Today there are no doubts about benefits of breastfeeding. And it’s obvious that every mom wants to give her baby all the best. That’s why mothers often wonder: “Does breastfeeding hurt?”
Many women face pain and discomfort when breastfeeding, most often at the beginning of the feeding. You can feel the pain in your nipples (especially if there are already injuries and cracks), tingling in the breast, heaviness and “bursting” with the arrival of milk, sometimes abdominal cramping during feeding.
Often, a mother who is only starting to breastfeed thinks that the pain will never pass. But usually, these problems are solved quickly. Mom and baby get used to each other and breastfeeding becomes a pleasure for both. But the question “does breastfeeding hurt?” is still on the agenda.
The Beginning of Breastfeeding
When you do not have milk yet but only colostrum doctors recommend to apply the baby to the breast every 1.5-2 hours but for no longer than 10 minutes, so that the nipples do not crack during the first days of breastfeeding. But the kids are all different. Some of them prefer to suck for hours, then the baby is happy and the mother may have some rest. But what about cracked nipples?
It’s good if you were preparing nipples for breastfeeding during pregnancy. If not, you can buy cream or nipple oil that does not need to be washed off before breastfeeding. Don’t forget to make sure that the baby takes the breast correctly.
Why Does Breastfeeding Hurt? Possible Reasons of Nipple Soreness
- Incorrect application to the breast
- Incorrect pose during breastfeeding
- A change in the technique of breast sucking due to the use of artificial nipples
- Incorrect support of the breast as well as the baby’s head in the first days of feeding
- Breast milk is stuck near the nipple (for example, when using moist disposable breast pads) and makes the nipple softer
- The child is taken away from the breast too abruptly. It is necessary to learn how to wean after breastfeeding
- The kid pulls and twists the breast because they have to turn their head for sucking
- Neurological problems in the child, preventing them from sucking normally
- Breast engorgement (it is difficult for the baby to latch on to the breast)
- Very dry nipple and areola skin, irritation from soap, powder, gels, perfume, sprays, and so on
- The skin of the breast is damaged by a hard towel, too active rubbing during washing, stretching of the nipples during pregnancy
- The use of alcohol-containing creams and gels
- Damage of the nipple nerve due to its incorrect location on the nipple (pain can last about two months)
- Too sensitive skin of the nipple (usually noted before pregnancy)
External Stimuli Causing Pain
If there is a need for pumping out, it is very important to choose the right breast pump. Not suitable size or shape of the funnel, too strong vacuum can injure the breast, causing swelling, scratches, and cracks.
Bad choice of underwear
Seams, lace inserts, synthetic materials are often the cause of injuries or allergic reactions of the breast.
Frequent washing, systematic over drying with soap or alcohol-containing products
Washing your breast 1-2 times a day with a shower is enough. Do not use alcohol-containing products for breast treatment.
Dryness of the room, heating
A fairly common cause of painful feeding in a cool climate. Central heating reduces the level of humidity in the room which leads to overdrying of the skin, making it more sensitive.
Ointments, creams, other cosmetic or therapeutic agents, laundry detergent
They may become a cause of allergic reactions, make the skin of the breast very sensitive or too dry. Even if you used these products before giving birth and everything was fine they might cause a bad reaction after childbirth.
What Should You Do?
Soreness of the breast appears usually on the second day after delivery. If the application of the baby to the breast is correct the pain sensations gradually pass. The epithelium changes and coarser skin forms on your nipples. After that, the soreness usually completely disappears. Most often it happens in a week. To accelerate the healing, it is necessary to leave a drop of milk on the nipple after feeding (it has a wound-healing effect). The drop should dry itself on the air. You can also use various ointments or creams to strengthen the skin of the nipple. They must be applied in small amounts after feeding the baby.
After feeding, you can leave the breast naked for about ten minutes. The air baths strengthen the nipples as well. Oil or ointment should also fully dry before you put a bra on. In the case of painful sensations in the nipples, do not use disposable bra pads, as they can become the source of infection. Use soft rags or folded clean handkerchiefs. One-time inserts for a bra can be used only on healthy nipple skin. You can try changing the position for feeding while your nipple is healing.
If the child continues to take the breast incorrectly the soreness of the nipples will persist throughout the entire period of feeding. At first, a scratch, and then a crack of the nipple can occur. Control the process, try to eliminate the cause of the pain.
Is It Necessary to Stop Breastfeeding?
Most often breastfeeding is not interrupted during the treatment of cracks. Direct healing of cracks with proper elimination of the causes of pain takes on average two days.
If there is no improvement you should contact a breastfeeding consultant. The consultant will help you:
- determine the feeding time,
- teach you how to properly feed and take your breasts out,
- correctly and comfortably feed the baby in different poses (sitting, standing, lying),
- teach you how to pump out milk,
- help control the behavior of the baby when sucking.
Sometimes the soreness of the nipples doesn’t subside for a long time. The cause of this can be candida infection. In this case, only a doctor can appoint the correct treatment.
Keep in mind that if the baby attaches to the breast incorrectly, the amount of milk may reduce. The duration of breastfeeding may reduce as well. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the soreness of the nipples during breastfeeding and try to eliminate its causes.
Watch for proper attachment of the baby to the breast. If the baby takes the breast correctly the frequency and duration of breastfeeding are not limited. Do not let the baby suck only the nipple, “chase” it in the mouth back and forth or from side to side, and bite the mother’s breast (even with the toothless mouth).
Breast can’t get really dirty. And therefore it is quite enough to wash it without soap once or twice a day.
Take the baby from the breast properly. Either wait until the child releases the nipple, or gently insert your little finger into the corner of their mouth. The baby opens their mouth slightly, and then you can painlessly pull the breast out.
If the inflammation has begun the injured nipple can be treated with ointments.
How to Take Care of Your Breast During Breastfeeding?
First of all, forget the instructions about frequent breast washing, especially with soap. A short shower is enough.
Soap and other washing means rinse a special protective lubricant off the breast. This lubricant has bactericidal properties. It prevents abrasions, scratches, excessive drying, and protects the skin from pathogenic microorganisms.
If you need to wash the breast, it is better to use products intended for the hygiene of intimate places, especially those that do not have a strong odor.
During the day, there is no need to rub anything into the nipple skin.
However, you can use your own milk as a preventive measure. It is known for its antibacterial properties. Wipe the nipple with a few drops of milk before breastfeeding. After the feeding, you can also squeeze out a drop of milk, spread it over the nipple and areola, and leave it for a couple of minutes to dry. In the first three-four weeks after childbirth, such prevention will be very helpful.
Women with especially delicate nipple skin can also use creams for this purpose. A very thin layer should be spread over the nipple and areola immediately after feeding. After a few minutes the cream will completely absorb, not letting the skin of the nipple dry up.
And, most importantly, breastfeeding should in no case turn into a torture! This is a joy and happiness, an amazing sense of harmony and unity with the baby. You and your child deserve this joy.