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Pain While Breastfeeding: Why Does it Happen and How to Cope with it

Breastfeeding a child takes plenty of patience. However, it is not uncommon for women to complain of pain while breastfeeding. No matter your age or how many children you have breastfed in the past, discomfort is a common and natural thing. Do not be too worried about it as experiencing pain is one of the most common problems that nursing mothers go through.

Why Do You Experience Pain While Breastfeeding?

There are several reasons that you can attribute the discomfort to. Here are some of the top reasons why this problem tends to happen.

1. Engorgement

This is one of the most common roots of painful breasts. Engorgement is when your breasts are full of milk and this typically happens several days after giving birth. This is caused by an increase in blood supply and milk in the breast. This also happens if you do not relieve your breasts of the milk. It usually happens to working mothers who are unable to pump at specific times or have to endure limited (or skipped) feeding times. Ensure that you take care of engorged breasts as soon as possible because consistently ignoring them will lead to more pain and severe problems such as mastitis or clogged milk ducts.

2. Dry and Sore Nipples

Dry and sore nipples are common amongst mothers who frequently breastfeed. Sore nipples can be caused by the baby not latching onto the nipple properly. Improper positioning is also to blame. On the other hand, dry or cracked nipples may be caused by dry or sensitive skin or the overuse of products such as lotions and scented shower gels.

3. Clogged Milk Ducts

When the breast is filled with milk, the ducts carry the milk through the breast and out of the nipple. Also known as plugged ducts, this is a regular occurrence especially amongst mothers who are always on the go and unable to stick to a consistent feeding or pumping schedule. You have to take care of this problem as soon as you feel it as it can lead to a bad infection. You will be able to tell that you have clogged or plugged ducts when your breasts feel swollen and you feel a soft lump in the area.

4. Thrush

Thrush is caused by a yeast-like fungus that thrives in damp and dark places. A typical example is in the birth canal. Mothers can pass thrush to their babies during childbirth and in turn, the baby will pass it back to its mother during breastfeeding sessions. You will be able to tell that you suffer from this problem when you notice small red and white patches on your breasts and nipples. This is usually accompanied by shooting pains.

5. Mastitis

This is a severe breast infection that must be taken care of immediately. It can happen when an engorged breast is left for too long and the milk ducts become clogged and plugged. When the ducts are clogged for too long, an infection will occur and this is known as mastitis. Mastitis can also happen when bacteria enter the breast through an open sore or through the nipple. You will be able to tell that you have this problem when you feel a hard, hot and terrible pain on your breast.

What Can You Do To Relieve The Discomfort?

Like most other breastfeeding woes, there are several things that you can do to ease yourself out of the discomfort and fortunately, many of these steps can be taken at home. Here are some simple things that you can do.

1. Massage

The simplest way to give your breasts relief is by gently massaging them. You will be surprised at how much this simple act can help get rid of the pain. Massaging your breasts will help unclog plugged milk ducts and give you much-needed relief.

2. Medication

When you suffer from thrush or mastitis, the only way to combat them is to seek help from a doctor. Do not worry about the quality or safety of your breast milk if you have mastitis or thrush as although your breasts may be infected, the milk is not. For mastitis, doctors will usually prescribe a cycle of antibiotics, so ensure that you complete all the medication to prevent it from happening again. When it comes to thrush, a common form of medication is a cream that you have to apply to both breasts after each nursing session. The doctor will also prescribe a liquid medication for your baby so that both of you do not pass the infection back and forth.

3. Cold and Warm Compresses

This is a simple way for you to relieve the pain and discomfort. You can place a cold compress onto your breasts to decrease the swelling. The cold will help reduce the pain and offer temporary relief. Only do this once you have fed your baby or pumped your breasts. On the other hand, you can also relieve the pain before feeding your baby by placing either a hot compress or warm washcloth on your breasts. This will stimulate blood flow and make it easier for you to nurse your child when it is time to do so.

4. Pump or Nurse Often

One way to prevent discomfort during nursing is to do it often. When you breastfeed your baby as often as you possibly can, the milk produced will flow out, discouraging problems such as clogged ducts and engorgement that can lead to serious infections. Something else that you can do is to change positions often while nursing. This will give all the milk ducts in your breast the chance to empty out, leaving less room for clogs.

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