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Your question:

What if I find breastfeeding painful?

Expert’s answer:

Feeding should not be painful. While you and your baby are learning to breastfeed you may feel some discomfort or tenderness when the baby first latches to the breast. This sensation should fade quickly after starting to feed and from then on it should feel comfortable.

In the early hours and days if it continues to hurt, this probably means that baby is not latched on well.  In this case, take baby off the breast and then help them to latch again – see How do I take baby off my breast?  

When you hold your baby, they should be able to:

  • reach your breast easily, without having to twist their head,
  • tilt their head back a little to latch on, and
  • your nipple should be pointing towards the top of their mouth.

 Attaching your baby

  1. To get your baby to open their mouth wide, run your nipple lightly along their upper lip from one corner to the other.  Wait for your baby to open their mouth as if yawning.
  2. When their mouth is open, use the arm holding them to bring them straight onto the breast. 
  3. Your nipple should still be pointing towards the roof of their mouth and they should have as much of the areola (brown part of the breast) in their mouth as possible.
  4. Their chin will be touching your breast. You may notice their top and bottom lips curled out to resemble the letter K.
  5. If the nipple still hurts, use your index finger to pull down gently on your baby’s chin.  This will bring more of your breast into their mouth.  The pain should go away. You may have to do this for the full feed, but not usually.

If pain continues or you find your nipples are sore after a feed ask your midwife to watch you feed baby.  She may show you techniques on how to improve your latch.

Baby not sucking well

Your baby may not suckle well if they’ve had a long or difficult birth or if they are born early.  They may need a little time to develop an effective suckle.

If your baby continues to have a poor suckle, ask your midwife or the Lactation Consultant to watch you feed.  They may be able to give you some further tips or assess your baby for other causes.  These can include tongue-tie, variations in the shape of the roof of their mouth or facial features, torticollis (stiff neck muscles).

During this time if your baby needs to have expressed breastmilk, it can be given by a special feeding cup.  Ask your midwife to show you how.  Introducing other teats, like a bottle or soother before breastfeeding is well established (4-6 weeks) can make it more difficult for your baby. 

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