Sore nipples because of breastfeeding

Sore nipples – Transcript


A lot of breastfeeding mothers find that when breastfeeding is going well and everything feels comfortable then it can be a most wonderful experience,  if you’re experiencing sore nipples every time your baby latches, then this can feel really distressing, and many women can be on the brink of giving up breastfeeding.

But please be assured that once you’ve worked out what the cause of this soreness is, and looked at ways of rectifying that, then you’ll both be able to progress. So in this video I would like to talk to you about six common reasons for sore nipples, and ways of dealing with those things.

So first of all the most common reason for sore nipples is when babies are not attached well at the breast. If this is happening to you you’re likely to be experiencing a nipple that looks a little bit squashed, maybe even coming out looking like a fresh lipstick, wedge -shaped, but coming out looking a different shape to when it went in – and if this is happening to you then please have a look at the videos relating to comfortable breastfeeding because this will talk you through how to get a really good deep latch, a comfortable latch.

Woman holding her breast from painAnd secondly I feel that it’s really important for you to know that the first one to four weeks is you and your baby learning together -you’re born hard wired to breastfeed but that there is a learning element. So there is some discomfort at times when you’re working out positions that work better, and discovering certain positions that might not work well for you and your baby.

So this is a normal time and sometimes I do hear breastfeeding women saying that they thought it was going to be so easy and when these hurdles happen they think that something really bad is happening and that things are not working out, but the truth is that you ARE hard wired to do it, and there is a learning element.

And also know that when your baby first latches on, he will do fast sucks at the beginning. This actually sends impulses to the brain and the brain releases hormones, and the hormones cause a let- down of milk on both sides. Now in the first couple of weeks after the birth, these fast sucks at the beginning which can last anywhere from a couple of seconds right up to 30 seconds before that milk lets down – (very variable from woman to woman). That can feel quite uncomfortable for some, and this is due to hormonal influences as well. So please be aware that this is normal. When the milk lets down (how breastfeeding works) though there should be an easing of any discomfort. So if when that milk lets down you don’t feel an easing, (you’re still going to feel pulling and tugging when your baby accesses the milk- that’s normal) but pain is a step too far. So if you’re still feeling pain, then unlatch your baby at that point and start back at the beginning again to get a better latch.

And remember that every day you and your baby are learning how to breast feed. You’re learning about positions that work better, and some that don’t work so well. I do see too often women who feed their babies, and they grin and bear pain from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, thinking that its the best thing to do. But it only takes a couple of feeds like that, where you really wouldn’t want your baby coming back to the breast by the third feed, once you’ve sustained some trauma to the nipple. So if you still feel pain once that letdown has happened then unlatch your baby.

And do watch out for your baby’s feeding cues, bringing him to the breast where you can, when he is sleepy or just quiet, and far more relaxed – because relaxed babies latch better. When babies get to the point where they’re really really crying and upset, then that can make it a little bit more difficult for latching.

A third really common cause of sore nipples is when your breasts get a little bit engorged – and so they are overfull What happens in this situation is that the nipple and the areola area also get engorged, and so your nipple is not protruding as well as it did before. And babies are sometimes unable to latch. So if you do feel that engorgement is the problem, we do have a separate video relating to that.

Fourthly, even if your baby has latched on well initially and there isn’t any pain, sometimes babies will readjust as the feed progresses, and end up on the end of the nipple. So if this has happened to you try not to be tempted to carry on with the feed at that point. Bring your baby off and go back to the drawing board – getting that wide mouth and getting a good latch again.

Another common cause of sore nipples can be clothes or a tight fitting bra that is too tight and rubbing against the skin, and causing damage – and sometimes even plastic backed breast pads have been known to cause damage too. If you do think that it is breast pads that are causing the problem, then you can actually buy cotton breast pads that can be machine washed as well. These are usually far more comfortable.

Finally, your soreness might be caused by something as simple as a highly scented soap or deodorant spray, even lotions and nipple creams that are bought from any shop really. It is possible that you can have an allergic reaction to any of these things. So just bear those things in mind too.

Woman holding painful breastApart from identifying the cause of the sore nipples, ultra purified lanolin can also be a really useful thing for breastfeeding mothers – and this is fantastic stuff. Basically, feed your baby, pat your nipples dry, and then add a little bit of the lanolin to your nipples and it really provides that moist barrier, and helps with the healing – but it is usually better to put it on sore unbroken skin. If you have cracked nipples (and many women do use it on crack nipples) – it’s important that you really pay attention to hand hygiene, because it is possible that even putting that lanolin on your nipples could introduce bacteria into an open wound.

A really useful comfort tip is to hand express (milk) just before you put your baby on. If you’ve got sore nipples, you really do want to avoid your baby having to do those fast sucks at the beginning of the feed, so if you can hand express, (just with your hand) to get let- down of milk, and then bring your baby on, you’ll just avoid that discomfort basically.

The other thing you can do if one nipple is more sore than the other let your baby start on your least sore side to call that milk down, and once the milk has let down, unlatch your baby and bring your baby on to the side that is more sore.

So if you have sore nipples and you’ve ruled out positioning and all of these other things that I’ve mentioned here, please also look at the related videos to see if it’s something else, because it is a bit of detective work, and it can take a little bit of time, but once you’ve found the answer, then you will be able to rectify that and move forward.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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