by Heidi Green
June 05, 2012
Pain is one of the most common breastfeeding fears; in fact, studies show that 8 out of 10 mothers report that breastfeeding is painful.
Pain during breastfeeding is a usually a sign that your baby’s mouth is poorly positioned on your breast. When your baby has a poor latch, your nipple can get squished between the roof of your baby’s mouth above and his tongue below.
One way to tell if your baby has a poor latch is to examine your nipples before and after breastfeeding. When your baby has a good, deep latch, the nipple will be positioned at the back of the baby’s mouth. Aside from being elongated (lengthened), the shape of the nipple will be the same, before and after breastfeeding. On the other hand, if your baby is poorly latched, the mother’s nipple will look flattened or creased after breastfeeding.
While achieving a good latch is the secret to pain-free breastfeeding, even mothers of babies with a good latch find breastfeeding painful—at first. Fortunately, this tugging, pulling, or painful sensation that occurs at the start of a feeding (and is due to the nipple being elongated) lasts for only a few seconds, and stops completely after a week or two.
If the pain persists throughout a feeding, between feedings, or for more than two weeks, it may signal a different issue, such as a strong let-down (milk-ejection) reflex, a yeast infection, unrelieved engorgement, or a plugged duct. The best advice is to get help from someone trained to help breastfeeding families, such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), La Leche League leader, or WIC peer counselor.
If you notice that your baby has a poor latch, or you experience pain lasting more than a few seconds, gently slide your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth, break the suction, remove your baby from the breast, and try again.
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