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Breast Pain and Engorgement

Breastfeeding can be one of the most special experiences you have with your new baby, but sometimes new mothers may experience breast pain during or after feeding. Pain caused by breastfeeding can occur for many different reasons: an incorrect latch might cause sore nipples or breast pain, and engorgement might cause uncomfortable swelling. Learn about how you can treat breast pain in the following information or reach out to our lactation consultants. We are always here to answer your questions so you can enjoy bonding with your baby.

Breast Pain Causes and Treatments

Mothers nursing for the first time may experience nipple soreness that usually goes away within one week, but if discomfort persists, there are many adjustments you can make to help treat breast pain and sore nipples.

Treating Sore Nipples

  • Sore nipples might be the result of an incorrect latch. When you are nursing, you should feel a tug, but not a pinch or pain. Take your time to help your baby latch correctly.

  • Breastfeed your baby when they give you cues they are hungry. If your baby does not nurse frequently, they may nurse more frantically and vigorously.

  • After breastfeeding, express some colostrum or breast milk onto the nipple and areola. Massage the liquid into the area so that it will absorb, then air-dry the nipples.

  • Do not wash your breasts with soap or alcohol. When you shower or bathe, all that is needed to keep breasts clean is clean water.

Treating Breast Pain

  • Check your baby’s latch and your positioning carefully.
  • Alternate between breastfeeding positions.
  • Pump your breasts for three to five minutes before nursing to begin your milk flow.
  • Use breast shells to promote healing and air circulation.
  • If you are not allergic to wool, use lanolin to soothe soreness.
  • Use mild pain relievers. Medications with aspirin in them are not recommended for mothers who are nursing.

If you have persistent breast pain, sore nipples or sharp pain, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant for help.

Breast Engorgement Causes and Treatments

Soon after your baby is born, your breasts will start to feel fuller and firmer – this is considered normal engorgement and isn’t a cause for worry. The swelling is caused by increased blood flow and extra fluid in your breasts. Treatments for breast pain caused by normal engorgement include:

  • Breastfeeding often with a good latch.
  • Moist heat and massage before breastfeeding.
  • Ice packs after breastfeeding to reduce swelling.
  • Pumping for relief before and after feeding.

Normal engorgement may cause mild discomfort, but severe engorgement can cause sharp breast pain. Your breasts may become tight, shiny, very hard and painful to the touch, you may experience a low fever and your baby might have trouble nursing. Treat severe engorgement with these steps:

Treating Severe Engorgement

  • Apply cold compresses or ice packs to your breasts for 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and pain before and after you breastfeed.
  • Moist heat just before feeding may help with milk letdown.
  • If needed, express or pump for a few minutes to soften the areola before feeding. You can also use breast shells or do reverse pressure softening to help push fluid away from your nipple so your baby can latch on.
  • If your baby will not latch onto your breast, pump milk for 15 to 20 minutes and use a different method of feeding.
  • If you cannot express milk or your baby will not latch on, contact lactation consultation services at (336) 832-4777.
  • Take mild pain medication as instructed by your care provider. Products that have aspirin are not recommended for nursing mothers.

Watch for a high fever, body aches, chills and a red streak or streaks on your breasts – if you develop any of these symptoms, call your health care provider.

Breastfeeding and Medications

While there are medications that are safe for mothers to take while breastfeeding, there are also some that are unsafe. Products that contain aspirin are not recommended for nursing mothers. Be sure to have a conversation with your health care provider about which medications are safe for you to take while breastfeeding your baby.

Caring for Mom

  • Breast Pain and Engorgement