Yes, there it is. I said it. I don't know how many times, including in On Becoming Babywise, I have read that if baby is latched correctly and everything is right then breastfeeding will not hurt.
You know what actual, real live women say about breastfeeding? It hurts! Not always, not forever, but initially it will not necessarily feel good.
There are so many reasons it can and will hurt.
Reason #1: Nipples
If this is your first time breastfeeding, your nipples will not be used to this. If you have dry skin or live in a dry climate, it might be even harder on your nipples. Your nipples will need to toughen up. With Brayden, I had to build some callouses. With my girls, there was a tiny bit of soreness, but they each started less than a year since I had stopped nursing the last baby, so I think I had some residual toughness going on.
I did something else with my girls. I spent at least the last trimester putting Lansinoh on my nipples every single day. This helped them to not be so dry.
Reason #2: Milk Ducts
When my milk came in with Brayden, it was painful. I mean, really, really painful. Way more painful than dealing with the over 50 stitches he had caused me down there. It came all in and seemed to try to explode through the ducts and out my breast tissue. It just hurt. This is known as engorgement. The good news is that when my milk came in with my girls, it did not hurt.
You can't (and don't want to) prevent the milk from coming in. You can help with engorgement by massaging the breast, cool compresses, and expressing some milk. Just don't express so much that your body continues to make the ridiculous large amount of milk.
Reason #3: Baby Issues
Sometimes your baby will latch, stop, latch, stop, etc, which starts to take a toll on the nipples. Sometimes you can be doing everything right, but maybe baby is tongue-tied or a chewer when sucking. In instances like these, it is good to be aware of the idea that "breastfeeding shouldn't hurt." If baby is sucking inappropriately for some reason, you will want to take measures to correct it.
Those are some reasons it might hurt. There are warning signs to watch for when it hurts--in these cases, something is wrong.
When Kaitlyn was four weeks old, I suddenly started having lots of pain breastfeeding. I started cracking and bleeding. I talked to a lactation consultant and she assured me it was normal with a newborn. Well, I knew that was true because I experienced it with Brayden. However, I found it odd that we had gone four weeks with no issues only to suddenly creep up.
In the end, there was an issue (a yeast infection in my breasts--more on that below). So if things have been going well and you suddenly develop pain, definitely look into it.
If when your baby starts to breastfeed it feels like she is stabbing you in the breasts or like your breasts are on fire, there is an excellent chance you have a yeast infection. See yeast for more.
If you have a tender spot (clogged duct), redness on your breast, or a fever, this is most likely mastitis and you will need to see a doctor. Mastitis will likely start with just a clogged duct, so if that is what you have, watch it and try to drain it. I got mastitis with every child. With Brayden, I didn't realize what was going on until I was pretty bad. With the girls, I knew what was coming and had it taken care of before it could really hit me.
This was something I considered with a lactation consultant when I had yeast. This is when your nipple turns white. It can be due to baby having a poor latch or due to some medical condition with the mother. If this happens to you, seek medical advice.
Sometimes breastfeeding just hurts even if you are doing everything right. Sometimes breastfeeding hurts because something is wrong. It is good to familiarize yourself with all reasons so you can better know what to do when you start to feel pain.
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