Relief from Breastfeeding Pain

January 26, 2023

woman breastfeeding babyWhile it’s true that breastfeeding is natural and by far the best source of nutrition for a baby whenever possible, it’s also true that nursing isn’t always easy – or comfortable. First-time moms and repeat moms who haven’t nursed in a while may find those first few days – or weeks – to be downright painful.

5 Ways to Find Relief from Painful Nursing

Fortunately, relief is available – we promise! All it takes is a wee bit of patience and sleuthing on your part, and we assure you nursing pain will become a thing of the past before you know it.

1. Contact the Local La Leche League or a licensed lactation consultant

One of the primary causes of nursing pain is what we call “a bad latch.” When the baby doesn’t latch on exactly right, it pulls, tears, and abrades the skin fibers on your nipples, leading to all kinds of pain and discomfort.

So, often, the first item of business is to determine whether your baby has a healthy latch or not. We recommend reading 5 Lifesaving Breastfeeding Techniques to start. Then, contact your local La Leche League Chapter and/or a licensed lactation consultant and have experts check in with you. Odds are, you’ll expand your breastfeeding support network when you meet the goodhearted soul at the other end of the line.

You might even find your baby has a tongue tie or other minor oral issues, making it impossible for them to nurse properly. This is essential information because the sooner it’s fixed, the better off both of you will be.

2. Ensure you have the proper latch (and correct it if necessary)

That brings us back to ensuring your baby is latching on correctly. The leading cause of nipple and/or nursing pain was an incorrect latch, and correcting that latch had the highest rates of relief success.

When a baby is latched successfully, your nipple is pulled far beyond that initial gum/hard palate section, allowing the baby’s tongue to nurse the nipple and areola as it sucks.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guide to “Breastfeeding Your Baby: Breastfeeding Positions” is extremely helpful in terms of descriptions and images.

3. Feed often and on-demand

It seems counterintuitive when you’re in pain, but feeding often and on demand does two things:

  1. Prevents breast engorgement, which causes pain, discomfort, blocked ducts, etc.
  2. Keeps baby from becoming so hungry that s/he nurses over-vigorously

Newborns and young infants should nurse 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Rooting, putting a fist in the mouth, lip smacking, little fusses, and starts are feeding cues from baby to you.

4. Use medical-grade lanolin

Medical-grade lanolin (sold in any store’s baby section) is the most popular form of dry, chafed, and/or cracked nipple relief. If the baby is latching properly, you should only need it for the first week or two as your new nursing skin learns to adjust. If you are sensitive to lanolin, Hydrogel pads are another excellent option.

5. Alternate heat and cold therapies

Hot compresses help to relieve engorged breasts and/or plugged ducts – getting the milk flowing. After breastfeeding, many mothers find it soothing to use cold packs to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Are you having difficulty adjusting to nursing or experiencing nursing pain/discomfort making you think twice about breastfeeding? Don’t hesitate to contact the all-woman team here at Women’s Health Associates. We’re on your side, and we’ll do all we can to get you back on a healthy breastfeeding track.