Breastfeeding takes some getting used to – the initial feeling may be strange and slightly uncomfortable. However, you should get used to it , so pain should not be part of the equation when it comes to breastfeeding. Usually pain is a sign that something is not right – the most common culprit is an incorrect nursing position. In order to keep breastfeeding pleasurable and pain-free, we have compiled a list of general guidelines on breast and nipple care.
The general hygiene recommendations are fairly straightforward – simply rinsing your breasts with warm water while having a shower should suffice. Avoid using shower gels, bubble baths or soaps containg detergents on your breasts and nipples – these products have a drying effect on the skin by removing the natural oils from the surface and can cause cracking and irritation. After showering or nursing, let your nipples air-dry.
A good practice is to express a few drops of milk after feeding and rub it onto your nipples. You may also use a nipple balm which will nurture the skin and protect the nipples from damage. When choosing a nipple balm, make sure that it doesn’t need to be rinsed off prior to feeding and that it is safe if your baby swallows it. Rinsing the breasts with water prior to feeding makes them drier and more exposed to tugging and potential damage, so leaving the balm on during feeding offers additional protection – not to mention the ease of use.
Avoid using nursing bras with non-breathable synthetic bra pads – these materials prevent the skin from breathing and can create the perfect ground for microbes to grow and cause an infection. Change the pads frequently, so that you don’t end up spending a lot of time wearing damp pads.
First of all, if you are experiencing pain during nursing, do not hesitate to ask for help from a lactation consultant or your physician. Good latching on from the beginning will help prevent any discomfort, so if you have questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to ask.
If your nipples are already sore, consider using impregnated breast compresses which will speed up the healing process. If the pain is strong, cold compresses can offer some relief, but do make sure not to apply ice directly to the skin. If the pain is very strong, you can use nipple shields. Alternatively, express milk according to your usual feeding schedule. The milk you express is perfectly fine to offer to your baby. You may decide to hand express or to use a pump – our advice is to talk to a lactation consultant to decide what works best for you.
Sometimes, sore nipples may be due to a thrush infection. In this case, talk to your physician for an appropirate therapy for both you and your baby, since it is likely that your baby may alsohave thrush in their mouth.
When sore, offer your baby the less painful breast first – the initial latch is the strongest one, so it could hurt the most. Once your baby has nursed for a while, they will be less eager to have a strong latch. Also, experiment with different breastfeeding positions. Find what suits you and your baby the best and provide a quiet, distraction-free environment where your baby can relax and stay focused on nursing. This can help prevent an occasional bite or gnawing on the nipple.