Is it normal for breastfeeding to be painful?

Q: Is it normal to dread nursing my baby? Breastfeeding is so painful!

A: Let's not mince words: Breastfeeding can hurt, even when you're doing everything right. But fortunately, the pain usually passes after the first few weeks. Your nipples and breast tissue have to get used to the sensation of a baby sucking -- voraciously -- and that can take several weeks. However, there's a big difference between discomfort and agony. If you're in a lot of pain, call a lactation consultant. If your breastfeeding problems set in after leaving the hospital, that's totally normal too. It takes a few days for your milk to come in, so breasts don't become engorged until you get home. Fuller breasts make it harder for your baby to latch on correctly, which can translate to more pain for you. Also, your baby is more alert and hungrier now than he was in the hospital, which means he's sucking harder -- another reason for pain. Finally, you may not be positioning your baby properly. A lactation consultant can help you adjust your holding style for easier feeding. --Katy Koontz

Originally published in Parents magazine, August 1999. Updated 2009.

1 Comment

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