Breastfeeding Without Pain 101

Stefanie V. Overby, LPN

Breast feeding is a wonderful experience for a mother and her baby. Breast feeding is also a learned experience. It will take time for you and your baby to learn each other and what works the best for the both of you. No matter what position or what setting works best for you, it should not hurt for your baby to latch on and nurse. If you are experiencing pain, other than some minimal pain in the first few days because of nipple tenderness, you should contact a lactation counselor or your pediatrician for help. Pain during breast feeding is usually associated with an improper latch. If the baby does not open her mouth enough or if she is sucking only on your nipple, this will cause intense pain if not corrected. There are other causes of pain that may not be associated with latch. If you are sure that her latch is good and she is suckling well but you are still having pain, you will need to contact a lactation counselor.

 A proper latch will consist of several things. You will want to make sure you are in a comfortable position before you even begin. Good positions include lying in the bed or sitting in a recliner. Get as many pillows as you need and be sure to have something to drink nearby to ensure you are drinking enough liquids.

  • When you hold the baby, make sure you are tummy to tummy with her.
  • Your nipple needs to be lined up with the baby's nose. You may want to rub your nipple on her bottom lip to get her to open her mouth.
  • Once her mouth is open WIDE, insert the areola (the brown area around your nipple) into her mouth.
  • It is best if your nipple is NOT in the exact center of the baby's mouth. Aim the nipple to top of the mouth to allow room for the baby's tongue.
  • You want to make sure that the baby's lips are not curled under against the breast. When you look down at your baby nursing you should see her profile.
  • Bring the baby to you -- do not try to take your breast to her. This will make you uncomfortable and nursing may not be as enjoyable.
  • If the baby's nose becomes blocked, pull the baby's bottom closer to you -- try not to break the latch.
  • Let the baby stay latched on as long as she wants. You never want to pull her off your nipple. If you need to get her off, you may insert a clean finger into the corner of her mouth to break the suction.

Other things to avoid helping prevent pain are to not use soap or anything drying on your nipples. This will dry your nipples and may lead to cracking. Be sure to nurse often so your breasts do not get full and hard. If the baby is not nursing often this may cause engorgement, which is over fullness and swelling of the breast. Using different positions will also help with nipple tenderness in the first few days. The baby's mouth will be in a different position which will alleviate the baby suckling on the same part of the breast at each feeding.

There is no time limit on nursing. Let the baby nurse as long as she has a good latch. Some babies may fall asleep at the breast and need to be awakened to continue feeding. You may want to offer only one breast or both breasts at each feeding. Either is fine. If you only offer one per feeding be sure the baby nurses the other breast first at the next feeding. Babies will sometimes have a favorite side, but to keep from getting engorged she will need to nurse from both. Your baby is getting enough breast milk if she is nursing 10-12 times in 24 hours, she is having 6 wet diapers and several bowel movements in 24 hours and if she is gaining weight steadily, about 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce a day.