Breastfeeding your baby should be one of the most wonderful, natural, and joyful experiences. The benefits it delivers to both you and baby are well-known, but what isn’t often talked about is just how difficult it can be.
There are all kinds of problems that can occur when you start to breastfeed and by far the most surprising for many moms is the pain that comes with it. Now, don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding isn’t always painful. Some moms experience no pain at all, while others report only a little discomfort. However, for those who aren’t so lucky, it can be significantly painful.
If you do experience pain while you’re breastfeeding, it’s natural to start dreading feeds. The good news is, there are ways you can ease the pain of breastfeeding and here we’ll look at five of the best tried and tested methods.
1. Ensure Baby Is Latching On Correctly
If your little one is having difficulties latching on, or they aren’t latched on correctly, this can lead to nipple soreness. This is an especially common problem for moms who combine breast and bottle feeding. It takes a lot more work for baby to suck milk from a bottle, so if they are used to doing that, they’ll automatically use the same sucking motion on your breast.
It’s not all down to bottle feeding however. It can take a little time and patience to ensure baby is latched onto the breast properly. A correct latch position places the nipple right towards the back of the baby’s mouth. They use their tongues to work the milk out of the breast, so if the nipple isn’t far enough back, the tongue can end up rubbing against it, causing irritation.
So how do you know if your little one is latched on correctly? Well, if they aren’t you’ll notice symptoms such as the nipples appear squashed after a feed and it may crack or blister over time.
If you’re unsure how to achieve the perfect latch, you can always ask your pediatrician. They’ll be able to show you the best positions to try out.
2. Feed More Frequently
It’s understandable why many moms try to space out feeds as much as possible; particularly if it is painful. However, there’s two problems with this.
The first is the hungrier your little one is, the harder and more impatient they will be when it comes to feed time. If they’re rushing to get milk, they’re going to be a lot rougher on the nipple, causing a lot more pain. The second problem is that the breasts can become engorged and this can make it more difficult for baby to get to the milk. So, when you combine a very hungry baby with a slower milk supply, it’s a recipe for very painful breasts!
Look out for your little one’s hunger cues early on and this will greatly reduce the amount of pain and discomfort you experience.
3. Use Medical Grade Lanolin Ointment
You may not be aware that in the first week of breastfeeding, cracked, sore nipples can actually be caused by post-partum changes in the skin. To ease the soreness and help cracked nipples to heal, a medical grade lanolin ointment can be used.
Before applying any nipple cream, it’s worth checking it doesn’t contain fragrances, dyes or parabens. Seek advice from a doctor if you’re unsure.
Another great tip is to use your breastmilk as a natural nipple healer. It contains antibacterial properties, so covering the nipples with a little breast milk after feeding will speed up the healing process and prevent them from drying out.
4. Avoid Using Nipple Shields
Despite being commonly recommended as a solution for sore nipples, nipple shields can actually make the problem worse. If you’ve never heard of them, they are basically small, silicone shields which slot over the nipple whenever it’s time for a feed. The trouble is, babies can find these shields really difficult to latch onto and they don’t prevent the nipple from being damaged.
More worryingly, over time baby may start to find it difficult to breastfeed without the shield due to the change in shape. If you’re determined to give them a try, be sure to seek advice from a lactation expert beforehand.
5. Leave The Nipples To Air Dry
When the nipples do become sore, anything rubbing against them can lead to further irritation. Therefore, it’s worth exposing them to the air where nothing can brush against them, whenever possible. You can also invest in what are referred to as “breast shells”. These are basically plastic, dome shaped products designed to protect the nipples from contact. So, they’re ideal for times when going topless isn’t an option!
These are 5 of the most effective ways to ease the pain of breastfeeding. However, if you find the pain is excessive it is advisable to seek advice from a doctor. It’s also a good idea to establish the root cause of the soreness before trying to treat it. There are medical conditions which could be causing the problem, such as Thrush or Mastitis.
Overall, breastfeeding sadly isn’t always as magical as you think it’s going to be. Pain is something many new moms suffer with, though it is usually only temporary. It’s understandable the nipples may be sensitive and slightly painful during the first week as they adjust to breastfeeding your little one. However, if problems do persist or you are concerned, don’t be afraid to seek medical help.