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All About Latch-On Pain

Pain-Free Breastfeeding
Pain-Free Breastfeeding

Experts will tell you that if breastfeeding hurts, you're doing it wrong. That's mostly true. But pull your friends aside and they may tell you the entire truth: In the beginning, there's an adjustment period. Especially if you're a first-time mom, your nipples have to toughen up before breastfeeding will be completely pain-free. Until then, latch-on can sting for a second, then make you sore for up to a minute. However, soreness that lasts indicates a problem. If it's hurting more than a minute into the nursing session:

  • Check baby's lips. Does he have at least half of the dark area around your nipple (the areola) in his mouth? If not, tuck your index finger into his mouth to break the seal, pull him off, and try again.
  • Look at your nipples. Are they dry? Use a lanolin-based breast cream on them between nursing sessions. Don't wash them with soap, which is drying, and wear loose, cotton bras. Leaving a bit of milk on them after a feeding session can be good for them, too.
  • Call a lactation consultant or a nurse at the hospital. They can walk you through positioning and latch-on.
  • See your doctor. In some cases, pain indicates a clogged milk duct or mastitis, an infection that requires medical attention. If you feel pain even when you're not nursing, or you have a suspicious lump or redness on your breast, see a doctor at once (and in the meantime, keep breastfeeding -- it's the best things for unclogging a sore duct).

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; La Leche League

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.