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Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Easing breast pain and discomfort when breastfeeding

There are many ways to relieve the many common causes of pain and discomfort when breastfeeding.

Life-Space Team July 16, 2019 2.5 minutes

Once it’s established, breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish your baby with a personally tailored diet that lays the groundwork for a healthy microbiome. But it’s common to encounter some difficulties, especially in the beginning.

How common is breast pain and discomfort when breastfeeding?

Unbelievably common! A study of 340 first-time mums in Melbourne found that 79 per cent experienced nipple pain. So, you’re certainly not alone, and there are ways to improve the experience. But remember, whilst common, talk to your health professional if you’re concerned.

Dealing with breast pain and discomfort

Common causes of and some tips to ease pain and discomfort when breastfeeding include:

Breast engorgement

What is it?

Hard, swollen, tender boobs due to a build-up of milk and other fluids, possibly causing flatter nipples that make it harder for your baby to latch onto.

What can I do about it?

Feed your baby regularly, ensuring they’re properly latched on to drain your breast well. Expressing a small amount of milk may also help.

Oversupply

What is it?

You’re making more milk than your baby needs, possibly because your body is still working out how to fine-tune its milk production to your baby’s appetite.

What can I do about it?

Try block feeding: offer only one breast for a three-hour period, then offer the other for the next three-hour block. This means an alternate breast is undisturbed for several hours, helping to curb its over-enthusiastic milk making. Many mums report a welcome drop in supply within just 24-48 hours.

Blocked ducts

What is it?

A painful lump in your breast because the milk ducts in that area are not draining properly.

What can I do about it?

Massage the area and apply a warm compress before feeding. If the lump persists, see a doctor to rule out any other issues.

Forceful milk ejection / Fast let-down reflex

What is it?

Your milk gushes out faster than your baby can handle, causing them to pull away from the breast or clamp down on your nipple (ouch!) to slow the flow.

What can I do about it?

Use gravity to slow the let-down by feeding in a reclined or laid-back position, where you lie on your back with your baby on your tummy. Or catch the initial let-down in a cloth before putting the baby to your breast.

Nipple pain

What is it?

Nipple pain is most often caused by your baby not latching on properly when feeding. This can squash your nipple and cause problems with your skin.

What can I do about it?

Make sure your baby is latched on properly. Try applying some purified lanolin oil to your nipples or smearing them with a bit of expressed milk. If you’re pumping, use a lower setting.

Calling a lactation consultant

Expert advice from a lactation consultant can really help to improve things if you have trouble feeding your baby. They can really help you enjoy the experience.

Looking after yourself

Your body expends about 500 extra calories per day when you’re breastfeeding, so you’ll probably find that you’re hungrier and thirstier than usual. Place a glass of water nearby while you’re feeding and have some nutritious food, like a bowl of soup, ready for when you finish.

While these are some of the common causes of breast pain, there can be more serious causes. Always seek prompt medical advice is the breast is red, hot and tender and/or if flu-like symptoms with a fever are present and if your symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. You’ve got this, mama!

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