Feeding your baby shouldn't hurt.

Does Breastfeeding Hurt?

by Eliza Martinez

In the initial days and weeks of breastfeeding, it's normal to experience some pain and tenderness. However, this initial discomfort should gradually diminish as days go by, notes the Central Carolina Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In the meantime, changing positions and using certain breastfeeding products can help. If pain persists, contact your doctor to rule out a problem.

1. Latching On

One the best ways to prevent pain while breastfeeding is to ensure that your baby is latched on properly. This refers to how her mouth and lips attach to your breast. With a proper latch, you're less likely to feel pain. Sit back in a comfortable chair in a tummy-to-tummy position with your baby -- and bring your baby to your breast rather than leaning forward toward her, suggests the American Pregnancy Association. Aim your nipple toward your baby's upper lip and nose, making sure your baby's mouth completely surrounds your areola. At the same time, her lips should resemble a fish mouth -- pursing up and out on your breast. You might still experience a bit of tenderness at the onset of breastfeeding, but ensuring that your baby's latch is correct makes it comfortable during this time.

2. Nipple Issues

Sometimes nursing can result in dry, cracked skin on your nipples. Applying a nipple cream can alleviate these conditions, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The cream soothes and moisturizes your nipples, while also creating a barrier between your baby's saliva and the wetness of your milk, both of which can exacerbate dryness and cracked skin on your nipples. Apply the cream both before and after you nurse, and don't worry about getting it into your baby's mouth. It's non-toxic and has a thick consistency, which helps prevent much of it from transferring.

3. Other Breastfeeding Products

There are additional products that can aid in alleviating pain during breastfeeding. A silicone nipple shield, which fits directly onto your breast, protects sore nipples by blocking them from some of the pressure associated with nursing. For a sore back, a nursing pillow can help you stay in a comfortable position. This doughnut-shaped device fits around your midsection so you have a place to rest your arms while you lean back. For general pain and soreness in your breasts, insert gel pads into your bra. Both the heated or chilled type can provide relief as you adapt to breastfeeding.

4. When to Call the Doctor

If you adjusted your position and worked on the latching process, but breastfeeding is still painful, talk to your doctor to rule out a breast infection. Called mastitis, this condition can occur due to a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering a crack in your nipple. In addition to pain, when you have mastitis, you might notice redness or swelling in your breast and it might be tender to the touch. Mastitis can also produce a fever. While you can continue nursing with the condition, treatment is necessary to get rid of the infection and prevent an abscess, which typically requires surgical drainage.

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