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Many new mothers are taken aback that something as natural as nursing a baby can be so complicated. Finding the correct position, getting the baby to open its mouth wide enough and making sure that the infant is eating enough are all important considerations for breastfeeding mothers. Most literature from breastfeeding organizations emphasize how natural, peaceful and calming breastfeeding can be. The truth is, breastfeeding can be a relaxing, precious time between mother and child. However, it takes time for the mother and child to find a rhythm, and in the interim, breastfeeding can be frustrating and, at times, painful.
Many new mothers are shocked by the pain of nursing. One major reason for this surprise is that medical literature implies that nursing should always be painless. Experts tell mothers that pain is a result of improper positioning or poor technique. The pain of latching on in the first few days is often referred to as "discomfort." Mothers often give up on nursing altogether because they believe that the pain means that they are constantly doing something wrong, and they do not know what to do differently.
Experienced lactation consultants realize that some women do experience extreme nipple soreness in the first week of nursing, despite correct positioning and technique. Often these women have very sensitive skin to begin with, and the suction of a baby nursing for hours can be quite painful. However, if these women persevere, the pain should lessen by the third or fourth day of nursing. Usually, by day seven or eight, the nipple has developed a callous, and pain is practically non-existent. If a lactation consultant assures a mother that she is nursing correctly and she is still in pain, she should realize that the tenderness is likely temporary. By sticking with it, she will likely soon be pain-free.
A lactation consultant can also help mothers identify other causes of pain. Thrush, a type of yeast infection, mastitis, clogged ducts and engorgement can also cause extreme pain for nursing mothers. Additionally, incorrect positioning can cause pain too. If a mother has pain while nursing, she should seek the advice of a lactation consultant to ensure that she's doing everything correctly.
Although pain can be a tip-off for nursing problems, nipple soreness does not automatically mean that something is wrong. Many experienced nursing mothers expect pain in the first few days and work through it using pain relievers, soothing creams and herbal remedies.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|