Breastfeeding has many benefits, but there is also some pain associated with lactation. We have expert advice on how to manage breastfeeding pain.

You’re not along if you’re a mom who is breastfeeding your baby and find yourself saying, “My nipples have become sore and I’m starting to dread nursing her. I thought this was supposed to be a positive, bonding experience.”

Breastfeeding may seem daunting for a new mom, but even if you don’t know what to do, you can be sure that your baby DOES know. So don’t give up just yet. Let’s look at the basics and then talk about some ways to help.

Suggested length of time to breastfeed
Current recommendations are to feed baby with only breast milk for the first six months, and then from month six to 12 feed baby a combination of breast milk and baby foods, such as cereal, fruit and veggies.

Why breastfeed
Research has shown many benefits – for both you and your infant.

For baby:

  • Better nutrition
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Psychological well-being (reduced pain and stress)
  • Reduced risk of being overweight later in life

For you:

  • Decreased uterine bleeding after birth
  • Less stress
  • More rapid weight loss
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly in women who don’t smoke

Common causes of breast pain and how to alleviate them

Engorgement: When your breasts are too full of milk and your baby has trouble latching on, breasts can become swollen, hard and painful.

  • Use a breast pump to let out milk for two to five minutes (longer could make it worse)
  • Use an ice pack, take a warm shower or try gentle massage until milk starts to flow
  • If you have your doctor’s approval, take acetaminophen to reduce pain

Painful nipples: Aching or otherwise hurting nipples, possibly with cracking, blisters or bruises.

  • Make sure baby is latching on correctly
  • Use a doctor-prescribed ointment
  • Try an over-the-counter ointment, such as lanolin
  • Wear breast pads between feedings to keep nipples from rubbing against fabric

Blocked milk ducts: Milk may not flow or you may have painful and red lumps.

  • Try to breastfeed often, and make sure that the breasts fully empty during feedings.
  • Try a warm shower and gentle massage to help milk flow

Breast infections: The most common infection of the breast is called mastitis. In addition to a fever, you may develop a hard, red and swollen area on your breast.

  • You don’t need to stop breastfeeding while you have mastitis
  • With your doctor’s approval, take a pain reliever like acetaminophen
  • Use a breast pump to fully empty your breast after feedings
  • Talk to your doctor to see if you need an antibiotic, and ask if you can continue breastfeeding while on the medicine

When to see a doctor

If you have a blocked duct for three or more days, develop a fever and signs of mastitis, bleed from your nipples or have pain that lasts an entire breastfeeding session, it’s time to check in with your OB/GYN.

For more information, or if you’re just having trouble, ask your doctor to recommend a lactation consultant.