If you’re a first-time mom, there’s a solid chance you have or are experiencing nipple pain during and even after breastfeeding. This isn’t speculation. A 2017 medical study revealed that being a new mom naturally predisposes you to some amount of nipple pain. Believe it or not, that’s actually good news. It means that the pain is likely to go away with time and experience.
Why are first-time moms more likely to experience sore, cracked nipples?
If parenting was a video game, the cool kids would call you a noob. You’ve never done it before, so there’s no reason to believe you and baby are going to get it exactly right from day one. Even if a lactation consultant spoke with you at the hospital, there’s a good chance you were so goofy with exhaustion, you missed some of the tips.
Breastfeeding seems like it should be easy and natural, so you may feel embarrassed that it’s not happening as organically as you’d imagined. To make matters worse for a boob noob, people often feel uncomfortable talking about breasts and breastfeeding in our society. You may feel awkward bringing the conversation up, or you may not know who to ask for guidance. In either case, you end up suffering in silence, which can actually aggravate nipple pain.
Don’t forget that you’re also exhausted from nine months of pregnancy and then however many hours or days of labor and delivery. Honey, if you came out of all that a natural born pro at breastfeeding, well, that would be pretty impressive. You absolutely should be feeling tired during those first months and being tired makes everything a little bit harder.
What are some of the main causes of nipple pain and are they fixable?
Baby’s latch needs some work. Your baby is new at this, too, and may need a little help. They need to be able to grasp enough breast tissue for your nipple to be positioned deep in their mouth.
1. Make sure baby’s mouth is open wide and their tongue is cupped and forward before they latch on.
2. Make sure their lower lip is fanned out and not tucked in.
3. Try a few different positions like “The Football” and “The Cradle” to see if that helps improve baby’s latch.
Baby is super duper hungry and nursing vigorously. Crying is a late stage of hunger (as any woman who has ever experienced “hanger” knows), and once a baby is crying, they’re more likely to suckle in a way that can be less comfortable for mom.
Be on the lookout for early warning signs of hunger including:
1. Puckering lips,
2. Sucking on hands or fingers,
3. Moving head side to side.
Then, feed baby before they take it out on the nipple.
Baby is hanging out on the nipple after they’ve finished nursing because it’s comforting.
Babies are so cute it can be hard to say no to comfort suckling, but this can lead to nipple pain, so be strong and just say no anyway.
Pulling baby’s mouth away from the breast without breaking the suction first. This can cause damage to your sensitive breast tissue.
1. When possible, allow baby to finish nursing and release naturally.
2. If you must detach the baby while they’re nursing, break the suction by pressing down on your breast near baby’s mouth or by gently pulling down on baby’s chin.
Tight bras and drying soaps.
Since your breasts are especially sensitive now, keep them comfortable with a properly fitting bra and soaps and detergents that don’t aggravate your skin.
Mother Nature’s sore nipple elixir
As wild as it may sound, one cure for sore nipples is breastmilk. Breastmilk contains antibodies that can prevent infection and soothe sore nipples. Gently apply breastmilk to your nipple and allow it to dry after each feeding.
The other part of the equation is time and practice, just like with anything else. For most moms, getting the hang of positioning baby, anticipating baby’s needs, and taking care of your own needs will eventually lead to a pain-free, pleasant breastfeeding experience.