Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift, but it can take some time for you and baby to get in sync and comfortable. If you’re looking for help nursing, there’s a lot of information available, and we’re happy to help, too.
Nursing shouldn’t hurt, but, if it’s your first baby or your first nursing experience, there’s bound to be some nipple tenderness in the early months of breastfeeding. If you’re still hurting after the first couple of weeks, however, there may be other reasons for the pain.
Causes of Nipple Tenderness
After you have a baby, your body is getting used to many new things, so expect some time for the skin to become accustomed to the sensation of nursing. Beyond the newness of this experience, other things may cause this discomfort, and nipples are where most of that discomfort happens.
Here are some of the most common culprits and what you can do to ease nipple tenderness:
- Milk blister. Milk blisters are also called bleps, and, unlike typical nipple discomfort from nursing, they aren’t caused by friction but rather by blocked milk ducts. Generally, you can tell a milk blister because it resembles a pimple on the nipple. Improper latching can contribute to milk blisters, so, if you have one, talk to your nurse or La Leche consultant. To treat this issue, try soaking the nipple in warm water with Epsom salt to unblock the duct.
- Engorged breasts. If you’ve ever skipped a pumping session or your baby slept through a feed, you likely can imagine the pain of engorged breasts. Breasts become engorged when your body has more milk than it knows what to do with, and your breasts may feel like rocks. It can make your already sensitive nipples feel even more tender. If your breasts become engorged, feed your baby then pump, or simply pump until you feel relief. If you are trying to wean your baby, however, you may not want to pump too much – if you keep pumping, your body will keep producing. Simply express some milk (press on your breast a bit to manually get the milk to release), then use warm compresses to ease the pain.
- Thrush. Thrush is a common and sometimes painful yeast infection of the mouth. When babies get thrush, they may pass it back and forth between themselves and their mothers’ breasts during nursing. Thrush can make the breasts tender and cause pain in the nipples. If your baby has lesions in the mouth, he or she may have thrush. Talk to your doctor to get a clear diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment.
Practice Self-Care While Nursing
No one wants to feel discomfort during this special time, and we want to do everything we can for our new babies. Keep in mind, however, that to care for them, we must care for ourselves.
If you’re still experiencing nipple pain after the first few weeks of nursing, don’t wait. Talk to one of our team. Take some time to care for yourself during these early days. When you do, you care for yourself and your new baby.