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Myth Busters: Pain During Breastfeeding? You Must Be Doing Something Wrong!

I sat in my bedroom cradling my four-day-old baby. She screamed and cried and rooted and tried to suck her hands. I was crying, too. This was my first breastfed baby and my nipples were in so much pain I couldn’t bear to latch her again.

The lactation consultant had reassured me I was latching her correctly, so I couldn’t understand why I was in so much pain. Through tears I called her again, and got some great advice that allowed me to continue breastfeeding. I ended up with a prescription cream and I pumped for a day or two until I could handle latching her on to my breast again.

Since that time, I have breastfed three other children. While I have not been in that kind of pain again, the first month of breastfeeding is never totally pain free for me. Let’s look at the myth that if you have pain during breastfeeding you must be doing something wrong.

Myth Busters: Pain during breastfeeding? You must be doing something wrong!

Common Causes of Pain During Breastfeeding

Improper Latch

I have heard that breastfeeding is not supposed to cause any pain at all, and if it does your baby is likely not latching properly. If you are experiencing pain, you do want to check your baby’s latch. Even if you have breastfed a few babies, your new little one has never breastfed and will need some help with proper latching.

Sometimes you will still experience some pain during breastfeeding even with proper latching. For me, there is an adjustment period that usually lasts about two weeks. While baby learns to latch, my nipples do usually end up getting a little cracked. Once my nipples get damaged, every latch is painful for about 15 seconds. The pain will lessen every day and is usually totally gone by two weeks postpartum.

Engorged Breasts

Another cause of pain during breastfeeding, especially during the first week, is engorgement. Every time my milk comes in my breasts get engorged, and it can be quite painful. The engorgement lasts about two days for me, but when it’s there and combined with sore nipples, breastfeeding becomes difficult. Softening the breast by expressing some milk before nursing can make latching easier for baby.

Plugged Ducts

Plugged ducts can also cause pain during breastfeeding in that first month. I’m actually dealing with plugged ducts in my armpits. Plugged ducts are commonly caused by ill-fitting, tight bras or improper drainage of the breast. Heat and massage, while continuing to nurse on the affected breast, are the best ways to combat plugged ducts.

The first month of breastfeeding can be very challenging, and I think that some pain especially during those first few weeks is to be expected for some mothers. If you find that the pain is not slowly improving over the course of the first two weeks postpartum, you may need to look for other causes of your pain. Remember, check your baby’s latch, and know that the pain won’t last forever. I have found that by the six-week mark breastfeeding becomes so much easier!


Joanie Boeckman is an Army Reserve wife and homeschooling mama to three (soon to be four!) beautiful children. She is passionate about living a simpler life, attachment parenting, homemaking, and homeschooling. You can find her blogging at Simple Living Mama where her mission is to empower women in their roles as homemakers, mothers, and homeschool teachers.

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