5 Tips to Help You Deal with Nursing Pain

Image via Flickr/ Valentina Yachichurova

One of the biggest questions a mother often considers before her baby is born is how she plans to feed and nourish them through infancy. Most moms weigh the options and decide that they would like to breastfeed for at least a few months. But in the weeks and months after giving birth, many women make the choice to start supplementing with formula or stop nursing all together. Almost 80% of babies are breastfed at birth. But that number drops to less than 27% by six months of age. Far fewer women actually end up breastfeeding their baby at all.

A variety of factors contribute to women not reaching their breastfeeding goals. This can include inadequate maternity leave, poor support from their partner or family members, and a lack of access to lactation consultants or other professionals who can help. But women report that one problem, nursing pain, is the biggest factor in their stopping breastfeeding in the first few weeks or months. If you’re in the early weeks of breastfeeding or reading ahead before your baby is born to get prepared, check out the tips below for dealing with pain associated with breastfeeding.

1. Know what's normal

When you begin breastfeeding, some nursing pain and discomfort is normal. You’re using your body in a new way and both you and baby need to learn how to best make nursing work. Discomfort associated with latching, long nursing sessions, and engorgement are common, normal issues. Excruciating nipple pain, breast soreness that gets worse, or cracked and bleeding nipples, while sometimes common, are not normal.

2. Don't let problems persist

If you’re experiencing any of the issues above, it’s important to visit a professional and solve the underlying problem. Nipple pain can be caused by a shallow or ineffective latch and breast soreness can sometimes be caused by a clogged duct or by mastitis. It can be tough to get out of the house as a new mom. But your breastfeeding relationship is worth making the effort. 

{ MORE: My Baby Won't Stop Biting While Breastfeeding: Tips to Navigate this Frustrating Experience }

3. Take preventative maintenance seriously

In the early weeks of breastfeeding solving problems before they start can be powerful. Avoid latch issues by seeing a lactation consultant right away. Avoid nipple cracking by applying nipple butter or lanolin liberally. You can also avoid clogged ducts by applying heat as you nurse and taking lecithin oil.

4. Seek out professional help

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If you’re experiencing nursing pain, or are looking for confirmation that everything is going okay, seeking out professional help can ensure that you reach the breastfeeding goals you set. Often, the hospital where you delivered your baby or your child’s pediatrician can recommend a local lactation consultant that can address any issues you’ve been experiencing. 

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5. Don't quit on your worst day

This is the best breastfeeding advice I ever received: Don't quit on your worst day. Breastfeeding in the early weeks can be really hard. If you’re committed to reaching your goal, keeping this advice in mind can help you power through the tough days!

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5 Tips to Help You Deal with Nursing Pain

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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