Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. Poor positioning and latch-on is the most common cause of nipple soreness in the early weeks of nursing. Sometimes only a minor adjustment of positioning and latch-on is all that is needed. However, if after 48 hours of conscientious attention to this area, your nipples are no better or worse, or if you are past the newborn period and you suddenly develop sore nipples after a period of pain-free nursing, you should contact a lactation consultant or La Leche League leader for one-on-one support in determining the cause of your soreness.
In the meantime certain measures will make nursing more comfortable for you as your nipples heal:
• Nurse frequently – at least every 2 hours. This will ensure that your baby does not become too hungry between feedings causing him to nurse ravenously and aggressively at your breast.
• Hand express or pump a few minutes before the feeding. This will elicit letdown and elongate the nipple for the baby so that he does not nurse so aggressively.
• Nurse on the least sore side first as this is the side that your baby will nurse more aggressively on.
• You may want to take a mild pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil about 30 minutes prior to nursing or around the clock until your discomfort lessens or disappears. Both of these drugs are compatible with breastfeeding.
• Open both sides of your bra during the feeding.
• Consider applying warm, wet tea bags to your nipples for a short time after nursing. Many moms report that this can be very soothing.
• Warm, moist compresses (wet washcloth works well) often bring relief to nipples both before and after nursing.
• After feeding, pat dry your nipples and express some breastmilk to rub into them (this should be avoided if you have thrush as it thrives in milk). Breastmilk has Vitamin E in it which is very healing to the skin. Note: Avoid applying Vitamin E oil from a capsule to your nipples as this can be toxic to your baby!