Doctors and grandmothers both agree that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. Indeed, breastmilk is full of just the right nutrients to nurture your baby and to keep them healthy. In addition, feeding time becomes a very intimate bonding time that just cannot be replicated with bottle feeding.
However, these days more and more mothers opt not to breastfeed. Some may not have enough milk to sate their baby. Others can't fit time into their busy schedules to breastfeed. However, the majority do say that they've stopped breastfeeding early due to pain. Now, pain may be due to many reasons including positioning or, perhaps, your baby's first tooth.
Here are 15 tips for those of you who would love to have all the benefits of breastfeeding pain-free.
15 Wait Out the Letdown Pains
When your baby sucks at your breast, this signals your brain to produce more oxytocin, which triggers the letdown reflex. As the name implies, it's the reflex that lets your milk down into the nipple. This process can be painful at first.
If you remember, oxytocin is the same hormone that causes your uterus to contract during labor. Although the amount of oxytocin necessary for letdown is miniscule compared to that of labor, it still can be uncomfortable. Letdown pains usually disappear as you get used to breastfeeding. In addition, it should only be painful as your breast starts releasing milk and then disappears a few seconds after. If it's painful for longer than that, it may just be something else.
14 A Good Latch
Most breastfeeding pains are due to improper latching. If your baby hasn't latched properly, they may suck on particularly sensitive parts of your breast resulting in pain.
To get a good latch, bring your baby towards you and offer the nipple by placing it on his upper lip. Make sure his mouth is open and his tongue is down when you bring him closer. If the latch is good, his mouth should cover all or most of your areola. The sucking motion should squeeze the breast, but not bring it in and out of his mouth. If your baby's cheeks are sucked in or if you're hearing clicking sounds, then it's probably not a good latch.
Sometimes changing the position can relieve pain. Try experimenting with different breastfeeding positions until you find one that's comfortable for you and your baby. The most common position is the cradle, where you sit down and support your baby on the length of your lower arm.
Many new moms, however, find that the football hold is easier. In this position, you lay your baby down lengthwise onto a pillow on your lap. You then support him with both hands. This position allows you a more stable hold on your baby's head so any additional movements are less likely to cause pain.
12 Change It Up
Don't feel that you have to stick to one breastfeeding position. Switching it up allows you to drain more areas of the breast, preventing engorgement and clogged milk ducts. It also varies the pressure on different sides of your breast so one part doesn't get sore from all the feeding.
If you find that only one position is pain-free for you, try experimenting with variations in that position. As a general rule, as long as you and your baby are comfortable and you're giving him adequate support, it's probably fine.
11 Breaking Suction
Improperly pulling your baby from your breast may irritate your skin. Over time, this can lead to sore breasts and painful feedings. Some babies will unlatch naturally from your breast when they're done feeding. Others might continue sucking as this gives them comfort. In this case, you need to break the suction properly if you really need to go.
Don't pull out the breast right away. First gently insert your clean pinky into the corner of your baby's mouth. Push slowly onto your breast to break the suction. Once you feel it break, pull it away immediately to keep your baby from latching on again.
10 Check for Mastitis or Thrush
If the pain doesn't go away, inspect your breasts for any other symptoms.
If your breast or portions of it are red and swollen, you may have mastitis. It is an infection of the breast tissue that can be treated with antibiotics. It is, however, still advisable for you to continue breastfeeding despite mastitis as this will provide constant drainage, helping it heal quicker.
Another condition you may want to look out for is thrush or a yeast infection. Mothers with babies who have oral thrush are particularly prone to this. Signs of thrush include itchy or cracked nipples and a sharp pain during feeding. You may also notice white patches on your baby's mouth. Consult your doctor so they can give you the appropriate medication for you and your child. Just as with mastitis, it's still recommended that you breastfeed your child despite having thrush.
9 Unclog the Ducts
Plugged milk ducts can cause pain on a particular portion of your breast. This usually occurs if you're breastfeeding and pumping infrequently, causing one or more of your milk ducts to clog up and get irritated.
This can be relieved by frequent breastfeeding on the affected side. If you're working and don't have the opportunity to breastfeed regularly, make sure you bring a pump to drain your breasts at set periods. Another thing that helps is to massage the affected part, gently at first and a bit more deeply when it becomes less painful.
8 Nipple Cream or Moisturizer
Frequent feedings, not to mention exposure to your baby's saliva, can dry out your breasts, leading to dry and cracked nipples. This is a bit more common if your baby isn't latching properly.
Now, breastfeeding with cracked nipples isn't exactly comfortable. You can facilitate healing by cleaning your nipples gently with a saline solution and then applying a baby-safe nipple cream or moisturizer.
7 Short and Frequent Feedings
Many moms find that short and frequent feedings are far more comfortable than fewer feedings at extended periods of time. Not only does this avoid strain on your breasts, it also gives them time to recover after each feeding. Another benefit of this is that frequent feedings regularly keep your breasts from becoming engorged, another potential cause of pain.
6 Warm it Up
Applying a warm compress to your breasts before feeding can help reduce pain and stimulate milk production and flow. It's also a great way to loosen up clogged milk ducts. When you apply the warm compress, you may want to give your breasts a gentle massage using circular motions towards the nipple.
5 Cool it Down
After breastfeeding, a cold compress may help reduce any soreness. The cold can reduce any inflammation, as well as block out pain signals. Make sure that your cold compress is properly wrapped, though. You don't want to apply ice directly to your breasts as this can discourage milk production.
4 Check Your Bra
Wearing bras with underwires or those that don't provide adequate support may be contributing to your breastfeeding pains. Many bras are built for aesthetics and are designed to be restrictive. Restrictive isn't exactly what you want when your breasts have turned into a milk production factory.
Many mothers find that finding the right nursing or pregnancy bra reduces discomfort and engorgement during breastfeeding.
3 Use Breastmilk
You are probably aware of the many benefits of breastmilk that make it so good for your baby. It turns out that it could very well be the solution to your cracked nipples as well.
Express a small amount of breastmilk and apply it onto your cracked nipples. Breastmilk has antibiotic and healing properties that could make them heal much faster.
2 Rest Awhile
If your nipples are really sore and you really can't breastfeed for a while, you may want to give it a rest until they heal. This doesn't mean that your baby will have to miss out on the benefits of breastfeeding, though.
You will still need to pump out your milk, both to feed your baby and to prevent engorgement or clogging of your breasts. You can store the expressed milk in properly labelled containers and warm them as necessary when your baby needs to feed. Note that you should choose nipples that mimic the consistency and function of breasts. If you choose hard ones, your baby may learn to bite harder once you get him back on the breast.
1 Teething Troubles
When your baby is teething, he may have the urge to bite just to relieve the discomfort of his growing tooth. You can discourage this by completely pulling him away when he does. This teaches him that biting means that he's going to lose the breast. As he makes this association, he'll learn not to bite.
You needn't worry about biting in the middle of feedings, however. With a proper latch, your baby's tooth shouldn't hurt your breast. You will usually encounter biting when your baby is done feeding. In this case, gently release suction every time after feeding and give him a teether if he wants to chew on something.