What are the main causes of breastfeeding pain?

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Answered by: Tiffany Pari, An Expert in the Breatfeeding Challenges Category
Congratulation's mom! You've lovingly carried that bundle of joy in your womb for 40 long weeks and now here they are! In your arms, instinctively searching for your breast. What an easy transition it is to go from womb to breast.


Breastfeeding is, arguably, the most difficult and frustrating part of new motherhood. The common misconception is that it will come naturally and easily! Sure, for some, it will be as simple and instinctive as breathing. For a large majority though, breastfeeding will be a difficult and painful process.

Thankfully, most common breastfeeding pains are rather simple and easy to identify. Even better, there are many ways to alleviate some of the discomfort. Before we dive in, please understand that some of the causes of breastfeeding pain are just due to sensitive skin not being used to the amount of stress a small and hungry mouth can cause. There is no cure for this other than time.

The most common cause of breastfeeding pain is an improper latch. A proper latch is key to successful breastfeeding, but can be quite difficult to identify. The number one suggestion is to take advantage of all the nurses and lactation specialist available at the hospital. They will be an infinite supply of knowledge and can physically show you and your child what a proper latch looks like. When you get home, make sure your little one is taking your full nipple into their mouth, they have a tight seal with no air coming in, and their lips are fully extended and not 'tucked' under. The key to achieving a great latch is finding a position that both you and your baby are comfortable in. There are many positions such as laying down stomach to stomach, the football hold, the traditional hold, and the cross over hold. Practice and find what works best for you.

Another common breastfeeding pain is due a strong sucker! What a gift a strong sucking baby is, but it sure can be rough on your nipples. Fortunately, a thin plastic nipple shield can reduce the pressure placed on your nipple. These are available at the hospital or many stores where baby products are sold.

Ladies, be sure to let your nipples dry after feeding. Not only can this cause a bacterial infection known as thrush, it can cause severe breastfeeding pain. A nipple cream can be very beneficial to keeping moisture away from your nipples during and after breastfeeding. Most creams are safe for your little one, but be sure to check the packaging.

Finally, painful breastfeeding could be signs of a clogged milk duct. This can happen if you skip a feeding or don't completely empty your breasts at feeding. This is a relatively easy problem commonly identified by redness or a sore bump and can be relieved by gently massaging the area of tenderness. Be sure to contact your physician if the pain continues.

This list is a general overview of the most common causes of breastfeeding pain. The most important thing to remember is that your body was built for this, so don't give up! The pain will subside and you will become a pro in no time. Don't be discouraged - you are a great mom!

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