Is breastfeeding painful?
Pain should not be a normal part of breastfeeding and is a sign something is wrong.
Some new mums may find breastfeeding a little uncomfortable at first while they get used to the sensation. The beginning of a feed can feel quite intense as your baby’s first few sucks can be very strong but this should settle quickly and feeding shouldn’t hurt.
If you are finding breastfeeding painful, break your baby’s latch, take them off your breast and reposition. When you first start breastfeeding, it is normal for it sometimes to take a few attempts to get your baby latched on properly.
Don’t be tempted to allow your baby to carry on feeding even when it is really uncomfortable. This may seem like the easy option at first, especially if your newborn was reluctant to latch on but it can lead to sore and cracked nipples which will make breastfeeding much more difficult.
Taking time to get things right is worth it in the end. If you find it difficult to get your baby latched on without discomfort, speak to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding support worker so they can help you with your technique.
What might make breastfeeding painful?
There are other reasons breastfeeding might be painful. Pain is usually a sign that something is wrong and there is a problem which needs to be resolved.
The following are some of the most common reasons you might experience pain during breastfeeding other than poor technique:
A blocked milk duct
Sometimes your milk ducts can get clogged and this can be uncomfortable and you may feel a lump. Massage the area of your breast where your blocked duct is before breastfeeding. Warm showers and holding a warm compress onto the area can also help. You may also want to change breastfeeding positions so your baby’s chin points towards the duct - this can help make sure the duct empties. If the lump doesn’t go away within a couple of days, see your GP as it may be something more serious.
If you have mastitis, you have an infection which causes a painful inflammation of the breast. Mastitis can make your breasts feel sore and hot and you may notice the skin is red or there are red streaks. Part of your breast may feel quite hard and you may feel unwell and have a high temperature or experience chills. See your doctor if you think you may have mastitis as you may need to take antibiotics. Continue breastfeeding to empty the breasts as this will help clear the infection – you may also want to express. Before you breastfeed, gently massage the sore area and apply a warm compress. After feeding, apply a cold compress to soothe and relieve the area.
If your baby gets oral thrush, which is a yeast infection, this can spread to your breast. If you catch thrush from your baby, you may experience a shooting pain in your breast during or after feeding. Sometimes women experience a burning sensation or a pain deep down in their breast tissue. You may find breastfeeding painful even when you have checked your baby’s latch and positioning and your nipples may feel itchy or like they are burning. Signs you might have thrush include having a rash with small blisters on your nipples or your nipples becoming cracked, shiny or flaky. You may also notice your baby has cracked skin around their mouth and white or yellow patches on their tongue or inside their cheeks. If you think you might have thrush, go to your doctor so both you and your baby can be treated.
Breastfeeding can be more challenging and painful if you have inverted nipples or nipples which are very flat. This is because it is harder for your baby to latch on properly. Seek support with your breastfeeding as there are techniques you can try which will make breastfeeding easier and less painful. You may need to see a specialist lactation consultant for help.
If your breasts are very full, they can feel hard and tight and this can be quite painful. Feeding is the best way to relieve engorged breasts, although your nipples may be flatter than usual which can make it tricky for your baby to latch properly. If this is the case, you may want to express a little bit of milk first until your breasts feel a little softer so your baby can feed more easily.
How can I breastfeed if my nipples and breasts are already sore?
Breastfeeding can be very challenging when your nipples and breasts are sore. You may find it easier to feed from the less painful side first and keep changing positions.
If you are finding it really hard to breastfeed, you may find expressing more comfortable. In some cases, a nipple shield may help but speak to a breastfeeding specialist for advice first as they can negatively impact your milk supply.
Warm and cold compresses can provide some welcome relief and make sure you drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.