Nipple pain is a huge reason why women quit breastfeeding. What's unfortunate is the fact that the majority of you will experience it at some point in your journey. For most women, it happens during the first week of breastfeeding and ends about two weeks later. Days 5-7 are most likely the most intense nipple pain you will feel. PUSH ON MAMA!!
The pain is real. Like grip the chair, toe-curling, mind-boggling real. Its so intense you want to cry snotty tears and give the baby a bottle. However, thats the worse thing you could do. Whatever you do, do not quit. You have to nurse past the pain. Its the only way to heal.
Related post: First feed after Birth doesn't always come easy!
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4 Reasons for Nipple Pain and Practical Suggestions to Help Expedite the Healing Process.
Nipple pain Cause/Remedy 1
First off, learn the feeding cues, if your newborn is screaming like a crazy person, chances are you missed early breastfeeding cues. One prevention for achieving a proper latch is to latch the baby during early breastfeeding cues and not when they are hangry. If the baby is desperate, the latch might be not deep enough. Trust me a shallow latch causes nipple pain like no other. If an improper latch is the cause of nipple pain, a clear sign is that your nipples maintain a weird red and pointy shape caused by the inappropriate latch.
Relief for nipple pain from this cause is simple: Feed the baby when he/she shows the early feeding cues ensuring a proper latch. Even if took forever to get the baby latched, if you hear air, see that the lips are not flared and visible, hear a robust and weird sucking sound then you need to break the latch and start over.
Related post: Newborn Feeding Cues
Nipple pain Cause/Remedy 2
Proper positioning of the newborn is a huge factor in the prevention of nipple pain. There are several ways to hold a newborn while breastfeeding. I suggest you learn to master a few that feel comfortable to you and your little one. The key to all of these positions is that the newborn's body is facing yours. Imagine you are drinking from a cup and have to turn your head to the straw, but your body is facing away from it. It's awkward. Go ahead, turn your head to the left and suck. Feel the strain in your neck and shoulders? If the newborn is forcing its head towards the nipple and straining, then he is going to take in your nipple improperly. Guess what that leads to? Yep, Nipple pain.
Relief for this type of nipple pain cause is practicing several hold techniques all while maintaining the infant in a PROPER POSITION while breastfeeding.
Related post: Breastfeeding positions slide show by Mayo Clinic
Nipple pain Cause/Remedy 3
Infection can be a culprit. It's not likely the cause in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but later on, it could be something worth investigating. Especially if you've had months of no nipple pain and now you do.
It's important to keep in mind that the latch isn't always the culprit. Check out these random causes:
- Thrush: This is a yeast infection on the nipple and possibly in the baby's mouth. A sign that it's spread to the baby's mouth is a white coating inside their mouth that doesn't rinse out with breastmilk.
- Nipple blister: Yep, it happens, and it HURTS. A red blister results from an improper latch. That dang latch again. A white or yellow one is usually a trapped milk duct. Read about it here
- A bacterial infection on the nipple or in the ducts (mastitis) truly sucks. I got this when nursing Gavin and thought I was dying. I remember my mom coming in every couple hours to latch Gavin onto me to breastfeed because I was so feverish and delirious with pain. The nipple pain and breast pain for that matter were horrendous. Important to note: The infection cannot be passed on to the baby. However, you do have to be on antibiotics.
Relief for this type of infection is most likely medicine.
Nipple pain Cause/Remedy 4
If your little one is tongue tied, none of my suggestions for breastfeeding will help. Sorry but true. Have your pediatrician check your babies tongue as soon as possible. If you notice that when the baby sticks its tongue out (usually while screaming) and it seems held back, then this may be the culprit.
Relief for this cause of breastfeeding nipple pain is most likely the Doctor needs to snip the frenulum.
Related post: Your baby's tongue may be the cause
Relief from Nipple Pain
- Breastmilk: Squeeze some out and coat that nipple. Allow it to dry and then get dressed.
- Nipple creams: There are several on the market. I've attached a few of my favorites.
- A good breastfeeding pillow goes a long way to achieving proper positions which leads to a good latch which leads to less nipple pain.
- Air those puppies out. Keep your beasts out and free. A moist, dark, and hot environment leads to higher infection risk.
- Call the La Leche league or local Lactation consultant for breastfeeding help.