Tips For Breastfeeding Pain Relief
Breastfeeding is an important part of motherhood for most new moms. It provides nutrition for both the baby and mom, helps prevent illness in babies, and promotes bonding between mother and child.
However, there are parts of breastfeeding we don’t always talk about. One of the most important being that it can cause major discomfort and pain for new mothers.
In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we want to take a deeper look into breastfeeding pain and how you can help alleviate it.
It’s first important to understand why breastfeeding is important.
According to the Journal of Pediatrics, if 90% of families chose to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, approximately 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented each year1.
Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of your infant experiencing health problems (such as asthma, diabetes, and ear infections).
Colostrum is the deep yellow colored milk that’s produced during pregnancy and after birth. It’s often referred to as “liquid gold” because it’s packed with antibodies and nutrients that help protect your baby.
It’s also important to note breastfeeding is an environmentally friendly option! No formula cans or bottles to create waste.
What causes pain while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding does have many benefits, but it can also be very painful.
Experiencing pain while breastfeeding is a common problem faced by new mothers. Two common problems new mothers find themselves experiencing are:
Breast engorgement is when increased blood flow and milk supply cause swelling and inflammation in the breasts2. This typically occurs in the first few days after giving birth to your baby.
Even if you decide that you aren’t going to breastfeed, you can still experience breast engorgement. This is because your body will still make milk, but if you don’t use it then it will eventually stop on its own.
A vasospasm is when the blood vessels that supply the nipple go into spasm and reduce blood flow3.
This impacts how milk flows from the nipple, and it’s very common to experience intense pain if this happens. This is especially common when the weather is cold.
Luckily nursing mothers can alleviate the pain associated with both of these conditions through a few different options.
Remedies for Breastfeeding Pain Relief
Checking your baby’s latch is one of the most important parts of breastfeeding.
If your baby is not latching properly, it’s very common to experience breastfeeding pain. Improper latching can also cause your skin to become irritated, which in turn causes more pain.
The baby’s mouth should cover a large portion of the lower part of the areola, which is the dark skin surrounding the nipple4.
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to latch properly, try consulting your physician or working with a lactation consultant.
Feeding often and pumping
Be on the lookout for your newborn’s hunger cues and breastfeed more often.
This can help prevent your baby from vigorously nursing, which can irritate your breast. Make sure you’re also pumping if you ever plan on missing a feeding, so you can prevent breast engorgement.
Pumping some breast milk right before you feed your baby, can also help milk flow faster. This makes it so your baby doesn’t nurse as vigorously at the beginning of a breastfeeding session.
Pain from causes such as vasospasm is exasperated when you’re cold. Keeping warm helps provide breastfeeding pain relief.
Warm compresses are also shown to increase breastmilk production5.
Try using products such as Brilliantly Warm to warm up your body before feedings. Warm compresses also help alleviate soreness and irritation in between feedings.
How can you support breastfeeding mothers?
As part of National Breastfeeding Month, it’s important we do our part in supporting nursing mothers and birthing people.
Here’s how you can show your support this National Breastfeeding Month:
Spread awareness on social media
Reshare posts from breastfeeding advocates using relevant hashtags, such as #NationalBreastfeedingMonth. Advocate for federal legislation that supports breastfeeding mothers (e.g. maternity leave, requiring buildings to have areas for women to breastfeed, etc).
Sharing your support helps amplify your reach and share relevant knowledge about the breastfeeding experience.
Say thank you to the mothers in your life
Whether it’s your mom, sister, colleague, or stranger—take time to express your appreciation for a woman that’s working hard to give a baby a healthy start.
Try donating to organizations such as the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, that is supporting breastfeeding mothers worldwide.
Donate your breastfeeding equipment
If you no longer have a use for your breastfeeding equipment, such as pumps, massagers, and warm compresses, consider donating them to a local women’s shelter or someone you know.
Also consider donating to organizations that provide breastfeeding equipment to mothers in need. If you’re a nursing mother producing extra milk, there’s also an option to perform milk donation. This helps families who are unable to nurse their infants, provide their infants with the nutrients they need.
Learn more about the process and how you can help through organizations such as La Leche League International.