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Breastfeeding: How to Deal With Sore Breasts?

Mom Health / May 12, 2022 / Vetted by Dr. Jasmin Rajesh, MBBS, MD (Ped.)
Sore breast

Pain while breastfeeding is a common concern with more than one-third of mothers. You may feel a little pain for about a minute when your baby starts feeding, but this settles down. If your breast or nipple pains during breastfeeding or if the pain returns after it had previously subsided, it could indicate a problem. 

Breast soreness during breastfeeding may have different causes, and knowing what to do will make your life easier. Here are some common causes of breast soreness and tips on how to deal with them:

1. Engorgement of the breast

If your baby does not feed regularly or cannot feed adequately due to incorrect position, milk starts to collect in your breast. This causes your breast to become hard, swollen, warm, painful, and look shiny. 
Breast engorgement can be prevented by feeding your baby regularly, avoiding giving him/her any other feeds and allowing your baby enough time to feed on your breasts. These tips will help relieve some of this soreness:
  • Apply a cold compress or ice to the swelling to cool it. 
  • You can use painkillers or gently massage your breast to help manage the pain. 
  • Gently press on the breasts to remove some milk to help soften your breasts. 

Sometimes, a mild fever may occur along with engorgement, but it settles down on its own in a day or two.  

2. Cracked nipples

Due to poor attachment of the baby to your nipple, your nipple skin may get damaged and cracks may develop. Cracked nipples can cause a lot of breast pain. These tips can help relieve cracked nipple pain:
  • See to it that your baby latches on to your breast correctly while feeding. 
  • Apply some hindmilk (rich in fat) to your nipple after you finish feeding. 
  • Avoid using medicated creams on your nipples as they may increase the soreness.  

3. Clogged ducts

Your milk ducts may become clogged due to reasons like inadequate emptying of milk, a change in the feeding schedule, wearing a tight bra or clothes, or not changing positions while nursing. You may notice breast soreness or a small, red, painful lump. If not treated, it could lead to an infection. Some tips to help with clogged ducts are as follows:
  • Gently massage your breast before feeding, especially the area that is firm. 
  • Feed your baby from the affected breast first so that your baby’s intense sucking will drain the breastmilk more completely. 
  • If you feel like your breast still has milk after feeding, express it. 
  • Try different breastfeeding positions to allow better drainage of the breastmilk. 
  • Use warm compresses or take warm baths a few times in the day while gently massaging the clogged area. 

4. Biting while feeding

Babies may bite when they are teething, and their gums are tender. Some babies bite if you are not paying attention to them or when they are not actively feeding – at the beginning or at the end of feeding when they are full. These tips can help:
  • Give your baby something hard and cold that they can bite on or massage their gums before feeding. 
  • The correct position and latching while breastfeeding will help reduce pain. 
  • If you feel your baby’s saliva is irritating your nipples, wash your nipple with saltwater or soda bicarbonate water (about 1 teaspoon in 1 cup) after feeding to relieve the breast soreness.
  • Immediately change any moist nursing bra. 

5. Infection

An infection in the breast called mastitis can cause redness, swelling, fever, and breast pain. You do not need to discontinue breastfeeding when you have mastitis as breastmilk protects your baby from any infections. If you have mastitis, you can try some of these tips:
  • Breastfeed your baby on the infected breast first as the milk flow will help open the ducts, allowing the milk to flow through and prevent any bacterial growth. 
  • To help with the pain, take a warm shower or use a hot compress on your breast.
  • Gently massage the affected area of the breast and the nipple from the outside area towards the nipple. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated and well-rested. 
  • If required, you should use a breast pump between two feedings. 
  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
 You could also try some of these tips to deal with breast soreness:
  • Allow your nipples to air dry and do not wipe away the remaining milk off the nipple. 
  • Use warm water to clean your nipple instead of soap or alcohol-containing products that can dry your skin. 
  • Adjust your baby’s position in such a way that the affected part of your breast is at the corner of your baby’s mouth and less pressure is applied to that part. 

If the soreness does not abate or your condition worsens, you should consult a doctor. 

 

References:

  1. C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Breastfeeding: Sore nipples [2019].  
  2. HealthyChildren.org. Clogged milk ducts [2009]. 
  3. Australian Breastfeeding Association. Biting [2017].
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Mastitis Overview [2020]. 
  5. Cleveland Clinic. Mastitis: Management and treatment [2020]. 
  6. FamilyDoctor.org. Breastfeeding: Hints to help you get off to a good start [2019]. 

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