Instagram and your prenatal education classes sure make breastfeeding seem easy. Just pop out a boob and your hungry baby is instantly satisfied. For the vast majority of breastfeeding moms, this is so not the case. The first few weeks of breastfeeding are a learning experience for you and your baby. You and the baby learn how to latch and which breastfeeding position works best for both of you. However, the first few weeks may be challenging and full of new experiences, such as sore nipples. It is very common for women to experience sore nipples, though it doesn't usually last long. Within a few weeks, the discomfort should subside. However, if it doesn't, there are many things you can do to gain relief from sore nipples.
Common causes of sore nipples while breastfeeding
Nipples are adjusting to a new experience
During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, your breasts and nipples adjust to the nursing process. Cut them some slack! Feeding on demand is hard on your body. The nipple skin needs to toughen up, for lack of better words. And that can take time.
Your baby needs to get a proper latch to the breast for the let down of breast milk and for the baby to feed correctly. If their latch isn’t correct, say they’re not taking enough of the nipple into their mouths, it can cause painful cracking. Make sure the baby has the proper position and latch. Breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are in pain, gently break your latch and try again. Your nipple should not be pinched, flat, or shaped differently after unlatching from breastfeeding. This may be a good indication that your latch is not correct. If you suspect you and your baby need help with latch, a lactation specialist can help you out.
Thrush is a yeast infection that is caused by the lactose in breastmilk. This may affect both you and your baby, especially your nipples. To check your nipples for thrush, look for these symptoms:
- differences in color
- painful latch
Your baby’s tongue may also be an indicator, if it is coated with a thick layer of white. This is easily treatable. Contact your doctor if you suspect thrush.
What can I do to relieve nipple soreness while breastfeeding?
Use a nursing pillow
Breastfeeding should be comfortable for you and the baby. If the baby is not propped up and you lean over to breastfeed, it may create an improper latch. A nursing pillow will raise your baby to meet your breast level. In addition, many nursing consultants suggest that cross-cradle hold or football hold is beneficial when you are new to breastfeeding. With the help of a nursing pillow on your lap, these two holds allow you to see your nipple and the baby's mouth to ensure a proper latch.
Breast engorgement is painful for you and makes it harder for the baby to latch. When you miss a feeding or have an abundant amount of milk supply, your breasts become hard, and it is more challenging for your baby to latch and create a proper seal.
Express breast milk to encourage let down and relieve some engorgement before nursing. Once your breast tissue is softer, your baby may be able to latch and form a proper seal for breastfeeding. A good latch is essential to relieve and prevent sore nipples.
Hot & Cold Breast Therapy Gel Packs
Hot & Cold Breast Therapy Gel Packs offer an easy and convenient way to relieve discomfort associated with nursing. Our hot and cold gel packs are microwavable and reusable.
Use cold gel packs when you are experiencing:
- Engorgement pain
- Swelling of the breast tissue
- Inflammation of the breast tissue
Use hot gel packs when you are experiencing:
- Difficulty letting down breast milk
- Feeding and pumping difficulty
- A clogged milk duct
Take care when removing baby from the breast after nursing
When your baby latches properly, a strong seal is created between mouth and breast. However, the strong seal may remain if your baby falls asleep while feeding. Therefore, improperly removing your baby from your breast after feeding may cause damage to the breast and sore nipples. To help reduce damage and soreness to nipples, it is important to learn the proper technique for unlatching the baby from your breast.
How to break the seal of your baby from your breast:
- Wash your hands
- Place your clean finger on the side of the baby's lips.
- Gently place your finger inside the baby's cheek. This may safely break the seal.
- Keep your fingers between your baby's gums until they open their mouth.
- Once your baby opens their mouth, you can break your breast free comfortably.
- Your baby may bite down on your nipple. To prevent this, keep your fingers between your baby's gums to create a barrier between the gums and nipples until your nipple is out of the way.
When to seek a professional
Call your health care provider if you notice:
- pain in one area of the breast that is getting more painful as time goes on
- pus or drainage from the nipples
- a hardened area inside your breast
- swollen lymph nodes in your neck or armpit
- a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
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There are so many new experiences that come along with pregnancy and breastfeeding. One of the things many people don't talk about is how your nipples need to adjust to breastfeeding and lactation. It is normal and expected to experience sore nipples and breasts in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Fortunately, there are many ways to get that much-needed relief from the pain and sensitivity of your nipples. Always be transparent with your medical provider if you have any questions or concerns. If need be, there are lactation consultants provided by many care providers to aid in getting the proper latch to avoid nipple pain. Enjoy every moment of infancy. That special bond between mom and baby during nursing is a bond that may last forever.