Baby's latch and breastfeeding pain

Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt.

One of the biggest worries expecting parents have when it comes to breastfeeding is pain.  Fair enough!  We worry about the pain of childbirth which is a "one time" event so it is totally reasonable to worry (or at least wonder) about pain that could come along with breastfeeding for months on end.  The good news is, when things are happening properly, breastfeeding should not hurt.

 Photo by Steph Hayes

Photo by Steph Hayes

If it hurts, fix it!

Breastfeeding is not something you should just "get through". It should not hurt or be uncomfortable long term. Of course for the first few days nursing your baby may be awkward or uncomfortable as you both learn the art of getting a good latch and figure out which positions work best for you. The learning curve can feel steep but breastfeeding should get easier and more comfortable as you go! If you are having pain or struggling, chances are there is something you could work on to get back on track.

Sore nipples are no fun.

Some of the most common breastfeeding problems start with baby's latch.  Your baby needs to have a big mouthful of breast - not just nipple - to allow them to nurse effectively.  Breastfeeding is about more than sucking!  Babies use their jaw, tongue, and cheeks to draw milk from your breast. 

Some signs of a poor latch include: 

  • Clicking or "smacking" noises as your baby is nursing
  • Baby's cheeks are sucked in/ dimpled while feeding
  • Sore nipples
  • Cracked or chaffed nipples
  • Nursing feels "pinchy"
  • Baby is coming on and off your breast
  • Baby doesn't seem to be getting full up
  • Your milk supply is not increasing

If your nipples are sore or breastfeeding is generally becoming more difficult or more painful don't wait!  Reach out to a lactation consultant or your care provider right away.  There are quite a few reasons that your baby may not be latching on properly many of which are simple enough to correct with the right help!  New nursing positions, supporting your breast differently, seeing a chiropractor or cranial sacral therapist, and looking for tongue ties are all possible solutions to your baby's latch troubles. 

Breastfeeding can feel great!

We hear a lot about the challenges that come with breastfeeding but it is important to remember the big picture!  These challenges will likely only make up a fraction of your overall breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding can be great!  

 Photo by Steph Hayes

Photo by Steph Hayes

Breastfeeding can be empowering.

When things are going well, breastfeeding can be a really positive experience. Because of all that wonderful oxytocin flowing through your system, you may find nursing to be really relaxing and comfortable.  Breastfeeding is a great way to soothe a fussy baby and it is pretty convenient when you are out and about!  Breastfeeding can be part of the very special relationship you have with your child - something just for the two of you - and with the right support it can be a really beautiful experience. 

Breastfeeding should not be painful. PERIOD.

If you are having trouble with sore nipples go back to the basics and make sure your baby is latching well!  Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is baby starting out nose to nipple?
  • Is baby's mouth open wide?
  • Does baby have more breast below than nipple than above in his/her mouth?
  • Are you bringing your breast to the baby OR are you bringing baby to breast?

Still not sure what to do?  Call in the reinforcements!  A postpartum doula, lactation consultant or other peer support people can all help you find your way and save your nipples from poor latch pain!