Breastfeeding should not be painful but the fact remains that, particularly in the early days with your newborn, there can be all sorts of issues that bring discomfort.

Fortunately there are simple solutions for all of them!

Simple ways to manage breastfeeding comfort

It seems like it should come naturally, but breastfeeding takes a bit of preparation and some patience in the early days.

When a baby is well-latched, the nipple and part of the areola is taken to the back of the mouth where it is protected. If you are experiencing prolonged discomfort, that’s a message that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

By understanding the cause of the pain and learning to deal with the problem effectively, the sooner you can get back to enjoying the experience of breastfeeding your baby.

If you are experiencing pain you’ll find the most likely problems below …

It’s important to know how to manage discomfort associated with feeding your baby.

Sore nipples:

Most nipple pain can be attributed to the latch or attachment of your baby. It may take a little time to get this right. If the nipple looks pinched or misshapen when he comes off then baby has not taken enough breast tissue into his mouth.

Encourage your baby to open his mouth wide by stroking the area between his nose and upper lip with your nipple. His body should be fully facing you, his chin should be well into your breast and his nose should be clear.

Ask your midwife or health visitor for help. Remember though, even if they say he looks well attached, if you’re experiencing pain and the nipple is misshapen, then he isn’t on properly.

It is also very common that, even with a good latch, in the first few days and weeks of frequent breastfeeding, many women experience nipple soreness and dry skin. Keeping products like Medela’s Purelan™ lanolin cream on hand is a great idea. It is 100% natural and safe for your baby – you do not need to remove before breastfeeding and it gives you fast relief for sore nipples and dry skin.

Take advantage of the products that are available to you, from nipple shields to breast pumps and lanolin creams.

Engorgement

When your breasts are over-full they can feel hard and painful. In addition to the pain associated with being full, engorgement may also cause your nipples to flatten, making it difficult for your baby to latch on properly, which can lead to the pain described above.

The best way to manage engorgement is to empty the breast, either by feeding your baby at the breast, or by expressing your milk.

Don’t fear the ouch-factor here. There are great breast pumping products on the market – including Medela’s award-winning Flex Breast Pump range and their latest Harmony Manual Breast Pump with Medela Flex Breast Shield, for more comfort and more milk for bub.

And this is exactly what you need when engorgement pain is challenging your breastfeeding goals.

It’s also okay to wake your baby and offer a breastfeed day or night if your breasts become full and uncomfortable between feeds. Expressing a little milk to soften the area around the base of the nipple, massaging the breast gently and applying some heat before a feed and using a cold pack after the feed can help too.

Sometimes, if the engorgement does not improve, a complete ‘pump out’  may be necessary to relieve the milk pressure that is causing increased blood and fluid within the breast tissue (ask your lactation consultant or doctor for help).

It’s also great to keep in mind that there is a complete family of Medela Flex breast pumps suited to all mum’s needs and pockets, especially if mum is after something a little more powerful than a manual/hand pump!

Bec Judd shared her engorgement with the world and women everywhere related!

Blocked ducts

A clogged milk duct, also called a blocked duct or a plugged duct, occurs when the milk flow out of your breast has been obstructed in a certain place. You may feel this as a sharp pain, and may notice a lump or a red patch on your breast.

Clogged milk ducts are painful and make feeding and pumping unpleasant, but it’s essential to keep trying as a blocked duct and can lead to mastitis if it’s not cleared quickly.

Keep feeding or pumping from the affected breast, and gently massage towards your nipple as you feed. Applying some heat to the area can help as well.

Mastitis

Sometimes a blocked duct may become infected – this is called mastitis.

You may have a swollen, red area on your breast, a high temperature, and feel really unwell. See your GP as you may need anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, but don’t stop feeding from the affected side. Medications for mastitis are safe for breastfed babies.

It is really important to keep the milk moving in that breast, either by the baby feeding and/ or expressing or pumping.

Choosing a gentle pump designed for comfort, like the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump when planning for your baby will set you in good stead to manage these situations as they arise.

For more information or help seven days a week, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 FREE or visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website.