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Breastfeeding Pain: What's Normal and What’s Not?

Updated: Nov 2, 2023



Breastfeeding pain is a major issue for mothers who have never been nursed before. We've got the inside scoop on what to expect from your letdown.

“Should it be this painful?”

“I had hoped it would improve by now.”

“This isn't at all what I was expecting.”

The whole thing is a fresh sensation if you're just starting with nursing. If you haven't nursed, you have no experience with latching, letdowns, or engorgement. So why wouldn't you believe someone who tells you that breastfeeding hurts?

Let's put it this way: breastfeeding isn't supposed to be painful.

What should the sensation be like? The sensation is described by some women as tugging or pulling. During letdown, you may experience a tingling, heated, or electrifying sensation. Breastfeeding has been described as a relief by some mothers.

Breastfeeding sensations vary greatly depending on your baby's latch, breastfeeding position, the amount of milk in your breasts, and a variety of other factors. While it may take some time to get used to, breastfeeding should not be painful after the first few weeks.

What is normal ? What is abnormal?


It's typical to have sore and painful nipples when you first start breastfeeding.

There are a variety of reasons for sore nipples while nursing and some of them necessitate extra attention.

Inquire for assistance: Cracked, blistering, or bleeding nipples should be avoided.

However, nipple pain in the early stages of nursing should never be intense, and it should never entail cracked, blistered, or injured nipples.

Poor latching and a lack of breast tissue in the baby's mouth are almost invariably the cause of nipple difficulties.

“Remember, it's called BREASTFEEDING, not NIPPLEFEEDING,” We want the kid to take as much breast tissue as possible into his or her mouth. The nipple is merely a milk faucet; it's not a milk factory.”

If you notice blisters or bleeding on your nipple, he or she may have poor latch, due to tongue, or lip tie problems. If this is the case, arrange an appointment with an IBCLC for assistance—it will make a huge difference in your breastfeeding satisfaction.


Engorgement is a common occurrence.

Your breasts may have expanded during pregnancy, but engorgement is a different story.

Moms frequently experience engorgement when they first start nursing. Your infant will cluster feed for the first several days, causing your colostrum to grow into mature milk. Some mothers may have engorgement as a result of this change. If you have engorgement, you'll notice that your breasts are tighter, firmer, and sometimes even shinier. They can be warm and lumpy, and they can also be painful.

But keep in mind that engorgement pain is only temporary, and it will go away in a few days. Your breasts will feel better while you breastfeed or pump. (Although the early engorgement may make them a little painful).

During this time, continue to nurse and keep yourself hydrated. Apply a warm, moist compress to your breasts to reduce discomfort, or take a hot shower to enhance circulation and milk flow. Breast massage is another effective method for reducing engorgement pain.

A few key points concerning engorgement

To begin with, not all mothers experience engorgement. While it's more prevalent among new women who are breastfeeding for the first time, some moms don't have the same experience.

Engorgement, on the other hand, can be uncomfortable for moms who have undergone breast surgery—whether implants, reductions, biopsies, or other procedures. Scar tissue in their breast tissue is causing this agony.

Finally, mothers who received IV fluids during their labor and delivery may suffer from fluid overload. This can cause engorgement as well as swelling of the fingers, foot, and toes. Pay attention to how your body feels at this period and make sure to take extra care of yourself!

Inquire for assistance: Breasts that are sore or engorged, with hot areas, lumps, or redness, as well as fever, pains, or weariness.

you may have clogged ducts or mastitis if you're having this kind of breast pain.

Clogged ducts

Clogged ducts are common and uncomfortable, but the majority of the time they may be successfully treated at home.

A little, firm lump in your breast is a sign of clogged ducts. They're usually perceptible, and they're usually uncomfortable or sore. Clogs are caused by the following factors:

  • After nursing or pumping, not completely emptying your breasts

  • Wearing shirts or bras that are too tight

  • Missing or skipping a nursing session.

While blocked ducts can be treated at home, they must be addressed as soon as possible. Milk can back up if clogged ducts go untreated. This isn't only prolonging the discomfort; it's also increasing the risk of mastitis.

The first thing to remember is that, as uncomfortable as it may be to nurse through a plugged duct, it's critical to keep your milk flowing. Milk flow aids in breaking up the obstruction and restoring normalcy to your breasts.

If nursing alone isn't enough to clear the obstruction, try the following:

  • Before nursing, use hot compress to your breast.

  • Break up the blockage using breast massage, a lactation massager, or an electric toothbrush.

  • Dangle feeding, which relies on gravity to help empty your breasts, is a good option.

Mastitis

Mastitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation of breast tissue, but it might feel so bad that you worry if it's something more. Although it might be caused by previous issues such as clogged ducts, engorgement, or cracked nipples, it frequently feels as if it appears out of nowhere and knocks you down.

Mastitis is a condition that causes severe breast pain. On their breasts, many mothers will notice hot, red, or sore patches, as well as the distinctive wedge of redness. Mothers, on the other hand, frequently endure whole-body sensations, such as:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Aches

  • Chills

  • Lymph nodes that are swollen and uncomfortable

Mastitis can easily escalate into a dangerous condition. It can cause infection, and abscesses, and have an influence on your milk supply if not treated properly. Make sure to do the following to bring mastitis under control quickly:

  • As often as possible, nurse or pump

  • Massage your breasts to reduce engorgement and clear any obstructions.

  • Apply a warm compress to the area.

Shooting pains in your nipple or breast aren't typical.

Your initial idea might be thrush if you get a shooting ache in your nipple that turns white. But, before you reach for the gentian violet, keep in mind that nipple blanching is a possibility.

When blood flow to your nipple is cut off, you will experience nipple blanching. Blanching is caused by latching difficulties, which is unsurprising. If you check your breast after feeding and discover that your normal nipple color has returned, you're dealing with blanching, not thrush.

Nipple blanching is unusual, but it's nothing to be concerned about. Keep a watch on your baby's latch, though—nipple blanching is more prevalent than you may think.

Is it vasospasm or nipple blanching?

What if nipple blanching causes pain? It aches like, really bad. You could be suffering from vasospasm. Vasospasms, also known as Raynaud's Syndrome, are longer than nipple blanching and don't go away once latch troubles have been resolved.

Exposure to cold air, such as when your infant unlatches, can produce vasospasms. You can treat them by massaging your nipple to increase blood flow and applying a warm pack to your breast after each feeding. Consider using a calcium channel blocker like Nifedipine if the condition persists.

Inquire for assistance: Cracked, burning, glossy, or flaky nipples with searing or shooting pain Thrush

Thrush is a painful yeast infection that both you and your infant are susceptible to. Thrush targets your breasts, nipples, your baby's mouth, and your bottom—any warm, moist area. Worse, thrush is very contagious, meaning it may swiftly spread from mother to child, and even to other family members if not treated properly.

While thrush is distinct from other causes of nursing pain, you may need to check more attentively to spot it. Thrush appears as:

  • Consistent nipple pain, which is usually burning or itchy.

  • Nipples that are red, glossy, or flaky

  • Blisters that look like rashes

  • Nipples that are cracked or broken

  • Breast pains that come and go

You should also keep an eye out for thrush symptoms in your child. These can include the following:

  • You can't wipe away white areas on their tongue, lips, gums, or roof of the mouth.

  • There is a crack in the skin near the corner of the mouth.

  • Reluctance to feed Diaper rash

  • Discomfort or agitation

Thrush treatment

Thrush treatment is essential for both you and your baby. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (AMB) recommends nystatin as a therapy option. They also suggest:

  • Topical azole antifungal cream or ointment

  • For an infant's mouth, use nystatin suspension or miconazole oral gel.

  • For a maximum of 7 days, use gentian violet (less than 0.5 percent aqueous solution).

It may take some time for thrush symptoms to go away:

  • Continue to feed your baby frequently, starting with the breast that causes the least discomfort.

  • Take probiotics orally daily.

  • When nursing pads become moist, they should be changed.

  • Anything that comes into contact with your breasts or the baby's mouth should be washed in very hot water.

  • After nursing, rinse your nipples with clean water and let them dry completely before applying antifungal lotion.

  • Consult your physician about over-the-counter pain relievers.

  • After nursing or changing your baby's diaper, wash your hands thoroughly.

  • Before taking any over-the-counter drugs, make sure you consult your doctor.

If you require assistance with breastfeeding, please contact us.

There is a lot to learn when it comes to breastfeeding. If you're ever unsure whether what you're going through is typical, there's help—and it's accessible now!

Make an online video appointment with one of our IBCLCs right now.


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