomfort don’t usually affect your quality of life or outlook on breastfeeding.
Pain is defined as a sensation that is affecting your normal daily routine. If pain is making you dread breastfeeding due to sharp deep pain or cracked bleeding nipples help is definitely in order. If you’re trying not to grind your teeth or want to scream expletives into a pillow, it probably means you should get some help as soon as possible! Adjusting to life with a newborn can be hard, there is no reason that breastfeeding pain should be one of those reasons.
Trouble with Latch
The top reason for nipple pain with breastfeeding is due to a poor latch. Unfortunately, a poor latch is a very common issue when first starting out. There are a lot of causes but common ones include inverted nipples, tongue tie, and low birth weight (making baby’s mouth small for a nipple). Like any new activity, it can take some practice and guidance for both mom and baby to get the hang of latching correctly. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can show you signs to look for and how to optimize your positioning to make your baby’s latch the best it can be.
Engorgement is a common issue with the start of breastfeeding as the breasts adjust and learn to keep up with your baby’s specific needs. This can make the breasts more sensitive and harder to latch on for baby. This should adjust with time but in the meantime, some advice on effectively managing engorgement can make a big difference.
Thrush or Vasospasm
Thrush is caused by a yeast infection. It typically starts in the baby’s mouth and can be spread to your nipples if not caught quickly. This typically causes sharp shooting pain and intense itching of the breasts. Vasospasm is a circulatory problem that can also cause sharp nipple pain and leave the nipple looking blanched due to poor blood flow. Poor circulation can be caused by issues like poor latch, a bra that is too tight or cold weather. Both these issues can make feeding unbearable, with some women choosing to pump until they recover or even stop feeding altogether. The good news is treatment is available for both and you can continue feeding with the help of your provider.
Still not sure? Talk to a local Spectra Baby USA Certified IBCLC
Pain is the top reason for women to call it quits on breastfeeding. It is crucial to get support when you are struggling, whether you think it’s normal or not. Since it’s recommended to breastfeed for at least 6 months (although 1-2 years is now considered ideal for baby’s health), continued feeding is crucial to give your baby all of those amazing benefits from your milk. Getting help early on has been found to greatly reduce the chance of early weaning. Your provider or breastfeeding consultant can provide insight and tips that you may not have thought of to make the breastfeeding journey as smooth as possible. Sometimes just having that added support can make a world of difference. It’s always good to add another cheerleader to your team as you conquer motherhood!
Regardless of how you would categorize your pain, if you feel something is off or that nursing could be better, don’t hesitate to get the support you need. You can schedule a one on one consult with a Spectra Baby USA Lactation Consultant here. Surround yourself with as much support and knowledge as possible. Check out our extensive blog of resources! Don’t think you have to do it alone. Spectra Baby USA is here for you!