Breast Pain While Breastfeeding: Common Causes and Treatments

Early discomfort is common among breastfeeding parents, but nursing should never be painful. Learn why you might be hurting and discover solutions for relief!

Breastfeeding provides a lot of proven benefits for both yourself and your little one and, though completely natural, it is a learned behavior that often requires patience and perseverance.

According to a recent study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, about 92% of the 500 participating first-time moms reported at least one breastfeeding concern within the first three to seven days of delivery, including breast pain. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that breastfeeding – especially in the beginning – can be uncomfortable at times, but it should never be painful.

Breast and nipple discomfort and/or challenges are not uncommon for breastfeeding parents, from first-time moms to moms of multiples. Don’t worry – You’re not doing anything wrong, mama! But, if you’re feeling pain in your breasts, it likely means something isn’t happening the way it should.

Here are some of the most common causes of breast and nipple pain while breastfeeding, as well as what you can do to alleviate any discomfort – and instead get back to enjoying this unique bonding time with your baby sooner!

Sore or Cracked Nipples

In the first few days of breastfeeding, your nipples may feel sore. This soreness generally stops after a few days. If your nipples are still sore (aside from tenderness as your baby latches) or starting to crack, your baby’s latch, position, or suckle could be the cause.

To avoid sore or cracked nipples, you’ll want to make sure your baby is latching properly and positioned in your arms in a way that can support him or her to do this. Changing your nursing position can help minimize nipple discomfort or pain.  There are a variety of positions you may want to try, including a football hold, a koala hold, or a cradle hold. Your pediatrician, midwife, doula, or lactation consultant are great resources for helping you adjust how your baby feeds to ease the discomfort of sore nipples.

In the meantime, consider using a lanolin cream for fast relief whenever and wherever you may need it. Purelan, for example, is 100% natural, with a single ingredient and no additives, preservatives, or fragrance. It creates a protective layer on your skin’s surface, where it gets absorbed deeply to rehydrate from within and help restore your skin’s natural moisture balance. Best of all, it’s safe for your baby too! Because Purelan has been tested to the highest safety standards, there is no need to remove it before breastfeeding.

Breast Engorgement

After your milk comes in, your breasts are likely going to feel much firmer. If your breasts go from full to rock hard (and uncomfortable), this is called breast engorgement. This can happen to both breasts or just one. It often occurs after your milk comes in or if you wait too long between nursing and/or pumping sessions.

If you notice throbbing pain or swelling, or your breasts are hot or lumpy when you touch them, you’re likely engorged. You may even feel this sensation in your underarm.

Luckily, breast engorgement is usually an easy condition to relieve! Try feeding your baby on more frequent intervals. You may consider using a breast pump after breastfeeding to relieve engorgement – Just remember to only empty to comfort! Using a breast pump routinely in addition to a baby who is effectively nursing can increase your milk supply beyond what your baby needs. This, in turn, can lead to oversupply and engorgement. If your baby is having trouble latching onto your breast because it’s so engorged, expressing a bit of milk before feeding can help soften your nipple.

Clogged Milk Ducts

This can be pretty common for a breastfeeding mama! When your milk ducts are blocked, it prevents milk from flowing when your baby tries to nurse (or you start pumping). A clogged milk duct will often feel like a lump on your breast and is usually warm to the touch. You may even notice some redness in the area.

To unblock a milk duct, try applying a warm compress to the area for a few minutes. Firmly massage the affected area toward the nipple during nursing or pumping, and alternate with compression around the edges of the clogged milk duct to help break it up. Try to also have your baby start on the affected side during your next nursing session.

Remember, Your Comfort Matters!

It’s so important that you feel comfortable nursing, mama, so you can continue providing your little one with breast milk more easily and for as long as you choose. Breastfeeding challenges can be stressful and disappointing, but they can often also be overcome when working closely with your healthcare support team. If you’re still feeling pain after the first few days of breastfeeding, reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant to ensure you get the care you need to continue your breastfeeding journey.

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