Breastfeeding Myth: Sore Nipples

mother and son, isolated over white

Myth: It’s normal to have sore, cracked nipples the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt! Ever! Think of all the  mammals who nurse their babies. Are they grimacing? Are they trying to avoid breastfeeding because of pain? Absolutely not. They look peaceful and relaxed. We are mammals too! Breastfeeding is a normal process that is meant to be enjoyable for mother and baby.

So, what are normal sensations when breastfeeding?

There should be no nipple tenderness at all in the first 24 hours. After that your nipples may feel slightly tender during the first few seconds of breastfeeding, but feel fine as the baby continues to nurse. What’s the difference between tenderness and pain? The tenderness is fleeting and mild. It doesn’t make you cry out or gasp. You look forward to breastfeeding. Your nipples look healthy.

Pain, however, often lasts throughout the feeding. You feel tense. You dread breastfeeding because it hurts. You also may find yourself ending the feeding before the baby is finished. Your nipples may look creased or flattened after feedings. You wonder how long you can continue with this.

When the baby is latched on correctly, you may feel some gentle, rhythmic tugging. Some women feel the milk-ejection reflex (let down). It is often experienced as a tingly sensation around the areola or a mild ache in the breasts. Experienced mothers welcome this feeling–it means baby is getting lots of milk!

If breastfeeding is painful, enlist the help of a lactation consultant. She’ll help you breastfeed comfortably so you can truly enjoy nursing your baby.

See also: What is a Lactation Consultant?

Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com

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