Have you ever been told that breastfeeding hurts? Of course. Everyone loves to tell their stories about how much breastfeeding hurts. And it’s true that it’s very common for breastfeeding to hurt at least a little at first. But it’s important to make the distinction between what’s common and what’s normal. Here is some breastfeeding pain myth and fact.
Discomfort can be normal at first
Learning to breastfeed takes practice, and many times during this practice, babies may occasionally latch incorrectly. Because of some of these practice latches, some women may occasionally experience slight pain with latch on or occasionally soreness. These are both within the realm of normal. Remember that this is the first time that someone has been spending significant time in this area of your body! Both you and your baby will take some time to learn. However, if the consistently pain last more than a couple of seconds, occurs between feedings, or is enough to make you grit your teeth and curl your toes, it might be time to reach out for help.
Reasons for pain
In addition to perfecting the latch and position of the baby, there are times when seeking professional help might be beneficial.
Sometimes structural issues in the baby, such as tongue tie, can make baby’s efforts to breastfeed less accurate and result in pain during latch on, during the session, and inbetween sessions. Cracked nipples may also be a sign that this is occurring. Having experienced this phenomenon twice, I can attest to the fact that it makes a big difference in your comfort level!
Some women also experience pain in the form of fullness. Engorgement, milk stasis, plugged ducts, and oversupply or overactive letdown may all be considered painful. In addition, pain inbetween feeding sessions could be indicative of thrush, or yeast overgrowth.
Of course we want breastfeeding to be comfortable for your sake, but feeling good during breastfeeding is good for your baby too. Pain and stress can reduce the release of oxytocin, or the hormone associated with letdown. When less milk is released from the milk making cells, the body then produces less because it think it needs less, and your supply could drop.
Not only should breastfeeding not hurt, but the same applies for pumping. If pumping hurts, you are more likely to get a lower yield. Making sure that you are using the correct size flange (which can take some trial and error) will help you not only to be comfortable, but to maximize your output.
When to seek help
If you experience more than minor pain with initial latch on, it’s important to seek help early to maximize your chances of success. IBCLCs has extensive experience in helping mothers with breastfeeding, and can help you reach more comfortable nursing!