When does breastfeeding get easier? Don’t give up just yet! Learn effective ways to make breastfeeding feel less painful and stop hurting.
I knew breastfeeding might hurt, but not this bad.
Even after a few days of discomfort, feeding my baby hadn’t gotten easier at all. I couldn’t take the pain anymore and kept asking myself, how long is breastfeeding going to hurt? The nurses and consultants assured me my latch was great, which only made me wonder why I was in pain.
It hurt so bad I almost wanted to give up—in fact, I’d hop online each day and remind myself of the benefits of breastfeeding. Sort of like reciting a daily mantra just to keep me going one more day.
Perhaps you can relate.
Maybe your nipples are now cracked, blistered and sore. Your baby gets frustrated if the milk doesn’t come out, so she unhooks and latches multiple times. You might even find yourself crying during nursing sessions, gritting your teeth and gripping the armrest in pain.
When does breastfeeding get easier?
I’m happy to report that breastfeeding does get easier, not only for myself but for many other moms, too. I felt like I found my groove after about a month, while the typical time frame I’ve found ranges from 2-6 weeks.
While breastfeeding isn’t for everyone (and no one should ever feel guilty for deciding to stop), thankfully I found a few tactics to ease the pain.
A lot of it has to do with time—physically, our bodies adjust to breastfeeding, and both mom and baby get the hang of it with enough practice. But there are also plenty of things you can do now to make breastfeeding more comfortable.
Take a look at a few ideas:
Apply cream before and after each nursing session
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Cracked, bleeding and blistering nipples… it’s enough to make anyone cringe in pain during breastfeeding.
Make sure to apply cream both before and after each nursing session—and to do so diligently. I know it’s tempting to move on to the next task on your endless to-do list, but applying cream or your own breast milk will help your nipples heal and prevent further damage.
Check out a few favorites from your fellow moms:
Wipe or wash your breasts after each feeding
Like applying cream, wiping or washing your breasts diligently after each feeding is a must. You’re keeping the area clean and avoiding potential infections.
You can rinse your breasts over the sink after each session, or time your showers after one of the feedings. Regularly wiping with a clean, wet washcloth also works.
Watch breastfeeding how-to videos
As informative as illustrations can be to learn about different breastfeeding positions and latches, online videos provide more details.
Many moms swear by watching several videos and practicing over and over until it finally “clicked.” You can compare how you’re holding the baby and make sure the baby’s mouth, angle and latch are correct.
Better yet, meet with breastfeeding consultants who can give you immediate feedback on your latch.
Pump to give yourself a break
During the newborn stage, babies nurse a lot. That can take a real toll on your body, which may be crying out for relief or a quick break.
While pumping isn’t as efficient as a baby, sometimes it’s all you need to allow your body to heal while still producing breast milk. You might alternate between nursing and pumping until you can build up tolerance, or add one pumping session a day.
Use breastfeeding gear to soothe and prevent pain
Thankfully, plenty of breastfeeding gear and items are available to help soothe and prevent pain. Here are a few options to try:
- Nipple shields: Besides pumping, temporarily nursing with nipple shields can also provide relief, allowing you to nurse while your body heals. Nipple shields can help with latching issues, overactive let down, nursing with flat or inverted nipples, or for sore nipples.
- Nipple shells: Using nipple shells can protect sore nipples, especially if your breasts hurt from chafing against your clothes. I loved using nipple shells as it also allowed my breasts to breathe and avoid the discomfort of contact with my clothes.
- Soothies gel pads: These provide instant cooling relief and help soothe sore nipples. After nursing, place the pads directly over your nipples.
- A good nursing pillow: Definitely get a nursing pillow if you don’t have one, or look into different brands if the one you have isn’t allowing you more comfortable positions.
Get a right latch, stop a bad one
Getting the right latch is key (which is why I suggested watching online breastfeeding videos).
You want your baby’s mouth to open wide around the whole areola, not just to enclose the nipple. Your baby basically needs to squeeze the milk ducts beneath the areola, and she can’t do that if she’s only sucking the nipple.
Getting the right latch is just one part of breastfeeding. Here’s the second but important part many moms overlook: you need to stop a bad latch.
If your baby latches on incorrectly, don’t feel like you need to sit through the pain or that you can’t unlatch her. It’s easy to think, well at least she’s latched at all—I’ll just bear through it.
That only teaches your baby to latch incorrectly down the line. Instead, unlatch her mouth by gently sliding your finger in her mouth, breaking the suction hold she has on your breast. Then, keep trying until you have the right latch in place.
Check for common complications
Breastfeeding my twins had been going fine, but a few months in, a searing pain would shoot through my body during and after each nursing session.
I couldn’t see any tell-tale signs of infections, and chalked it up to typical breastfeeding pain. But the pain never went away, and only increased with time.
Thankfully, I didn’t ignore the symptoms because it turned out I had thrush.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding comes with its own set of complications, from thrush to mastitis, that need to be treated. Don’t ignore the warning signs and instead rule out common complications.
Let your nipples air out as much as possible
Your nipples have a harder time healing when they’re constantly rubbing or chafing on your nursing bra or tops. As comfortable as your clothes may be, they still rub on sores and blisters that are trying to heal.
As much as possible, try to let your nipples air out. For instance, if you’ll just be at home anyway, unhook your nursing top covers for most of the day.
And if you’ll be out and about, the nipple shells I mentioned above protect your breasts from chafing on your clothes as well.
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I’d like to end here by saying this: don’t beat yourself up.
Sometimes, the only message we hear is, if it hurts, then you must be doing something wrong.
Go easy on yourself, keep trying new methods, and monitor your progress and whether things are starting to get easier or not. You’re more likely to feel better about breastfeeding when you’re not beating yourself up too much about it.
Hopefully with the tips you read above, you now have several ideas to try. Maybe it’s washing and applying cream to your breasts each nursing session. You might check out several breastfeeding videos after you read this.
Perhaps you’ll pick up a few breastfeeding items to help soothe your nipples, and allow them to air-dry throughout the day.
It’s these simple tricks that can make breastfeeding less painful. Because once you get it down, breastfeeding truly can be an amazing experience. Where you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, and the baby can latch without much help from you.
Breastfeeding might hurt in the beginning, but it shouldn’t hurt for the whole time. And the more comfortable you can get the process right, then the easier everything can fall into place.
Get more tips:
- 9 Unique Tricks to Increase Your Milk Supply
- 7 Breastfeeding Essentials to Keep You Motivated
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- 12 Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
- How to Stay Motivated to Breastfeed
What do you think: When does breastfeeding get easier? What helped ease the pain? Let me know in the comments!
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