Nipple pain: 5 things to check
Ouch! Sore nipples are a common complaint for breastfeeding mothers. But don't assume it’s an inevitable part of the breastfeeding experience. While it may be uncomfortable for the first week as your nipples get used to the rigorous attention they’re receiving, lactation experts agree that pain is a sign that something isn’t right. The most common cause of nipple pain while breastfeeding is incorrect latching, usually when your baby doesn’t take the nipple deeply enough into his mouth. However, there are a few other reasons you may be experiencing pain.
Here are five things you should check if your nipples hurt while breastfeeding:
1) Baby's latching technique
For breastfeeding to be comfortable, your baby needs to have the entire nipple and part of the breast in his mouth, so that the nipple is near the back of his mouth where the palate is soft. A good latch is more likely to happen if the baby latches on with his head tipped back so that his chin is pressed into the mother’s breast and his nose is away from the breast. Of course, every baby and every breast is a little different, so you may need to adjust the positioning to find what works best for both of you. Check out the OHbaby! breastfeeding section for more tips and helpful advice, and read about how to comfortably breastfeed lying down.
2 Could you have thrush?
Thrush is a common yeast infection on the skin of the nipple, and can also be inside your baby’s mouth. It’s been described as a burning feeling, or like shards of glass are flowing through your breasts when let-down starts, and while you’re feeding. Thrush thrives in warm, moist, sugary places - which is exactly what your baby's mouth is like during breastfeeding. If left untreated, the thrush infection can then pass to your nipples and then pass back and forth between you and your baby. Check with your doctor or a lactation consultant for treatment recommendations.
3) Check for tongue-tie in baby
A baby with a tongue-tie isn’t able to lift his tongue or move it forward normally and this means he can’t use it to help feed from the breast. Instead he'll push the nipple up with his tongue, pressing it against his hard palate as he sucks, often causing a lot of pain and damage. Look to see if your baby sticks his tongue out past his bottom lip and if he lifts her tongue to the roof of his mouth when crying. If he seems unable to make these movements, consult with your doctor. Tongue-tie is easily fixed: a doctor will clip the membrane that restricts the tongue’s movement, and you (and he) will notice a big difference when it comes time to feed.
4) Is it a milk blister?
Otherwise known as a ‘nipple bleb’, a milk blister looks like a tiny white blister on the end of the nipple. It is essentially blocked nipple pore and can lead to plugged ducts because they prevent milk from exiting the breast normally. Ask your doctor for the best way to remove one. Interestingly, when a milk blister is removed, the milk may look like a tiny line of toothpaste, or like small granules of sugar, as the milk has usually calcified a little.
5) Could you have Raynaud’s Syndrome?
Raynaud’s Syndrome is a condition where the nipple turns white after a feed, and hurts as the blood flows back in. Because the breast pain associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon is so severe and throbbing, it is often mistaken for Candida albicans infection. It’s not always due to poor latching technique either, according to this report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, so do double-check with your doctor and a lactation consultant if you suspect you have Raynaud’s Syndrome.