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Talk to me about initial breastfeeding pain

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

Hi Mamas,

 

Hoping to get some feedback on your experiences with the early days of breastfeeding so I can make some decisions on my breastfeeding relationship with DS.

 

Here's the 411--

 

DS is 2.5 weeks old. We've breastfeed exclusively, and it has always hurt pretty badly.

 

I've had lactation consultants and counselors check the latch and evaluate us. They cannot find any evidence of a bad latch, of tongue tie, nor of thrush. I've also been told I don't have mastitis, another thing that might cause bf'ing pain.

 

Everytime he latches on, I scream out it pain. It is excruciating. It gets a little better as he sucks, but typically, I'm gritting my teeth or crying through the whole feeding. Afterward, the breast sometimes still hurts for a little while.

 

We've tried all the holds- cluth, cross cradle, cradle, and biological (laid back) nursing. The latter was successful with no pain for about a day, and after that, it just, for some reason, didn't seem to *work* anymore. We had as much pain with that as with other positions.

 

I rub breastmilk on my nipples after each feeding, let them air dry, then slather with lanisoh. I've also tried soothies, although they stick to my nipples too much and hurt when I try to take them off.

 

I've had no bleeding so far.

 

I am getting really frustrated because I'm not sure what to do. I've read that on the one hand, bfing should never hurt, and if it does, it means we're doing something wrong. BUT, the same people who tell me that also say that it can hurt a lot in the beginning.

 

I'm having a lot of trouble, at this point, reconciling those two statements. How long should I put up with this pain and chalk it up to just beginning adjustment pain? At what point do I say, 'no, this still hurts and there is something wrong. i need a third and fourth opinion on things like tongue tie and thrush.'

 

What was your experience in the beginning? How long did it hurt? Does it get better as babe's mouth grows larger? How long would you gut it out through the pain before starting to insist that there is indeed something else wrong, even if the doctors, midwives, and LC's you've seen already say there isn't?

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 43

Hi,

 

Sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time. I would say, based on my experience as both a midwife and a breastfeeding mother that breastfeeding should not be *excruciatingly* painful. But that the pain is not always caused by something obvious. I do think that it can still be mildly (to moderately) painful in the early weeks even if there is nothing wrong.

 

If you're experiencing excruciating pain then I would say there is something wrong. Is your nipple deformed at the end of a feed? Does it look like the end of a lipstick? I'm wondering if your babe may be bunching his tongue at the back of his mouth rather than pushing it forward over his bottom gum. Another possibility is an unusually shaped palate. I would suggest an evaluation by a speech pathologist experienced in assessing breastfeeding babies. With either of these problems the latch may look perfect from the outside.

 

If your nipple isn't deformed then dermatitis of the nipple is another possibility. This can be caused by something you've previously applied to the nipple or just irritation from the baby's mouth and saliva. A week of steroid cream will often clear it up.

 

I would definitely keep looking for answers. It took me several months to get my daughter's tongue bunching diagnosed but, once we knew what it was things just kept improving. 

 

Also, how long are you planning to breastfeed for? Something which really helped me was to keep reminding myself that I was going to do child-led weaning so even 1, 2, 6 months (as it turned out) of pain was still a short term problem in relation to the full duration of breastfeeding.

 

All the best. I hope you can find an answer soon.

post #3 of 43

I really wish the intro breastfeeding material didn't say "If it hurts for more than the first few days, you're doing something wrong."   

 

I have talked to far too many people who were successful breastfeeders who strongly disagree with that statement to believe it is true.  I think it is lying to expecting mothers, and I think it probably ultimately causes women to stop nursing in the first few weeks because they think they're "doin' it rong!"   

 

For me, I had toe-curling pain at latch for at least 3 weeks with my first, and it may have been longer.  It was like a sharp jolt, that faded as the nursing session progressed.   And I worried and worried that this was some awful sign that all was not well. And then I found other people saying that yeah, it hurt for several weeks, at least.  And they recommended things that helped -- Lansinoh, rubbing milk in after baby unlatched, letting skin dry completely before closing up the bra, etc.   And with time, things toughened up until I was no longer in pain, and then with more time, I wasn't even uncomfortable.   

 

ALL THAT SAID:  Serious pain that persists does make me wonder if something else is going on.    Are you using any creams?   Everyone recommends Lansinoh, but lanolin is a fairly common allergen.   Have you asked about/looked into Renaud's Syndrome?   When you say "your breasts hurt" afterwards, are you saying your *nipples* hurt, or the *whole breast* hurts?   Might you have a plugged duct?

post #4 of 43

Every single person I know in real life had a lot of pain the first 4-6 weeks.  On the two other parenting message boards I frequent (one cruchy lite, one very mainstream but still with a very pro-BFing culture), almost everyone agrees that the first few weeks are extremely painful.  The ONLY place I've come across people who swear they had no pain was here on MDC.  And, yes, I (and most of my friends IRL, I can't vouch for people online) had superb lactation advice.

 

I think it's great that there are people out there who experienced no pain, but given that this does not seem to be in any way usual or common, I really wish that people would stop saying that breastfeeding doesn't hurt initially.  I think it causes a lot of unnecessary stress, and probably encourages a lot of women to give up breastfeeding, assuming that they're doing it wrong.

 

If you're getting the lactation support you need, and everything seems to be checking out, all I can say is that, yes, the pain is normal and all you can really do is plug through it.  It stops, like magic, one day: you grit your teeth and stick your boob in baby's mouth, and suddenly realize that it no longer hurts.  FWIW it hurts for additional children, but not nearly so much or for so long.

 

If you're still experiencing a lot of pain at 6 weeks, I'd say that's unusual and you should seek out more support.  Until then, just slather on that lanolin like your life depended on it.

post #5 of 43

For me, it hurt a lot for the first few weeks. My daughter had a bad latch and I would come away with blisters and bleeding. It hurt so bad, I would also get the first jolt of pain that would slowly dwindle away. I don't know how long it went on for, but I stuck it out. After a while, 2,3,4,5 weeks??? it stopped hurting. On the plus side with child #2 I had no pain at all. Not one single bit :)

post #6 of 43


True, true, sooo true!!!

 

I could've written that post myself!  (the one below, since I'm so good at this quoting thing!!)

 

  DH joked that I need a epidural for breastfeeding!  I had a completely medication free (not even a glass of wine or an advil), fast and furious birth with tearing and all the gore, and honestly, breastfeeding was the most painful thing I ever went through in my life. 

 

But you know what, it doesn't last.  No kidding....it got better and better, and DD was exclusively BF'd for 6 months, and 19 months later, we're still going strong.

 

Your post even made me a little teary eyed, I am empatising with you so much right now! So please, please know that you are not alone!!

 

Hugs

xoxo

Quote:
Originally Posted by savithny View Post

I really wish the intro breastfeeding material didn't say "If it hurts for more than the first few days, you're doing something wrong."   

 

I have talked to far too many people who were successful breastfeeders who strongly disagree with that statement to believe it is true.  I think it is lying to expecting mothers, and I think it probably ultimately causes women to stop nursing in the first few weeks because they think they're "doin' it rong!"   

 

For me, I had toe-curling pain at latch for at least 3 weeks with my first, and it may have been longer.  It was like a sharp jolt, that faded as the nursing session progressed.   And I worried and worried that this was some awful sign that all was not well. And then I found other people saying that yeah, it hurt for several weeks, at least.  And they recommended things that helped -- Lansinoh, rubbing milk in after baby unlatched, letting skin dry completely before closing up the bra, etc.   And with time, things toughened up until I was no longer in pain, and then with more time, I wasn't even uncomfortable.   

 

ALL THAT SAID:  Serious pain that persists does make me wonder if something else is going on.    Are you using any creams?   Everyone recommends Lansinoh, but lanolin is a fairly common allergen.   Have you asked about/looked into Renaud's Syndrome?   When you say "your breasts hurt" afterwards, are you saying your *nipples* hurt, or the *whole breast* hurts?   Might you have a plugged duct?



 

post #7 of 43
I had excruciating pain for the first five weeks, even after multiple midwives told me everything looks fine. I took ibuprofen in the evenings to survive the nights, and started a two-hour feeding routine, using only one breast per session, so each got a four-hour break in between. Then one day I realized I wasn't in pain anymore. Good luck and hang in there!
post #8 of 43

Since I don't think anyone has suggested it, I'll throw out a couple of possibilities that I think contributed to my own experience of awful, toe-curling pain for the first several months of BFing. This assuming that you're not having cracked, bleeding nipples and that they don't look deformed after a session (which would indicate latch problems)....

 

1. Small mouth--apparently some babies have really small mouths, which can be quite painful for mama. I have read this online from several mamas of small babes; have not heard it from an LC or "professional," so I don't know if it's scientifically proven....

 

2. Reynaud's/vaspospams. Check out this link on kellymom and see if it sounds like it might relate to you (http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mom/nipple-blanching.html). If this is your problem, unfortunately there's not much you can do but keep your chest warm. Mine did not really seem related to temp so much and got better over time.

 

My experience with early breastfeeding was excruciating once I was no longer taking major pain killers (I had a c/s). Mine sounds like yours--excruciating at latch on (I wanted to cry), got better as the session went on. Some residual pain just afterwards. I hunted on the internet so hard trying to figure out what was going on, but all the pros said our latch was good, I didn't have symptoms of thrust, etc. It was so frustrating. I just toughed it out, and then around 5 months or so, I realized that it didn't hurt anymore. On one hand, it was maddening b/c we kept hitting those milestones that everyone says, "Oh, it'll be better after 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, etc." and it just wasn't happening, but it did eventually. I think we had both small mouth (which is only going to get better as the baby gets bigger) and Raynaud's. I know some people continue having problems with Reynaud's, but mine stopped bothering me and has only started acting up now that I'm pregnant. I have had some of that same awful, excruciating nipple pain since being pregnant only with no nursing at all!  On the other hand, at least it DID eventually get better, and DS and I have gone on to have a happy 26-month-and-counting BFing relationship.

post #9 of 43

Has anyone checked his palate? 

post #10 of 43
Quote:

Originally Posted by lach View Post

...

If you're getting the lactation support you need, and everything seems to be checking out, all I can say is that, yes, the pain is normal and all you can really do is plug through it.  It stops, like magic, one day: you grit your teeth and stick your boob in baby's mouth, and suddenly realize that it no longer hurts.  ...

 

If you're still experiencing a lot of pain at 6 weeks, I'd say that's unusual and you should seek out more support.  Until then, just slather on that lanolin like your life depended on it.


This. I had excruciating nipple pain for nearly 6 weeks, it was so bad I wanted to yell every time DS latched on. He had a great latch, but I think his mouth was just small, my nipple always looked normal after a feed. On one side my nipple actually cracked open, but I had no other symptoms aside from the pain and a couple trips into the MW said there was no yeast. I religiously used Lansinoh and remained topless for weeks, then it just got better. Hang in there.

 

post #11 of 43

My first five weeks of breastfeeding were excruciating as well. Everything looked fine, the latch was perfect and my baby was thriving.

The public health nurse thought that I had yeast based on the pain I described and suggested I ask my doctor to treat for it. The doctor didn't think that was it (no physical signs) but let me try anyway. Things started to improve shortly after. I also stopped wearing my nursing bras that were a little too small. It may have been either or those things or just the timing, but after a few weeks the pain was gone and my baby is now almost 15 months old and we still are nursing and loving it.

 

I second the previous poster - I wish people wouldn't say "If it hurts, you're doing something wrong." I think that is absolutely untrue. I have since had many people tell me about their painful first weeks.

 

All the best to you!

post #12 of 43

How are your nipples? Do you thing you might have Reynaulds syndrome? Are they cracked?

 

You can take ibuprofen for the pain while nursing. There are people that nurse painfree from the beginning. For me, I had 12 weeks of pain that brought tears to my eyes.If you've checked that there are no other reasons, besides your nipples adjusting to breastfeeding. Breath through it. Try to remember the techniques  you learned for your labor. After 12 weeks, nursing become the most wonderful and easy thing to do. But I really really really had to put my mind to it.

post #13 of 43
Thread Starter 

Mamas...

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences with me!

 

We have been checked for it all- thrush, mastitis, tongue-tie, he's had his palate checked, we've been to cranio-sacral therapy, the works. The latch is also pronounced "good" by every expert we've seen, including two IBCLC's.

 

I think that it comes down to what many of you have said (which, incidentally, isn't in any books I've read on the subject). That baby's mouths are small, and sometimes, they have to grow a bit before it doesn't hurt anymore.

 

I'm really glad to have heard that feedback from you all. I've been so frustrated with bf'ing because all I read was that it was going to be this wonderful bonding experience with my little one. That it would be serene and beautiful and painless. Not so for all of us! At least not at first. This helps me know that what I really need to do is just relax and stick it out until he gets bigger.

 

Thank you!!

post #14 of 43

Putting an gel ice pack on your breasts before nursing can also help since it numbs the area. 

 

Good luck!

post #15 of 43

I am YET ANOTHER mama who had horrible pain the first 6 weeks or so with my DS (my first.) He had a small mouth as well - it was actually my DH who suggested the small mouth could cause some problem.

 

Although in my case, my nipples cracked early on & took a while to heal, so I just figured that was the source of my pain.


I wore these: Medela soft shells in my bra as well as getting a perscription for Dr. Newman's "all purpose nipple ointment" & I think that helped tremendously.

http://www.birthandbaby.com/shop/products/270

 

My DD was even smaller than DS - only 6#4oz, but my nipples didn't crack this time! :D I started to have the smallest flap of skin look like it was sliced off, so I promptly got the APNO prescription & wore the 'soft shells'. I had some soreness the first couple weeks & it hurt a BIT when I first latched her on, but NOTHING Like the first time - so so so much better....

 

Of course, now that I think about it, she also gained weight MUCH more slowly. She was over 9# at about 12 weeks... whereas DS was born 7#4oz & made it up 2# to 9#4oz at 2 WEEKS OLD!!!!!!!! So he had a majorly strong suck too.

post #16 of 43

The first week that I breastfed, I was on a high that I could do it, I never really noticed the pain. Then the second and third weeks set in. I would get up in the middle of the night to nurse my daughter and just grind my teeth during the process. Then around the fourth week, I really did not feel any pain. I think that a lot of women stop breastfeeding during the second and third week because it is really painful. 

 

Pain is awful and you did just give birth, so it is even more awful. You are tired and then on top of it all, you end up having all these guilty feelings because you want your body back, but also want what is best for your baby. I really suggest working through the pain, because IT WILL get better, I promise! And if you have had a lactation consultant come by and check out your feeding process and everything looks good, you really should be fine in a week or so. 

 

Keep your breasts moisturized, take deep long breaths and try not to tense up. Tension can exasperate the pain. If it is still painful after the fourth week, I would call back the lactation consultant. 

 

Hope this helps. 

post #17 of 43
Stick it out--it WILL get better! I had the same experience as you--excruciating pain at the beginning, that was bad enough to make me scream, cry, and tense up. The pain was worse than labor & birth. After the first 6 weeks or so it just got better and better, and eventually there was no pain at all and nursing became a sweet and pleasant thing. I know how stressful it is to be going through it right now, but it will go by so quickly and everything will get better. You're doing everything right, just keep doing it!
post #18 of 43

Wow!  As I am reading all of these comments, I am once again so grateful for this community of women!  I remember when the first week that my daughter was born, I thought "I got this - no big deal!" ...  then a few days later and the chaffing began and it was def uncomfortable!   A few tips that I did was apply lasinoh lanolin after every feeding from the moment she was born.  Also, the gel pads that you can keep in the fridge- put them on before and after every feeding (especially after - immediate relief).  As I told another girlfriend of mine - just be prepared for around 3-4 weeks of some pain and it will subside!  Also, my daughter had a difficult time latching at first, consequently I began nursing her in the most uncomfortable positions (for me) - I started to have the mentality as long as she's eating, it didn't matter if I was uncomfortable.  All this to say - take a breath and be encouraged that you both are learning each other and it takes a bit of time to master this new skill! 

post #19 of 43

Don't give up.  Take it from me--I've been nursing my son now for 1 1/2 years and I still have a bit of pain.  I had excruciating pain like you for nearly 3 months.  Same thing--lactation consultants, etc, and they said we had a good latch as well.  Nothing helped except the passage of time.  I hope your pain doesn't last as long--it's just miserable.  I can say now that every minute of pain was worth it.  My son has had 3 fevers in his life, 2 small, short colds, no croup, no allergies, etc.  He is healthy, happy, and we love to spend time together nursing now.  The benefits for mom and baby far outweigh the pain you are feeling.  I feel for you!

post #20 of 43

I relate to this.  I had horrible horrible excruciating pain, no latch problems per at least 4 LCs...  Since no one had any helpful advice for me and I didn't know what else to do, I just started pumping and moved to exclusively pumping by about 3 months.  I even had the pain with the pump, but it was bearable.

 

The pain disappeared after about 4 months when I figured out (through nearly dead batteries in the pump) that I was using too much pressure and I needed to dial it down.  Theh ahhhh.... no more pain at all.

 

My theory is this :  some babies just suck harder than others.  Those lucky women who have no pain, no problems must have babies with a gentler suck.  My little hoover was traumatizing all my breast tissue, and since I didn't know any better when I moved to the pump, I put it on full force and it did the same.  Once I dialed down the intensity of the suck, the pain disappeared over 2 or 3 days.  Now, you can't do that with a baby.  You CAN do that with a good breastpump tho.

 

PS  I too want to scream and slap whoever tells women it doesn't hurt as long as you're doing it right.  I read enough sources that said that while I was pregnant that I was completely unprepared for the horrors that are breastfeeding.  I just figured - get the latch right and its no problem!  Like Dr Phil says - its the EXPECTATION that really bums you out, more than anything.  I was sooo prepared for an easy time of it and it was hellish.  Just absolutely hellish.  At 7 months I am now packing away my pump and am soooo soo relieved to do so.  Yet still sad at how different breastfeeding turned out from what I was expecting and hoping for.  Same for birth.  I was a homebirth transfer emergency csection.  Needless to say, nearly everything I read on here has been WRONG WRONG WRONG.

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