Myth: It’s normal to have sore, cracked nipples the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
One of the most common reasons women give for not initiating breastfeeding is “I’m afraid that it will hurt.” Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt! Ever! Think of all the mammals who nurse their babies. Are they grimacing? Are they trying to avoid breastfeeding because of pain? Absolutely not. They look peaceful and relaxed. We are mammals too! Breastfeeding is a normal process that is meant to be enjoyable for mother and baby.
So, what are normal sensations when breastfeeding?
There should be no nipple tenderness at all in the first 24 hours. For the first few days your nipples may feel slightly tender when the baby latches on, but feel fine as the baby continues to nurse. What’s the difference between tenderness and pain? The tenderness is fleeting and mild. It doesn’t make you cry out or gasp. You look forward to breastfeeding. Your nipples look healthy.
Pain, however, often lasts throughout the feeding. You feel tense. You dread breastfeeding because it hurts. You also may find yourself ending the feeding before the baby is finished. Your nipples may look creased or flattened after feedings. There may be bruising. You wonder how long you can continue with this.
When the baby is latched on correctly, you will feel some gentle, rhythmic tugging. Some women feel the milk-ejection reflex (let down). It is often experienced as a tingly sensation around the areola or a mild ache in the breasts. Experienced mothers welcome this feeling–it means baby is getting lots of milk!
If breastfeeding is painful, enlist the help of a lactation consultant. She’ll help you breastfeed comfortably so you can truly enjoy nursing your baby.
See also:“Cures for Sore Nipples”
What is the correct prevention? On The Leaky B@@b post, there were 154 comments before yours and nearly every woman said it hurt like hell for at least 2-3 weeks and often as long as 4-6 weeks and after that it was “magic.” Most suffered from drying out, cracking, bleeding, etc. in addition to the baby not latching correctly. I’m 15 weeks along with my first and to be honest, delivery doesn’t scare me. I’m terrified of spending 2-6 weeks in torture trying to breastfeed. How do you adequately prepare your nipples? Or what is the answer you have discovered? I’d love to talk to you more about this! I’ll be exploring your website more tonight!
Thank you for writing, Laura. The best “prevention” for sore nipples is to connect with an experienced IBCLC during PG. Attend LLL meetings. Watch babies breastfeed. Then, if you have any soreness at all, contact that IBCLC and get help immediately. If there is pain, there is an incorrect latch. Pain with breastfeeding is never normal. Keep in touch!
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In the first 2 weeks of breastfeeding (after day 1-3 when there was no pain really, just the tenderness you mention) the pain when my baby first latched was toe-curlingly strong. It would then slowly ebb away as the feed progressed. But this was due to the fact that my nipples were cracked and then bled and then crusted over while tryung to heal. The crust would come off, the nipples would be sore again. This occurred until the skin toughened, the nipples completely healed and then there was no pain or discomfort at all.
Again, this is not normal is is completely preventable. One of the reasons moms keep believing this is normal is because many of their friends experience the same thing so they don’t seek help.
If you have another baby, please give me a call!