Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding
often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common queries
that mothers — new and veteran — may have.
Is it normal to have cramps while nursing?
Yes. During the first few days to weeks after delivery, you may feel strong, menstrual-like cramps
in your uterus when your milk lets down. This is your uterus shrinking back to a smaller
Is it normal to feel pain during or after nursing?
If your baby is latched
on properly, you may have 30 to 60 seconds of pain (from the nipple and areola
being pulled into your baby's mouth), then the pain should ease. But if you continue
to feel pain, stop feeding momentarily and reposition your baby on your breast. If
the pain persists, something else might be going on.
If your baby consistently latches on wrong, sucking on your nipple without getting
much of your areola in the mouth, you'll probably feel discomfort throughout each
feeding. Some moms say it's painful or feels like a pinch as their babies nurse. And
you'll probably have sore, cracked nipples in no time. Consulting with your doctor
or lactation consultant can help with these situations.
What else can cause breast pain?
If your breasts are sore and you have flu-like symptoms, fever, chills, a hard
or red area of the breast, or red streaks on your breast, you may have an infection
in your milk ducts called mastitis. If you have any of these symptoms,
call your doctor. If he or she finds that you have mastitis, the infection can be
easily treated with antibiotics.
You may also have a yeast (or thrush)
infection of your breast. It's important that you call your doctor if you have any
of these symptoms:
shooting or burning breast pain either during or after feedings
pain deep within your breast
strong pain in the breasts or nipples that doesn't get better after properly latching
on and positioning your baby
nipples that are cracked, itchy, burning, or are pink, red, shiny, flaky, or have
a rash with little blisters
Babies with oral thrush may have cracked skin in the corners of the mouth, and
whitish or yellowish patches on the lips, tongue, or inside the cheeks.
Sore breasts with a lump also may be a sign of a plugged milk duct, in which a
particular duct gets clogged. To help unclog the duct and ease your pain:
Take warm showers or use warm compresses on the area, massaging the area, several
times a day. Then, breastfeed your baby immediately.
When breastfeeding, position the baby so the nose is pointed toward the clogged
If that doesn't work, try using a manual (hand) or electric pump for a few minutes
to help draw out the clogged milk.
If the lump doesn't go away within a couple of days, or if you have any fever,
chills, aches, or red streaking, call the doctor.
Women who have inverted nipples (that turn inward rather than protrude out) or
flat nipples (that don't become erect as they should when your baby is nursing) also
may have trouble breastfeeding and may have frequent nipple pain. If either is the
case, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about ways to make nursing easier
and reduce any pain.
Can I still breastfeed if I have a breast infection?
Yes. Contrary to what many people think, you can continue to nurse your baby while
treating your breast infection. In fact, continuing to breastfeed can help clear up
How can I ease my breast or nipple pain?
When dealing with sore breasts or nipples, here are some pointers for avoiding
pain in the future as well as making yourself more comfortable while your breasts
Make sure your baby latches onto your breasts correctly every time.
Ask your doctor or lactation consultant to recommend a cream to put on your nipples
in between feedings to help sore nipples heal.
At the end of a feeding, massage some breast milk on your nipples, and then allow
them to air dry.
Consider wearing breast shields in between feedings (not to be confused with nipple
shields, which are used during breastfeeding) to protect sore nipples.
Breast shields are dome-shaped covers that prevent nipples from rubbing against clothing
and help them heal faster.
Ask your health care provider if a nipple shield is a good idea to use while nursing.
These shields are placed over the areola and nipple during a feeding to protect sore
or cracked nipples. Nipple shields may interfere with a mother's milk supply, so it's
important to only use them under the supervision of a doctor or lactation consultant.
Some women find it helpful to nurse more often but for shorter periods of time,
rather than nurse for extended periods.
Try to nurse first on the side that's less sore.
Gently break suction when removing your baby from your breast. (Slip your finger
in the side of your baby's mouth, between the gums, and then turn your finger a quarter
turn to break the suction.)
Vary breastfeeding positions to help drain all areas of your breast.
Use wet or dry heat on your breasts (a warm water bottle, heating pad, washcloth,
or warm shower) right before feeding. (However, if you have a yeast infection in your
breast, you'll need to keep your nipples dry because the yeast thrives on moisture.)
Put ice packs or cool compresses on engorged breasts after feedings.
Gently massage the sore area before nursing.
Get plenty of rest and fluids.
Some mothers with cracked or sore nipples find that pumping for 2 to 3 days allows
their nipples to heal.
If you find that you're consistently unable to nurse your baby without pain, be
sure to call your doctor or a lactation consultant.
Is it normal for my breasts to become engorged?
No. If the breasts are emptied frequently, engorgement (when the breasts become
overfilled with milk) won't happen. Engorgement can lead to mastitis and should
But the longer you wait to breastfeed or pump — both initially and throughout
your time nursing — the more uncomfortable and engorged your breasts may become.
If you can't feed your baby right away, use warm compresses and try to pump or
manually express your milk. One way you can express your milk is by holding onto your
breast with your fingers underneath your breast and your thumb on top. Gently but
firmly press your thumb and fingers back against the chest wall, then roll your thumb
and fingers toward your areola over and over to help push the milk down the milk ducts.
Also, nursing often (approximately every 2 to 3 hours) and trying to empty your
breasts can help with the initial discomfort and prevent engorgement.