Ouch! You grit your teeth but you persevere. It hurts. It really hurts and every suck seems to send stinging pains down your spine, but nothing in this world will make you stop.
This precious baby needs the milk and pain or no pain, you are resolved to “grin and bear it” “I had no problems with my last baby, why so many with this one? “.” Hmm.. Something is definitely wrong here. Breastfeeding should not hurt like this. “
Now, you may wonder why I have chosen to begin this article with these rather pessimistic sounding quotes. I said these things to myself during the days after my second son were born. I went on to feed him for another 18 months. I do understand why many mums are tempted to stop feeding with the pain.
I had fed my first son with no problems, trained to be a breastfeeding counsellor with the then named “Nursing Mother’s” (now Breastfeeding Australia). Despite all of this, here was I, a couple of days after my son’s birth with very sore nipples.
Today I am thankful for the experience. Dealing with nipple pain has helped me to empathise with other mum’s who go through it. Although it may not happen to every mum , I think it’s important to know it MAY happen and how to it, so you can enjoy this precious experience that is a unique and special part of mothering a new baby.
Having knowledge about a subject helps you to make informed decisions and to feel in control of the situation. You are in a better place to achieve your goals despite the hurdles in front of you.
Seek the help of a breast-feeding specialist if necessary to support you through these decisions, but if your goal is to successfully feed your baby, then with that information and support, you will do so, unless there are medical reasons why you can’t.
Why are my Nipples so Sore?
It was my baby’s inability to suck properly that caused my sore nipples. He just wouldn’t open his mouth wide enough and this meant that he did not have the whole nipple and some of the areola in his mouth. This is the most common cause of cracked nipples and thankfully, although many women choose to give up feeding due to the pain, this is one of the easier problems to solve.
A little knowledge of anatomy and physiology (understanding the way the breast works and how milk is produced) and a feeding position change may be all that is needed to quickly stop the problem before infection or other issues make the problem more serious.
The sucking reflex that enables him to successfully milk the breast is present at birth. If he doesn’t attach properly he will soon get frustrated because he gets no milk and your nipple will be bruised and ulcerated by the strength of his little sucking motions.
When you express milk from your breasts, you hold the area behind the nipple and squeeze with your hands as you gently pull them forward. This is the same action your baby uses and is quite different from the technique he needs to learn when drinking from a bottle.
If you are feeling sore from his suck, check that he has taken all the nipple into his mouth. If you have a large breast he may take very little of the areola tissue in, but he should have the nipple in . As he sucks he will draw the areola into his mouth and effectively suck.
If you notice that the nipple is only partially in his mouth, place a little finger in the side of his mouth and release the suction before pulling his mouth away from your nipple, then gently help him to re attach again. You may need to cup your breast a little to help form a teat that he can get into his mouth and you may need to try a few positions to help him attach properly.
Once he has learned to attach and milk your breast, you will not have problems with sore cracked nipples or engorged breasts due to in complete emptying of the breast during a feed. In the early days, ask someone to help you attach properly and this will greatly reduce the likelihood of developing nipple problems.
If you do develop cracked or sore nipples, try to keep them dry and exposed to the air as much as you can. When you finish feeding, smear a little breast milk over the nipple and leave them open. Don’t stop feeding but offer the breast for regular shorter feeds.
The sucking of a very hungry, upset baby can create more traumas and make the nipple problems worse. Try to express a little milk before you offer the breast and be as comfortable as possible. If you notice pain when your baby is sucking, release the suction and re position the nipple in your baby’s mouth.
If the pain is severe, you can try to use a nipple shield or stop feeding on the sore side for a day or two (express milk regularly to maintain supply), but try not to choose to feed your baby with a bottle in these early days as this may create other problems.
Nipple soreness is a common but preventable problem in the early days of breastfeeding, but armed with support, knowledge and determination, there is no reason why the problem can’t be addressed, resolved and a long and loving breastfeeding relationship be added to the mothering role.
If you are experiencing any breastfeeding problems the ABA offer a fantastic phone service – you can call 1800 686 268 for round the clock help and advice
This article was written by Midwife Carol Groves: Carol trained and worked as a nurse and midwife in Australia and overseas, many years ago before having children. Later I trained and worked as a breastfeeding counsellor with Nursing Mothers (now Breastfeeding Australia). Today I am preparing to be a Doula (Childbirth and Peri natal Support Person) and Mother’s Helper. My website is being developed at http://muslimumi.com.
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