Before you even think about breastfeeding, your midwife and maternity nurse should have advised you about it. However, their advice may be limited to some basics. You may also have found little information on the subject prior to giving birth. But now that you’ve given birth, things get a little tricky. While some women find breastfeeding easy, others struggle with pain and frustration. There are many reasons why breastfeeding becomes painful or difficult for some new mothers.
Some of these reasons are hormonal changes after giving birth; a sensitive or inverted nipple; a clogged milk duct; or cracked, dry or broken nipples — all of which can make it very painful to breastfeed. Thankfully, there are natural remedies that will help reduce the pain and make the experience comfortable for mom and baby both
What can make breastfeeding painful?
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but some women do experience pain while breastfeeding. It is normal to have some degree of sensitivity, but you should still be able to feed your baby easily. There are a few reasons why breastfeeding can be painful. Here are a few things that can make breastfeeding painful.
- Hormonal changes during breastfeeding – As your body adapts to breastfeeding, it releases hormones that prepare your breasts to let down. The let-down reflex is normal and happens when your baby begins to suck, stimulating the hormone oxytocin. This hormone will cause your milk to flow and make your breasts feel fuller. While this is a normal process, it can also cause pain or make breastfeeding painful or uncomfortable. The pain associated with breastfeeding isn’t caused by the milk itself.
- Responsive nipples – If your nipples are very sensitive or you have an inverted nipple, breastfeeding may cause pain. An inverted nipple is when the nipple retracts back inside the duct and can be difficult to remove and latch your baby. Nipple shields can be used in this instance to help the baby latch more easily.
- Clogged milk duct – If you have clogged milk ducts, you might experience breast tenderness, tingling, or even some pain. You may also feel a lump inside your breast. This can be resolved by massaging your breasts with warm compresses to encourage the flow of milk and release the pressure in the duct.
- Dry and cracked nipples – If your nipples have become dry, cracked, or even blistered, it can make breastfeeding very difficult. You can use a breast balm, oil, or lanolin to help soothe and moisturize your nipples.
- Nipple confusion – If you’ve breastfed your child from the first day or you’ve returned to work, your baby could develop nipple confusion. This could make it harder for your baby to latch properly and will make breastfeeding very painful.
Breastfeeding is a natural and healthy way to feed your baby, but many new mothers experience pain while breastfeeding. Common causes of pain include hormonal changes, responsive nipples, clogged milk ducts, dried/cracked nipples, and nipple confusion. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies you can use to ease the pain of breastfeeding and make the experience more comfortable. From warm compresses to breast balm, there are many ways to make breastfeeding less painful. Just remember, if breastfeeding is painful for more than a few days, you should speak with a lactation specialist or your midwife.