You did it; you survived pregnancy and delivery. Now you have your perfect little baby and it is time to breastfeed. You have your Boppy and pillows. You are all set up, just like they showed you in the hospital, but it is not the same. It still hurts… like, really hurts! You think to yourself, “Is this normal? Do my nipples just need to get used to it, or toughen up?”

Many mothers assume that if they make the choice to breastfeed, that it will come naturally to their newborn. You think, “How hard can breastfeeding be? The pain really can’t be that bad.” So the big question remains: Should breastfeeding hurt? The simple answer is – no.

Tenderness In The Beginning

You will experience some discomfort in the first 1-7 days. It is common to feel pain, sometimes described as a pinch or sizzle, in the initial 30-60 seconds while a newborn is latching. Tender nipples in the early stages is expected. Here are some tips to help with nipple soreness.

It can be helpful to get a better understanding of the process to know why it feels the way it does, what causes the initial discomfort, and to know the tenderness won’t last forever. Discomfort in the early stages, is due to a few factors, the biggest being the hormonal shifts that occur from delivery. Secondly, from the frequent stimulation that triggers milk production in the early days as your milk supply is coming in. In addition, your baby may have a smaller mouth in relation to the nipple size. Don’t worry; as baby grows so will her ability to open her mouth wider. The discomfort will not, nor should it, last much over a week.

Something’s Not Quite Right

Mothers are the toughest, most resilient humans on this planet. If you are in pain and/or have any form of nipple damage, it is not something to just ‘suck up’ and deal with. If breastfeeding hurts, it’s a sign that something needs to be changed. It does not mean, that you are not doing a good job, in fact just the opposite! It is SO challenging to nurse a baby when it hurts. Keep an eye out for the following indications that something is just not quite right.

  • Sharp pain while baby is latched throughout the course of breastfeeding.
  • Any pain past the initial latch. Breastfeeding should not hurt!
  • Cracked, sore, bleeding nipples.
  • Discoloration of the nipple tip after feeding.
  • Pain that continues after breastfeeding is done.
  • Misshapen nipple, also known as lipstick nipple: After baby stops feeding your nipple may resemble the top of a lipstick with one side flat and angled. This just means your baby needs a deeper latch.

Maximize Baby’s Time At The ‘Breastaurant’

Many times it is a quick fix and as simple as adjusting your baby’s latch and positioning! Typically, with a few simple adjustments you will see that both you and your baby can maximize every breastfeeding session. With correct latching and positioning, you are setting both of yourselves up for success. Your baby will transfer milk more efficiently at each feed, and you will enjoy it more. Remember, breastfeeding is new for you and your baby. You are both learning and finding your way together.

Breastfeeding Tips To Try

  • Lean Back: Many times if you put your feet on a stool and recline back it can help baby achieve a deeper latch and prevent you from hunching over.
  • Get Comfortable: Place some pillows under your arms or behind your shoulders, anywhere you feel you need some extra support.
  • Open Wide: Try to get baby to open her mouth really wide before latching. Start by touching your nipple to baby’s nose. By doing this it helps your baby to open her mouth nice and wide. This open mouth will help your baby get a deeper latch.
  • Flanged like a Fish: When baby is latched, look to see that both lips, top and bottom, are flipped and flanged out, like a fish (reference the picture above). This is one of the signs of a good latch.
  • Tuck those little feet: Look at babies feet when she is latched. They shouldn’t be dangling. You want them nicely tucked against your body or on a rolled blanket.

If you are still experiencing pain after trying these, please reach out for support and book a consult. A lactation consultant can provide a full assessment to figure out the reason for painful breastfeeding. They will guide and teach correct positioning and techniques along with making a specialized care plan designed specifically for you and your baby. 

Breastfeeding should not hurt, and it does not have too. You should be able to enjoy this time with your new baby and not worry about pain when breastfeeding. The majority of insurance companies provide 100% coverage for lactation services. Check with your provider and contact Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny to schedule an in-home or virtual visit with one of  their board certified lactation consultants.

About The Author

Olivia Wojcik, RN has a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from SNHU, summa cum laude. She is a Certified Lactation Consultant through ALLP and Reiki level II practitioner. Olivia is trained as a Sleep Coach and Newborn Care Expert with BBN&N. In addition she is the mother to a beautiful two year old girl.