What causes nipple pain when breastfeeding? And how can you avoid it? Your questions answered by a midwife…
Nipple pain is an issue that many women experience during their breastfeeding journey. Nipple pain is quite common, so it’s important to understand the possible causes and what you can do to counteract it.
Here, Midwife Marley, an ambassador for breastfeeding brand Lansinoh, provides advice on how to identify what could be causing your nipple pain, and the measures you can take to combat this.
What are the different causes of nipple pain?
There are various factors that can cause discomfort when breastfeeding, ranging from latching problems to possible tongue-tie, or even vasoconstriction (where the blood vessels narrow). However, these different problems often cause different types of pain, so identifying the type of pain you are suffering from can be a good place to start if you are experiencing issues.
What can cause nipple pain at the beginning of breastfeeding?
If you are experiencing pain when your new-born latches on to the breast, which then subsides as the feed goes on, this is likely to be caused by positioning issues and poor attachment.
It’s quite common for babies to not latch on properly in the first 24-48 hours after their birth, as both mum and baby get used to breastfeeding. It may be that after this period, your baby begins to latch on properly. However, you may continue to experience pain, as the nipple has already been damaged. Usually in these cases, the nipple pain will begin to subside in about a week or two.
Therefore, the best way to avoid nipple pain is to ensure the baby is properly latched from the very outset of your breastfeeding journey. Make sure you know how you can access an infant feeding advisor, a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding specialist, who can help you right from the beginning to learn how to get your baby latched on properly and avoid any discomfort. Using nipple cream before and after each feed right from the start may also help to reduce discomfort by keeping them moisturised.
What can cause pain throughout an entire breastfeed?
Once you have checked positioning and latch, if you’re finding that the feed is painful the whole way through, this could be caused by something else such as a lip or a tongue tie. If your baby can’t push their tongue out properly, then they can’t pull your nipple effectively into their mouth to the soft palate. This means that your nipple is likely to rub on the top of your baby’s hard palate, and make it more likely that they will clamp down on, rather than sucking and drawing in, the nipple.
If you’re experiencing nipple pain throughout your entire feeds, it’s important to have your baby’s mouth checked to see if this could be a problem.
If you have an older baby, pain throughout an entire breastfeed could be caused by teething. While a teething baby is feeding, it’s actually quite hard for them to bite you, as their tongue will be extended over their bottom teeth.
However, it may be that as your baby is coming off the latch at the end of their feed, they may accidentally bite. If you suspect this could be the case, make sure to keep an eye on your baby when they’re coming off the latch and if there are any signs that they are about to clamp down, then you can pop your little finger into the corner of their mouth and release the suction this way.
What can cause nipple pain that worsens during breastfeeding?
If you are experiencing pain that comes on during breastfeeding (rather than at the start) and worsens as the feed progresses, this could be caused by your baby slipping off the latch during the feed. This is especially common with babies over three months old, as they begin to twist and turn to look at things around the room during your feed.
If this happens, the best thing to do is take your baby off your breast and reattach them again to ensure a good latch, and no damage to your nipples. You could also perhaps give them something to hold and look at, such as a rattle, to prevent them being distracted.
What is a good breastfeeding position?
The key to a good breastfeeding position is ensuring a deep latch. If the latch is too shallow, the nipple will end up against the hard palate in your baby’s mouth, rather than the soft palate further back in the mouth, and your baby is more likely to clamp down which can lead to nipple damage and pain.
The main thing is to make sure that when you’re feeding, your baby is faced against your body – a position called “tummy to mummy” – rather than having their body twisted. Also, when you are bringing your baby to the nipple, make sure they have a big, wide mouth and then bring them to your breast, rather than you bringing your breast to them. You can do this by brushing your nipple down the baby’s nose so that they reach up with a gaping mouth to latch on. Your baby’s chin should also be against your breast, and you should place your hands gently around the back of their neck, head and shoulders.
However, there are lots of different breastfeeding positions you can try. For women with larger breasts, sometimes the ‘rugby hold’ is better – this is where you hold you baby under your arm, supporting the baby’s head with your hand. You can also try a laid-back feeding position, where your baby is laid against you with their head turned to the side slightly. Finally, if you’ve had a caesarean section, you can try lying down on your side with your baby alongside you.
What else can cause nipple pain?
Vasoconstriction is a possible cause of discomfort when breastfeeding. This is where the blood vessels in your breast and nipple become restricted, which often happens in the cold. So if you’re feeding your baby on a park bench and your baby pulls off, leaving your nipple exposed to the cold, that can cause some nipple pain. Therefore, you should try to feed in a warm environment wherever you can to avoid this.
How can you prepare your nipples for breastfeeding?
During pregnancy, you can prepare for your breastfeeding journey by using a cream on your nipples to help to moisturise them, such as Lansinoh’s Organic Nipple Balm. This helps to restore your skin’s natural softness, as well as relieve dry, stretching skin that you may be experiencing during pregnancy.
Then, if you are suffering from any nipple pain during breastfeeding, you can use Lansinoh’s HPA Lanonlin Cream, which helps to soothe and protect sore and cracked nipples. The cream is 100% natural and hypoallergenic, and has no taste or smell – meaning it is safe for both mum and baby during breastfeeding.
However, it’s worth remembering that while this can help to reduce pain, you should also look to identify the cause of your discomfort to help combat it altogether.
For more breastfeeding advice, visit https://lansinoh.co.uk/advice-articles/