Is breastfeeding supposed to be painful?

shutterstock_115650292 breastfeeding mom resizedWhen a woman breastfeeds her baby, her nipples might become sore, which can be frustrating and painful. It’s common for nipples to become tender because they are not yet used to baby nursing from them – even if your baby has a good latch, your nipples may still become tender. Nipple pain or soreness, on the other hand, needs some attention.

If you are starting to experience some tenderness, try these suggestions to prevent your nipples from becoming too sore to continue breastfeeding:

1. Check for a good latch
Baby will have her lips flared out over the areola (the dark brown area around your nipple). Both her top lip and bottom lip will be rolled out with the moist inside of her lip on the areola. She will be face-on on the breast with her chin tucked into the breast, and her nose may touch on the other side.

When you are beginning to feed her, tickle her nose and upper lip with your nipple to help her open wide, then pull her on the breast quickly to help her get as much areola and breast in as she can. Hold your breast to help make the “target” and support her shoulders and neck while she’s latching on the breast. Continue to hold her close and hold your breast at first so she can maintain the latch. Make sure she is “tummy-to-tummy” with you and her spine is straight so she can feed well.

The latch should not hurt after the first few sucks; if it is painful, try getting the baby to latch again. Remember, your baby is new at this and needs time to learn.

2. Change the position you feed your baby in
Alternate from the cradle or cross-cradle position to the football or clutch position every feeding if you can; this helps the baby place her tongue and lips in a different spot on your skin and allows for a change of the pressure point from baby’s tongue and jaw. You can also try the side-lying position in bed, which allows you some rest.

Click here to view a slideshow by Mayo Clinic illustrating the various ways to hold baby.

3. Try not to expose your nipples to soap
When taking a bath or shower, try not to let your nipples be exposed to soap because this can cause dryness. A little lanolin can help with dryness, and if it is applied just before you step in the shower, it can help prevent the soap from drying the nipples and areola.

If your nipples are bruised, blistered, cracked or bleeding, definitely call for some help. Make an appointment with your lactation consultant so she can evaluate the latch and make suggestions on improving this.

Last Updated: May 25, 2018

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About Author: Paula Hart, RN, BS, IBCLC, CCE

Paula Hart, OSF Saint Anthony - Center for Life

Paula Hart is a former certified perinatal educator at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois. She is a registered nurse who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Arts from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

Paula held a national certification as a breastfeeding counselor for eight years before becoming an internationally board certified lactation counselor in 2010. She has been a maternal/child nurse in both the hospital and public health settings for most of her career and previously served as a prenatal classes educator at OSF Saint Anthony.

She really enjoys baking and cooking, as well as reading almost anything she can find.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity