Breastfeeding Mom’s Sore Nipples

By: Anne Smith

Nipple soreness is one of the most common reasons new mothers give for discontinuing breastfeeding, often during the first week of nursing. This is quite unfortunate, for nipple soreness is almost always a short-term problem, and can usually be corrected in a matter of days. Breastfeeding isn't supposed to hurt, but the fact of the matter is that most mothers will experience some degree of soreness during the early stages of nursing. It is common to feel some discomfort when the baby first latches on, especially in the first days after birth before the milk has come in. This type of soreness will usually ease up after the first few sucks, especially after the milk lets down and flows freely.

You and your baby both have to learn how to breastfeed. Babies are born with a strong sucking reflex (they even suck their fingers in utero), but they have to learn the mechanics of breastfeeding, at the same time you are learning the mechanics of positioning, supporting the breast, etc. While some babies seem to come into the world knowing just how to breastfeed correctly, more often it is a learning process for both of you.

Nipple soreness will usually begin during the first few days of nursing, will peak on the fourth or fifth day, and then ease off each day after that.Soreness should lessen greatly on days 7-10, and by the time the baby is two weeks old, nursing should be pain free. If your nipples crack or bleed, if the pain persists during the entire feeding or between feedings, if you experience a burning sensation, or the pain persists beyond the first week, you need to seek help from an experienced lactation counselor in order to identify and correct the problem.

By far the most common cause of nipple soreness is improper latch on and positioning. Remember that the baby has to learn how to nurse correctly. It can take awhile for a newborn, with his immature system, to master the mechanics of nursing. The slightest improper movement of his lips, tongue, or gums can abrade the nipple tissue and cause soreness. With every feeding, he will be better able to coordinate his movements, and will soon get the hang of nursing correctly and efficiently.

Here are the basics of correct latch on and positioning, which can minimize or eliminate soreness:

Most cases of nipple soreness are caused by improper latch on and positioning and will heal within a matter of days once the baby is nursing properly. There are other causes of soreness, however, which are less common. These include:

Treatment for nipple soreness varies. What follows is a treatment plan for the common, transient soreness that most often occurs during the early days of nursing. If this plan doesn't work for you, or if soreness persists or worsens after the initial breastfeeding period, consult a lactation professional who can evaluate the situation and see if additional help is needed. Remember, breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt!

Anne Smith is an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and La Leche Leader since 1978. More importantly, she is a mother to 6 breast fed kids with twenty plus years experience of counseling nursing mothers. Her site, , provides expert advice and solutions to breast-feeding problems and gives basic information on how to breast feed. Anne also features her recommended breast feeding products and breast pumps.

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