Breastfeeding in the beginning can be tricky enough but when you are in pain it is really hard! Breast pain, nipple pain, pain in both your breasts and nipples, none of this is normal. Mothers are commonly told that cracked and bleeding nipples are just part of breastfeeding. Not true! Pain is always a sign from our body that something is not quite right.
We encourage you to get help if:
If you develop a fever or flu like symptoms, please contact your health care provider RIGHT AWAY!
The most common types of nipple are breast pain are due to a poor latch, a physical issue with the baby, engorgement, a bacterial infection (plugged ducts or mastitis), a fungal infection (yeast), or vasospasms. We will go through each type.
Poor latch: Poor latching and positioning are the cause of most nipple pain! Many families have been been told they have a “great latch” but they are still in pain. Here are what I consider the elements of a good latch- No pain and good breastmilk transfer. If you are in pain and/or the baby’s not getting enough breastmilk, I am dubious that you have a good latch! What can you do? Get comfortable yourself. Make sure your body is well supported. We suggest laid back breastfeeding or making sure they baby is well supported, whole body against mom’s body, getting the baby’s chin off of the baby’s chest, and having both cheeks touching equally. Here are two videos that might help:
Physical issue with the baby: Babies are born to breastfeed but they can also have some physical issues that can make breastfeeding painful. Here are some physical things that could be going on:
Almost all of the above can be resolved with some expert help!
Engorgement: There are two types of engorgement, when it happens immediate post-partum or when the baby is older. When a baby is a week or less old, much of engorgement or “when your milk comes in” is actually not breastmilk that is making your breast hard, heavy, burning or painful. Much of the swelling is increased blood flow and edema (extra water retained in the body. This can be exacerbated by having IV Fluids during labor and delivery. Some things that can help with early engorgement:
If the baby is older than one week, engorgement is usually due to poor breastmilk removal. The solution? Breastfeed, hand express, or pump more often!
Remember: This is a temporary condition! However, the pressure in the breast has got to be relieved or else the body will interpret the pressure as needing to shut down milk production.
Plugged ducts: Plugged ducts can come from breastmilk that cannot drain or outside bacteria. Here are some ideas that mothers have found helpful if you feel you have a plugged duct:
Mastitis: This is a breast infection. It is almost always bacterial and needs medical attention right away. Please contact your health care provider right away if you feel as if your flu like symptoms, fever, body aches, extreme fatigue returns and/or bright redness on the sore area appears.
Yeast infections: I may get a lot of hate mail for this but in all the years I have been practicing I feel I have seen only a few cases of mothers have a yeast overgrowth. Remember, we all have yeast all the time. It is a matter of whether the yeast is growing at a healthy level or not. The other thing that drives me crazy about yeast is that IF you do have a yeast overgrowth it should be easy to get under control. If you have a vaginal yeast infection, what do you do? Use some topical or by mouth medication and it goes away. Do you need to boil your underwear? Do you usually pass it back and forth to your partner? I have been thinking about this a lot and it seems to me that if your yeast levels are in balance how can someone else make your yeast levels get out of balance? When they do research on mothers with confirmed cases of yeast overgrowth (Yes, they use science!) they all clear up with one course of Diflucan. Science! If you are being treated over and over again for a yeast infection and it is not clearing up I will ask you to consider, could it be something besides yeast? Food for thought!
If you are a person who suffers from a diagnosed, chronic, yeast over growth problem, here are some ideas that may help:
Vasospasms: Many mothers can have vasospasms and they are often incorrectly diagnosed as a yeast infection. Most mothers and health care providers are not familiar with this condition. A good rule of thumb is if you are having nipples that turn white after feeds, burning nipples and/or shooting pains in your breasts between feeds, if you are sensitive to cold in your hands and feet, and warmth makes your nipples and breasts feel better, you may be suffering from vasospasms. Here is some more information and ideas for resolution for this problem: