Posted by: Admin | April 28, 2011

Dear LC – Is it normal to have painful nipples in the first few days of breastfeeding?


NO!  That is an easy one to answer. It is not normal to hurt while breastfeeding. Sucking at the breast is the baby’s reflex, one he is made to, and he is an expert at it. On the other hand, the mother is not an expert at handling her newborn baby. It is most difficult for first-time mothers, but can also be difficult for experienced mothers, as we sometimes forget how small and fragile-looking a newborn can be.

I seem to have put all the responsibility on the mother, right? Well, it isn’t. Actually, babies are expert breastfeeders when they are born, BUT only if they are living in an ideal world. For a baby’s instinct to be at its fullest, he has to have had a  “difficulty-free” birth. If the labor has been very long, or if a lot of medication (such as an epidural) was used, he will not be fully “awake” and might have a sleepy sucking reflex; he might also have a torticoli (when you neck hurts and you cannot move your head freely) or a painful jaw, making it hard for him to open his mouth as wide as he needs to.

For all those reasons, it happens that mothers have sore nipples in the first few days of breastfeeding, but it is not “normal”. Some studies suggest that this transitional pain will reach its highest around the 6th day postpartum and then decrease gradually. If the pain does not decrease, if it is unbearable, if your nipples are damaged in any way, then you need immediate help.

And creams will not help! While some creams might cover the raw nerve endings and reduce the pain slightly, they will not help to heal sore nipples. To do that, you need to adjust the way you are holding your baby and you need to have your baby open his mouth really wide. That is THE most important thing you need to do. If your baby does not open his mouth wide enough, his gums will not be able to rest on the areola. He will clamp down on the base of your nipple instead, and that hurts! It might also cause your nipple’s skin to eventually break and bleed.

No mother should have to suffer while breastfeeding her baby, so make sure your baby opens his mouth wide, like he does when he yawns. See, he is yawning now – see how wide he opens his mouth? He can do it! All you need to do is to coordinate his wide-open mouth with bringing him to your breast. Then you will experience very little pain, even with a damaged nipple. You will feel the difference. Try it!!!

A good example can be viewed on this web site:

http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:baby-28-hours-old-assisted-latching&catid=6:video-clips&Itemid=13

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