Wednesday Wisdom – Reduce Nipple Pain, Breastfeeding

This week we’re going back to a basic but still popular topic, one that our experts are never short of advice for, how to help reduce pain when breastfeeding. The post is written by Geraldine Miskin, an Independent Breastfeeding Counsellor with over 16 years experience, Geraldine’s advice has helped thousands of mums breastfeed successfully worldwide through her Let’s Breastfeed company and London based private practice. On a day to day basis, I am frequently asked how to help sore nipples heal quickly, preferably before the next feed. There is no single magic answer but there are a number of tips which may reduce pain with each successive latch, until the nipples feel comfortable and pain free at the end of feeds. It is not unusual for breastfeeding mums to experience a degree of discomfort when learning to breastfeed, some professionals even tell mums it is just part and parcel of breastfeeding and will all get better after a few weeks. Being an absolute wimp, the thought of suffering for a day horrifies me so I want to share some tips to help you reduce nipple pain at the next feed.

Prepare your nipple

Before you latch your baby onto the breast, pop into the bathroom and soak a flannel with nice hot water. Ring the excess water out of the flannel and apply to the nipple you are about to feed from. You may like to reheat your flannel if the skin on your nipple is very damaged – see how you feel. The warm moisture will soften any hardened pieces of skin before your baby latches onto the breast. This will reduce that sharp intense pain you experience when your baby latches on and opens up the wounds.

Support baby properly

Be careful of using lots of cushions when breastfeeding baby. Often these will begin to slip and move away from you during the feed and baby will usually follow which may create a dragging on the breast. If you need to use a cushion, ensure that:

  • It is nice and firm – so a feather pillow is not ideal
  • It is not too high or low – both baby’s cheeks should touch the breast when feeding
  • That it ties onto you if possible – to prevent any slippage

Shape your breast

Shape your breast so that baby is able to scoop up as much tissue as possible, even if he is not able to do a very wide mouth. Some babies are better at providing a big wide gape when latching, others seem to barely be able to open their mouth and this can lead to nipple tenderness. Until you are able to get more direction and practical guidance from your midwife, you can make things a lot easier for both you and baby. When you shape the breast into a sandwich for baby to latch onto, remember to shape the breast in line with your baby’s smile. For instance, if your baby is feeding across your lap and parallel to it, his smile will run vertically. You would then shape your breast into a vertical sandwich by placing thumb and index finger at 3 and 9 o’clock and bunch your breast tissue together. This bunching up, creates a constantina effect, so even if your baby doesn’t do a wide mouth, he will still get a lot of breast tissue.

Speed

Once you have prepared your nipple, ensured your baby has the proper support and shaped the breast in line with his smile, all you need to do is bring him onto the breast. The quicker you bring him onto the breast, the quicker your nipple will flick to the back of his mouth and the less pain you will experience. If your nipples are already damaged, you may feel pain for a few seconds but this should quickly subside into a comfortable and systematic tugging sensation. My practice is based on techniques which I put into practice every day. I know they work well for my clients and hope they will work well for you too. If you would like more practical know how, give me a call on my advice line or visit my website.

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