Breastfeeding Should Not Be Painful

April 5, 2024

Breastfeeding is natural but it does not always come naturally. In fact, breastfeeding can be exhausting, a learning curve and extremely isolating, but one thing it should never be is painful. 

Understanding what to expect before delivery can help you extend your feeding journey and know when to reach out to a lactation consultant for help. 

Know the difference between uncomfortable and painful

The first few days and weeks post delivery are uncomfortable. It is normal to feel all the feelings while you find your groove with feeding, but it’s also important to understand the difference between uncomfortable and painful. 

Cramping is very normal during the first few days and week. When your milk “lets down” the cramps may magnify. This is caused by the surge in oxytocin, a hormone that helps your uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. If cramps feel more intense than while on your cycle or are in any way debilitating, call your doctor. 

Engorgement or the feeling of very full breasts can be normal in the first few days as you’re developing a feeding schedule. Frequent nursing as much as 2-3 hours, with light massage and cool compresses can help. If your breasts continue to feel so full that it’s painful it’s important to seek out care. Baby may not be draining your breast properly or getting a good latch. 

Nipple pain is never normal. If feeding feels painful at all, then unlatch and try to reposition. Baby’s mouth should cover most of your areola- typically more of the bottom half than the top. Our team tells patients to try the sandwich hold, as it may be easier for the baby to latch and manage the breast. If you feel consistent pain, it’s important to contact a lactation consultant for help. An incorrect latch can lead to painful, cracked and sore nipples. 

Cracked or bleeding nipples are not normal and very painful. If this is happening, you should contact a lactation consultant to help you with latch and positioning as soon as possible. You should continue to nurse but start on the uninjured side first. If that is too painful, you can even try hand expressing or pumping for a short time to allow your nipple to heal. In between feedings, expose your nipples to air as much as possible and wear disposable pads inside your bra to avoid friction.

A clogged milk duct  is not normal pain, but is relatively common. It can feel like a little lump under the skin when the duct is swollen (usually referred to as clogged). This area may be tender, but if the clog doesn’t seem to get better, reach out to your doctor or lactation consultant. 

Mastitis is an infection of the breast and happens when natural bacteria becomes imbalanced- typically following prolonged engorgement. You should continue to feed to drain the milk from your breasts, while using cold compresses and light massage to relieve some pain. Followed by contacting your doctor and lactation provider as soon as possible.

It’s important to understand that pain is not a normal part of breastfeeding. Any new experience (either first time feeding or first time feeding this baby) can come with some difficulties, but seeking the right level of care when you need it is essential. If you are experiencing pain while feeding, contact a lactation consultant. A team, like SimpliFed, will work with you latching, positioning or practicing certain holds to maximize your comfort. In fact, meeting with a lactation consultant early and often means you’ll be prepared for any situation. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment with SimpliFed call or text 888-458-1364.