10 Tips for Getting Relief From Breastfeeding Pain

a woman breastfeeding her baby

FatCamera / Getty Images

Breastfeeding is a natural, convenient way to feed an infant for those moms who choose this route. But it's also a learning process for you and your baby. What rarely gets discussed is that while for the most part, breastfeeding doesn't hurt at all, sometimes it does—a lot. Anyone who has breastfed a baby knows that sometimes, discomfort is inevitable, especially in the beginning.

Sadly, many new parents discover this truth first-hand when they're on their own, overtired, and just days into breastfeeding with painfully engorged breasts, tender lumps, cracked nipples, or inflamed areolas. Learn more about how to get relief from breastfeeding pain.

Pain While Breastfeeding

Most painful breastfeeding symptoms are highly treatable and preventable. Information is key—ideally, before the sore nipples and other painful issues arise—but at any point, changes can be made to greatly alleviate symptoms. Even if you're doing everything "right," you may still find yourself with sore nipples or uncomfortable breast tissue.

Thankfully, relief may just be a matter of making small adjustments—so don't give up because you think you're doomed to perpetual breastfeeding pain. So, how do you make it through the temporary (though sometimes excruciating) pain? We're here to help.

Breastfeeding is not something most women pick up perfectly (or pain-free) without guidance, practice, and support. Help is out there, and lactation support services can help provide great relief.

Use a Proper Latch

First and foremost, pick up the phone and call your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant for advice or referral to a local breastfeeding expert. You can also reach out to your friends, doctor, hospital, midwife, doula, or birthing center for references to local lactation support services.

Know that these issues are very common and you do not need to figure out (or suffer through) your breastfeeding issues alone. More often than not, sore nipples, tender lumps, and engorged breasts are the result of a poor latch and not fully draining milk reserves equally.

Without correction, an inefficient, painful latch may increase your discomfort and potentially decrease your milk supply, especially if you end up favoring one breast over the other or not fully draining your breasts with each feeding.

Get Help

A visit with a certified lactation consultant will help you correct any latch problems, develop optimal feeding positioning, and help you figure out if there are any other underlying causes. But what can you do when you have an appointment scheduled in two days but you're in pain right now?

In the meantime, try switching up and varying breastfeeding positions on your own. Be sure your baby is not just latching to the nipple but connecting to the areola as well. Other simple solutions that can help decrease pain include using a nipple cream, lightly massaging "clogged" milk ducts, and letting breasts air dry between feedings.

Simply changing positions will often help your baby latch on in a different way, which gives any sore spots on your nipples a break and encourages milk to move through the entire breast to prevent clogged ducts, the precursor to mastitis.

For example, if you normally nurse holding your baby across your chest, try a side football hold or lie down on the bed and try nursing your baby from that position. Experiment to find the positions that provide the most pain relief for you. Using a nursing pillow to prop your baby up on can also help correct position and latch and reduce discomfort.

Try Comfort Measures

Comfort measures, such as caring for your breasts and nipples, can help to further ease breastfeeding pain. Though they won't necessarily correct the larger issue if there is a problem with your baby's latch or breastfeeding position, they will dull your pain and help you to hang in there until you can get the lactation help you need.

Apply a Breastfeeding Ointment

Apply an over-the-counter breastfeeding ointment such as Lanolin. These types of ointments are nice because you don't have to wipe them off your nipples when it's time to breastfeed—they are safe to keep on your nipples while your baby eats. 

Use Cold Compresses

Apply cold compresses to help with soreness from engorged breasts Alternatively, consider using over-the-counter soothing packs, such as Lansinoh Soothies.

Give Your Nipples Some Air

Let your nipples air out after feedings. It may seem strange, but just leaving your nipples exposed for a few minutes after a feeding can really help ease the pain of cracked or bleeding nipples. The breastmilk actually acts as a protectant and a moisturizer, so don't wipe your nipples off before you let them air dry them.

Take Pain Medication

If the pain and discomfort are constant, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen). Check with your doctor to determine which type and quantity of pain reliever will work best for you.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Try relaxation breathing techniques that you may have been taught during your prenatal birthing classes—or that you learned at a yoga class. Getting enough rest can help, too.

Use Breast Compression

Use breast compressions to help your baby to get milk more quickly; reducing the time your baby is on the breast. Essentially, you are squeezing the breast while they nurse to help eject the breastmilk faster.

Look Into Other Causes of Breastfeeding Pain

Although some amount of discomfort is normal with breastfeeding, particularly nipple pain as you and your baby learn how to breastfeed, if you are experiencing any other symptoms, such as fever, pain throughout your breasts, chills, a rash, or reddened area on your breast, you will need to be evaluated by a healthcare professional as you may be experiencing mastitis.


Mastitis is inflammation and infection in the milk ducts (typically located in or near a painful, reddened area on the breast). This is a common, painful ailment that needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.

Mastitis often develops in tandem with ignored latch or other breastfeeding challenges, making it all the more important to seek lactation help at the first sign of pain to avoid developing more serious breastfeeding complications. The common treatment protocol is antibiotics and continued breastfeeding after which it tends to resolve in a few days. (Yes, it is safe and encouraged to continue breastfeeding with mastitis.)

A Word From Verywell

Breastfeeding can be a rewarding, special bond between mother and child—as well as a convenient, inexpensive food choice for your baby. However, the truth is that sometimes it's painful and it's not always easy to get the hang of it on your own.

Seek help from a lactation specialist (or other medical professional or from your breastfeeding friends and family) at the first signs of discomfort and know that for most women these initial pains will be short-lived. The important thing is that you get your questions answered, your discomforts addressed, and your baby gets fed (however you choose to do so).

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Amir LH. Managing common breastfeeding problems in the community. BMJ. 2014;348:g2954. doi:10.1136/bmj.g2954

  2. Haider SJ, Chang LV, Bolton TA, Gold JG, Olson BH. An evaluation of the effects of a breastfeeding support program on health outcomes. Health Serv Res. 2014;49(6):2017-2034. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.12199

  3. Mangesi L, Zakarija-grkovic I. Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;(6):CD006946. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006946.pub3

  4. Afshariani R, Kiani M, Zamanian Z. The influence of ergonomic breastfeeding training on some health parameters in infants and mothers: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Public Health. 2019;77:47. doi:10.1186/s13690-019-0373-x

  5. Manna M, Podder L, Devi S. Effectiveness of hot fomentation versus cold compression on breast engorgement among postnatal mothers. Int J Nurs Res Pract. 2016;3(1):13-17.

  6. Yu Z, Sun S, Zhang Y. High-risk factors for suppurative mastitis in lactating womenMed Sci Monit. 2018;24:4192–4197. doi:10.12659/MSM.909394

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.