Tips for Breastfeeding Pain Relief

woman breastfeeding baby
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Everyone says that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but everyone who has actually breastfed a baby knows that sometimes, some discomfort is inevitable, especially in the beginning of breastfeeding. Even if you're doing everything right, you may still find yourself in the rather uncomfortable position of having horribly sore nipples from breastfeeding your baby. You've still got to feed your baby, so how do you make it through the temporary (though excruciating) pain?

Latching and Positioning for Breastfeeding Pain Relief

First and foremost, pick up the phone and call a lactation consultant. More often than not, sore nipples are the result of a poor latch. Without correction, it will only increase your pain and decrease your milk supply. A visit with a certified lactation consultant will help you correct the latch problem or possibly help you figure out another underlying cause.

So what happens when you have an appointment scheduled two days from today but you are in pain right now? Try switching up breastfeeding positions on your own.

Simply changing positions will often help your baby latch on in a different way, so it's not constantly putting pressure on the sore spots of your nipple.

For example, if you normally nurse your baby holding her across your chest, try a side football hold or lie down on the bed and try nursing your baby. I often found that I got the most pain relief with the football hold and you can make it even more comfortable with a nursing pillow to prop your baby up on.

How to Ease Breastfeeding Pain

You can also try some of the following comfort measures to ease breastfeeding pain. Though these comfort measures won't necessarily correct the problem if there is a problem with the baby's latch, they will dull your pain and allow you to hang on until you can get the help you need:

  • You can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
  • Use breast compressions to allow your baby to get milk more quickly; reducing the time she is on the breast.
  • Try relaxation breathing techniques that you may have been taught during your prenatal birthing classes.
  • Apply an ice pack to the breast in order to temporarily numb the area.
  • Consider using over-the-counter soothing packs, such as Lansinoh Soothies.
  • Soak black tea bags in warm water and then apply the bags to your nipples to reduce swelling and pain.
  • 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 to feed—they are safe to keep on your nipples while your baby eats. 
  • Let your nipples air out after feedings. It may seem weird, but just leaving your nipples exposed after a feeding can really help ease the pain of cracked or bleeding nipples. The breast milk actually acts as a protectant and a moisturizer, so don't wipe your nipples off before you air dry them.

Symptoms to Watch For

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

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