After carrying the baby for nine months and delivering it, the next big step for the mother is to learn to breastfeed. For a woman who has had her first delivery, this could be a thing that can scare her and put her at discomfort. In addition, some mothers can also experience physical pain, which is even more worrisome and hence suggested lactation counselling or postnatal classes.
In the initial stages of breastfeeding, it is normal to have pain as the baby and the mother have not yet identified the correct method i.e. the mother in terms of holding the baby, while the baby in terms of latch correctly to get milk. However, in most cases, the mother detaches and repositions the baby. This often helps in relieving the pain and after some repetition of this exercise, both the mother and the baby would know the correct position.
- Let-down reflex, also called milk ejection reflex, is set off by hormone oxytocin which is released whenever your baby feeds, it stimulates muscle cells in your breast to squeeze milk and may cause pain.
- Oral thrush, which is a yeast infection, in baby’s mouth, can cause sore nipples and pain.
- The baby’s oral features like a short mouth, short tongue, small chin, high palate, etc., can lead to improper suction and cause pain. However, this pain from suctioning will disappear within a couple of days.
- Another cause for breast pain could be engorgement. When the breasts are engorged, due to feeding after a long break, there is too much milk, which can cause pain as soon as the baby latches on. Pressing out some milk before the baby latches on can help reduce the pain.
- Improper size of bra, too tight or too loose, can also be a cause of breast pain.
Nipple pain, when exposed to cold weather, is another condition. This occurs due to constricted blood vessels and is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon. If required, pain medication advised by your gynaecologist during postnatal care can be taken, but this type of pain usually subsides.
Allergies such as poison ivy and eczema can also lead to nipple soreness. Even topical issues like use of creams, soaps and deodorants can cause soreness. These require no intervention and minute changes would usually suffice. It is important to remember that any medication taken can reach the baby during the breastfeeding and unless essential, it is best to avoid any medication for the mother. If a baby is being fed well after the 6th month of life, teething begins, and this can be a cause for pain during breastfeeding.
In most cases, proper breastfeeding techniques usually take care of the issue. However, if there are other issues, for instance, the child’s oral features, they may require correction as they not only need to be addressed because of this problem, but also otherwise.
Using warm moist compresses is useful in soothing the pain. Empty the breast properly after feeding the baby. Try to avoid chemicals like Lanolin, hydrogel, as far as possible, if applied to cracked nipples, clean it properly before feeding the baby. Applying freshly squeezed milk from the breast is another wonderful option, given its antibacterial properties. The warmth of wet tea bags may also give a soothing effect. Remember to avoid chemicals like lanolin or hydrogel, as this pain is a temporary issue and usually disappears over a period. For severe issues, join postnatal classes or consult an obstetrician for the best advice and parenting tips.