Trouble-shooting Breastfeeding Sore Nipples
So, you may have heard that breastfeeding hurts, or you may have experienced it before with previous child/children. But, did you know it’s not meant to hurt?
Yep, you read that correctly……. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, sore, cracked, bleeding
nipples is not normal and is in fact an indication that breastfeeding is not going as well as it could be….
I remember when I had my first child and I turned to my mum asking her how to latch my daughter to the breast and she simply replied “Well…you just cradle her and stick the nipple in her mouth” I thought well that’s easy enough and well my mum’s breastfed 3 kids so she knows best. So off I go sticking the nipple in my daughter’s mouth. A few days later, I went back to my mum explaining that my nipples were sore and bleeding and her response was… “Well that’s normal, breastfeeding always hurts to start with, your nipples will always bleed and then they toughen up”
“Why would anyone breastfeed? It’s like sticking your nipples in an electric shredder, loving breastfeeding for the benefits whist equally dreading it!”
So, I went to my midwife…. Surely this isn’t breastfeeding? … “Well….” she said “Actually it is…. A lot of young mums find it easier to bottle feed…Have you considered using Formula”
Formula is one the most common causes for mothers who choose to stop breastfeeding, some mums are told that it’s in some way helpful to offer formula whilst they wait for their nipples to heal, or because they don’t believe they have enough milk……. Of course, there’s a wider conversation to be had here in regard to the healthcare system specifically how breastfeeding is taught and how our mums are supported post birth. Needless to say, these conversations have been had for decades. So, when you add in sore, damaged, bleeding nipples and a reluctance to breastfeed due to the pain and lack of breastfeeding education/support……Hey Presto……. We have a lot less mums breastfeeding by the 6 months recommendation.
So, what’s the common causes of sore nipples?
Unknown to me, my mum and the midwife were wrong, the latch was not good. Bleeding and sore nipples were not normal and I needed more help. The cross-cradle position wasn’t taught to me when I had my daughter almost 12 years ago but It was around and taught by the time I had my boys. By using this position, I learnt that if they have a free head they don’t latch to the nipple and can actually latch to the surrounding tissues (areola).
As I mentioned before, the positioning is so important when breastfeeding. I think the most crucial thing to remember here is that your baby shouldn’t have to stretch his/her neck to breastfeed. Breastfeeding should be made as easiest as possible for them. Ever heard of “Tummy to Mummy?” By having your baby as close to you as possible with your tummy’s meeting, it allows your baby to feed easier. If their tummy is facing the ceiling then they are having to turn their head to feed. Not only does that cause them to latch to the nipple but also, it’s really uncomfortable. Imagine trying to drink with your head turned to the right.
Yes, that’s a real thing, not just a saying….and its more common than you’d think. Tongue tie is when the Lingual Frenulum (band of tissue under the tongue) is restricted in movement due to being unusually tight, thick or short. When sore nipples first occur, the latch and positioning tends to be the first thing looked at before jumping to assumptions that the problem is caused by a tongue tie. Especially as not all tongue-tied babies have a problem with feeding and an alternative to having any form of treatment is to wait for the baby to grow as the mouth also grows.
Nonetheless, Tongue-tie can be a cause for sore and damaged nipples. I highly recommend getting an assessment if you’re struggling with breastfeeding and have felt little relief when working on the positioning and latch.
So, there we have it! A few of the most common causes of nipple pain when breastfeeding.
Asahela Rose IBCLC