Painful and tender nipples

Ouch! Your nipples can really hurt during those first few days of breastfeeding. It does get gradually easier, and the pain will go away. Here's some advice that may help.

Your nipples are unused to their new task; they are tender, and sometimes even develop tiny blisters and sores. It can really hurt when a hungry baby suckles hard. These problems can come as something of a shock – breastfeeding isn't easy! It sometimes takes time and patience. And other people telling you to just relax doesn't help. Who can relax when it feels as if someone's biting your nipple?

Breastfeeding position and suckling technique
The pain is often caused by the baby not latching onto the breast properly with their mouth, or not being in quite the right position. This soreness will soon pass if your baby has the right suckling technique and position. Their mouth should be wide open, their lower lip should be curled downwards, and they should have a strong grip on the nipple and areola. If you need help, ask a midwife or your paediatric nurse to watch you put your baby on the breast. Read Breastfeeding – getting a good start or watch our film on breastfeeding, which offers lot of good tips.

Tips to relieve your nipples
The pain is often worst in the beginning, when your baby is sucking extra hard to get the milk supply going. Breastfeeding and milk production don't really settle down for two to three weeks, and sometimes it takes a fair bit longer. Read about how often or how long you should breastfeed.

• Try applying something warm to your breast, like a heat pad or heated wheat bag, before you start. The warmth gets the milk flowing, so your baby doesn't have to suck as hard. You can also stroke your breast to stimulate the lactation reflex.

• Hand-milk a little to start the flow of milk before putting your baby on the breast. This can help baby get a good grip, so they'll know they're getting milk straight away.

• Don't make your baby wait too long before breastfeeding. A frustrated, hungry little baby finds it harder to latch onto the nipple properly.

• Start feeding with the least painful breast. When the milk starts flowing in the other breast, you can also feed baby on that side.

• If you want to interrupt your baby's feed, e.g. to switch breasts, do as follows: Help to break baby's latch on the nipple by gently inserting your little finger into the corner of their mouth. Never simply pull your baby off the breast – it's not nice for either of you.

• After each feed, lubricate your nipples with breast milk and leave them to air dry.

• Wear a loose, comfortable sweater with a supportive nursing bra underneath.

• Keep your breasts warm and dry. Don't use damp nursing cups. It's important to keep your nipples dry at all times.

If your actual breast becomes hot and tender, or you have a temperature, you could have blocked milk duct lumps or mastitis – read more here.

Get help from experts – or other mums
If the pain doesn't go away, you may need a little extra support: contact your paediatric nurse, a nursing clinic, your doctor or the Swedish Association of Lactation Consultants for advice.

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