Ouch! Your nipples can really hurt during the first few days of breastfeeding. The word "tender" is a major understatement. And it's hardly surprising - your nipples are completely unprepared for their new role. But it will get better and the pain will pass.
Comfort yourself by remembering that sore nipples usually feel better very soon. The soreness will pass more quickly if your baby has the right sucking technique. Ask your midwife or a lactation consultant to watch you feeding. Make sure baby has latched on correctly. Their mouth should be really wide open with the lower lip curled downwards.
If your nipples are sore, it might be difficult to put your baby on your breast – the pain is so bad. And it doesn’t help when people tell you to relax. Who can relax when it feels like somebody’s biting your breast? The pain is usually worst in the beginning, while baby is sucking extra hard to get the milk supply going. Try the following tips:
• Try applying something warm to your breast, like a heated wheat bag. The heat will also help the milk to start flowing so baby doesn’t have to suck so hard.
• Hand-milk your breast to start off the milk flow before feeding your baby. This can help baby get a good, firm grip.
• Don’t make baby wait too long before starting to feed. A frustrated, distressed little baby will find it harder to latch onto the breast properly.
• Start feeding with the least painful breast. Then when the other breast starts flowing on its own, move baby to that breast.
• Remember to break your baby’s latch by gently inserting your little finger in the corner of their mouth before removing them from the breast; don’t just pull them off.
• After each feed, lubricate your nipples with breast milk and expose them to the air for a time between breastfeeds.
• Wear a loose shirt and leave your bra undone.
• Keep your breasts warm and dry. Don’t use damp nursing cups or nursing pads. It’s vital to keep your nipples dry.
Have you got tips for other mums with tender nipples? What did you do? What worked? How long did it take for things to improve? How long until the pain passed completely? Share your experiences here.
If your nipples don’t improve you may need further professional advice from your LMC, a private lactation consultant or at a Plunket Family Centre. You can find a private lactation consultant on www.nzlca.org.nz – there will be a charge. La Leche League offers breastfeeding support – visit www.lalecheleague.org.nz.