OUCH! How does this tiny human being hurt my nipples so much?

Breastfeeding baby getting a good latch

If your breastfed baby is causing your nipples pain, you may be dreading each feed and wondering "How much longer can I do this breastfeeding thing?" You may have even been told this is "normal" and that your nipples just need to "toughen up". But you know deep down there is no way this is NORMAL and you know you want this to work. So what to do now? Luckily, you came to the right place to save your breastfeeding relationship and your nipples!

The first thing I want to tell you is that nipple pain is not a NORMAL part of nursing.

Pain is the number one indicator of a bad latch. And when we start thinking about a bad latch we have to wonder, is your baby doing a good job of stimulating your milk supply?

Breastfeeding is what we call a positive feedback loop and it's all about supply and demand. Your baby's suckling stimulates your body to make more milk. So when your baby isn't creating a good DEMAND because of a poor latch your body won't know to increase your SUPPLY.

Now, lets review signs of a good latch:

  • Tugging sensation that is comfortable
  • Mouth wide open taking in the tissue around the nipple deeply
  • Baby's chin is touching the breast and lips are flanged out

What to do when you're in pain:

  • If you notice a painful latch that hasn't let up 30 seconds into the feeding , slide your clean finger into your baby's mouth to break the suction and try for a better latch
  • Ditch the pacifier and bottle in the early weeks. Artificial nipple use when your baby is learning to nurse encouraged your baby to suck differently which can make your nipples sore and cause nipple trauma.
  • If you are pumping, remember that incorrect flange size and too high suction can cause pain too
  • Sometimes getting back to the basics is the key. Read the tips below.

Latch basics

  • Roll the baby completely on the side facing the breast
  • Position the baby so his head is at breast level (hips can be lower)
  • Check the alignment from shoulder to hip. Is the spine straight with head facing forward?
  • Hold the baby securely to your body, babies don't like to feel like they could fall
  • Place your hand firmly behind the ears but not at the back of the head and allow the head to tip slightly back by allowing the palm of your hand to put gentle pressure on his shoulder blades
  • Position the baby with his nose at the nipple
  • If you are holding your breast, be sure your fingers are behind the edge of the areola
  • Some moms find gently squeezing the breast between thumb and index finger into a "sandwich" for the initial latch helps the baby achieve a deeper latch with less pain
  • Stroke the nipple from nose to chin to get baby to open wide before trying to latch
  • You may want to read my upcoming blog post The DEEP LATCH SECRET if you are still having pain after following these steps

Here are a few reasons to call an IBCLC

  • Sore nipples that aren't resolving after a few days
  • Engorgement that has made it tough for your baby to latch
  • Nipple trauma (cracks, sores, bleeding)
  • A nipple that looks flattened, creased or pinched after feeds
  • A baby that is sucking 5 times or more between swallows after your milk is "in"

All the Breast,

the MILK lady