Although many women report a variety of painful afflictions with breastfeeding, nursing actually should not hurt, says Caplan. So don’t just assume agony comes with the territory; be proactive with these pointers:
Get a good latch.
Proper positioning and latch techniques should prevent sore, cracked nipples, Caplan says. “Don’t let the baby take only the nipple into her mouth,” she advises. “She should be taking a portion of the areola as well.” Because it can be tough to see what you’re doing, have someone attend a lactation consultation with you and then coach you afterward. “My husband, an engineer, drew pictures to show me the proper angles,” says Levant, a new parent. “It was hilarious—and helpful!”
Most moms swear by nipple cream for the first few weeks. “It soothes and stops chafing,” Levant says. “You can also express a small amount of breast milk after nursing and rub it onto the nipples and let them air dry,” Caplan notes. “This is a natural healing method for nipples.”
Curtail the teethers.
“If your baby bites you, say ‘No’ firmly, break suction and remove him from the breast,” Caplan says. “This sometimes turns into a game, but it’s important they get the message that if they bite, breastfeeding time is over.” Other moms who’ve fallen victim to biting babies suggest administering something to ease baby’s teething pain before they nurse. “There is a wonderful product made by Munchkin called Fresh Food Feeder,” says Haldeman.
“Our moms make breast milk ice cubes or chamomile tea ice cubes and put them in the mesh bag for babies to chew on.” Consult with your doctor before giving baby Tylenol or Advil, and think twice about using numbing agents, since there’s some concern they may numb the back of the throat and interfere with baby’s ability to swallow, Haldeman adds.
Watch for lumps.
A hard, painful, sometimes reddish lump in your breast probably means a plugged duct. “Plugged ducts occur when milk flow is restricted, leading to poor drainage of the breast,” says Haldeman. Many moms recommend applying warm compresses and massaging the lumps while nursing. Pointing baby’s chin in the direction of the blocked duct may help, too.
Blocks can lead to a painful bacterial infection called mastitis, which involves a fever and flu-like symptoms and requires immediate medical attention and antibiotics. Although you should keep trying to breastfeed, a hospital-grade pump may make things easier until you start to feel better (usually in 24 to 48 hours).
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