Why does it hurt when I breastfeed? 

Why does it hurt when I breastfeed? Nearly half of nursing mothers experience pain related to breastfeeding.

In a U.S. study of more than 500 nursing mothers, 9 out of 10 reported challenges by day three of breastfeeding. Pain was a significant problem for nearly half of mothers interviewed. Though breastfeeding-related discomfort peaked at day seven and then began to decline, it continued to be a talking point through subsequent interviews. Sore nipples, engorgement, mastitis, biting, and thrush are among the most common pain experienced by breastfeeding mothers.

Sore nipples

A separate 2017 medical study found that being a first-time new mom predisposes you to some amount of nipple pain as your body adjusts to its new functionality. As in the previous study, nipple pain peaked at day seven and then began to subside. Incorrect positioning and latching accounted for more than 7 in 10 cases of nipple pain, though other factors like tongue-tie and oversupply can’t be ruled out.

Tip: If you’re a first-time mom experiencing moderate nipple pain, give yourself time to acclimate to breastfeeding and experiment with different positions like “The Football” and “The Cradle” to see if that helps improve baby’s latch.


Breast engorgement, which can cause breasts to feel tight and tender, usually occurs between days three and five of breastfeeding. However, it can occur as late as day ten, especially if you’ve had a C-section. It’s completely normal and usually doesn’t last, especially if you breastfeed frequently and give baby time to completely drain each breast.

Tip: If your baby is having a hard time latching due to engorgement, pumping can relieve pressure and soften the area around the areola to make it easier for baby to latch later and ease pain.

Lactation mastitis

Lactation mastitis is a real doozy as it can cause illness and fever in addition to breast pain and engorgement. Mastitis is often caused when blocked milk ducts create a backup of milk in the breast. This stagnant milk is “a breeding ground for bacteria,” according to Mayo Clinic, and between your baby’s mouth and your own skin, there’s plenty of bacteria to go around. If those bacteria enter your breast via cracked nipples or milk duct openings, you’re likely to end up with lactation mastitis.

Tip: Protect your nipples from cracking to reduce your risk of mastitis and be sure to empty breasts during breastfeeding sessions. If baby fills up before your breast is empty, use a pump to remove remaining milk.


As if bacteria weren’t enough to deal with, sometimes babies themselves cause the breast pain by biting. Babies bite during breastfeeding sessions for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re distracted. Sometimes it’s a sign that they’re teething. At other times, babies are responding to a cold or ear infection that makes it hard to swallow.

Tip: Most babies can be discouraged from biting by simply detaching them from the nipple at the very first bite. Be sure to break the suction rather than pulling baby off the breast to prevent additional pain.

Breast and nipple thrush

A history of yeast infections, use of antibiotics, or nipple damage can all result in breast and nipple thrush, which may cause stabbing pain, deep aching, burning, itching, or stinging. Thrush pain will not go away unless you and your baby are both treated with antifungal medication, so go to your doctor at the first symptom to reduce your suffering.

Tip: Keep thrush at bay by regularly washing bras and nursing pads, keeping nipples dry, and immediately treating any sign of fungal infection in your family

A breast pump can help relieve the pain associated with breastfeeding.

Many types of breast pain can be relieved by pumping; however, it’s important to get the right pump and accessories for your breast. Poorly fitting flanges and incorrect use of breast pumps can actually make pain worse. At Milk N Mamas Baby, we have more than two decades of experience in the medical device supply industry, with specialization in breast pumps, pumping essentials, and breast pumping accessories. We’re also moms who have already been through the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding and pumping. If you’ve got questions about the best pump for your situation, or if you’re worried you may be using your pump incorrectly, don’t hesitate to get in touch.