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Breastfeeding Hurts! What Can I Do?

Chief Editor | Published on May 18, 2023

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both the mum and the baby and is often said to be a very fulfilling process for mothers. But what if you are curling your toes in pain every time you breastfeed your baby?

Sore and tender nipples are common during the first few days of breastfeeding — after all, your breasts are working hard! — but pain that is severe or persistent is a sign that something is wrong. Speak with your doctor or consult a lactation consultant immediately.

Here are some possible reasons why breastfeeding hurts.


My Nipples Are Cracked, Bleeding, and/or Sore

A common reason why many mothers suffer from sore nipples is improper “latching” — essentially the way your baby attaches to your breast. Ideally, your baby should open his or her mouth wide and take in at least one inch of your areola (the dark area around your nipple), such that your nipple is actually sitting in the back of your baby’s mouth. Consider trying different breastfeeding positions to get a better latch too.

Take care of your nipples by ensuring that you air-dry them after each feeding. Sunlight can also be healing; so find a private spot to sit with your breasts exposed to the air and sun for at least 10 minutes.

Try massaging your nipples with some breast milk and let it dry — this can even be considered nature’s best lotion as breast milk’s antibodies and natural skin softeners help keep your nipples healthy and moisturised. Applying modified lanolin creams such as Medela, and Lansinoh may help to soothe the pain and keep your nipples soft and supple.


There’s A Pink/Red Rash on My Nipples and It Itches

This could be a sign of thrush — a type of yeast infection that feeds on milk.

Symptoms include red or pink shiny skin that may itch, flake or peel. Yeast infection could affect your baby as well — check if there are white spots on the inside of your baby’s cheeks or a persistent diaper rash. If you have a yeast infection, see your doctor immediately instead of trying to treat it yourself as it could escalate into a bigger problem.


There’s A Tender Spot on My Breast and It Hurts

Chances are you have a blocked milk duct. This may occur due to breast engorgement, and frequent feeding from the breast with the lump may help. To relieve the pain and promote better milk flow, try applying heat compresses to your breast 3 times a day for 10 minutes each, or massaging your breast while in a warm shower. If the problem still persists, seek help from your doctor immediately as this could be a sign of mastitis, an infection of breast tissue.


I’m Running a Fever and My Breasts Are Hot, Red, and Tender

If a blocked milk duct or cracked nipples are left untreated, it could lead to mastitis. Symptoms of mastitis include fever, general flu-like symptoms, breast tenderness, and developing a red patch of skin that hurts. Mastitis could happen suddenly and worsen quickly — seek help from your doctor immediately once you recognise the symptoms. Meanwhile, continue breastfeeding your baby as usual — he/she is unlikely to be affected as breast milk contains a lot of antibodies.

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