When does breastfeeding stop hurting and being painful? Many moms say THIS was the turning point that finally made breastfeeding a pleasant experience.
No one told me how much breastfeeding would hurt, at least in the beginning.
But for the first few days and weeks, I’d tense up when it was time to nurse, bracing myself for the inevitable pain I’d feel during and after. I even had a lactation consultant at the hospital check the baby’s latch, and sure enough, it was fine.
Only later did I finally hear that breastfeeding can be painful in the beginning, that it was normal in fact. Except I had no idea how long this pain was supposed to last. After a few days? Weeks? The whole time?
Applying cream did help a ton, but not enough to completely make the pain go away. And so I found it hard to make it through these feedings, so much so that I’d hop online every day looking for the benefits of breastfeeding. As if to motivate myself to give it just one more day, one more try, before calling it quits.
Thankfully, I hopped on mom forums and discovered that I wasn’t alone.
That in fact, many moms found breastfeeding painful, despite doing “all the right things.” Some admitted that their nipples felt like they were going to explode, or that breastfeeding hurt so much they reverted to pumping (since pumping usually hurts less than breastfeeding).
And when the baby is constantly nursing (plus the additional pumping in between), it’s no joke when you feel like you never get a break.
When does breastfeeding stop hurting?
If you find yourself in those shoes, rest assured you’re not alone, friend. And if you’re where I was, searching online for something to keep you going, perhaps this article can be it.
Personally, I found that breastfeeding drastically improved as the weeks went on, and once I hit the one-month mark, I could nurse as if it were no big deal.
But I also wanted to see when other moms typically felt that breastfeeding became less painful. I surveyed several moms and researched mom forums, and came up with this unofficial timeline of when to expect the pain to go away.
A caveat: I of course found the outliers, or moms who never had any pain at all (like I did with my second pregnancy), and those whose pain never went away.
But in general, you’ll see that the majority of moms discovered that breastfeeding became less painful around the two-week mark.
That’s when they saw a drastic difference between those dreadful first few days, and finally being able to nurse comfortably. Some admitted that the pain was still there, or that the first latch still hurt, but that breastfeeding wasn’t nearly as painful as before.
Take a look at this graph to see, week-by-week, how many moms finally found breastfeeding less painful:
As you can see, the two-week mark saw the biggest jump in how many moms felt less pain during breastfeeding.
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Factors that make breastfeeding less painful
Of course, the next question then, is why? What factors make breastfeeding less painful?
For many, the pain truly did come from a wrong latch. Even though we might “know” what the correct latch looks like, we still need the practice and experience to finally getting it exactly right. Plus, it’s not just us: our babies are learning just as much as we are on how to correctly latch.
Or maybe we simply needed that extra time for the initial cracks and sores to heal. Even with a correct latch, the baby’s suck could still cause painful cracks on the breast that hurt with even more nursing. Only by allowing and helping your breasts to heal can breastfeeding finally become less painful.
Other moms admitted that it wasn’t until their milk finally came in that breastfeeding became easier, while still others pointed to complications that needed to be fixed, like tongue-tied or thrush.
How to make breastfeeding hurt less
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No matter where you are on your breastfeeding journey, you can still do something to help make the pain go away. Take a look at these tips to find a solution for you:
- Ask your doctor to check for complications. I never knew I had thrush—I figured the intense pain that shot through my body would eventually go away. It wasn’t until I found myself curled up in a ball on my bed, crying in pain, that I knew this was not normal. Check with your doctor about potential complications, from thrush to tongue-tied to reflux. We can’t always tell what’s wrong and need medical advice to help us along.
- Try different positions. If your baby only nurses in a cradle hold, try a football hold or lying down next to him. One mom told me that she even nursed over her baby—she was on her hands and knees with her baby flat on his back!
- Use ointment. To soothe your nipples, try over-the-counter ointments first, and if those don’t work, ask your doctor if you need something more. Many moms swear by an all-purpose nipple ointment with anti-fungal ingredients because their breasts were infected.
- Allow your breasts to air-dry during the day. After each feeding, try to let your breasts air-dry. If you’re shy about that like I am, then at least try it when you’re home alone. Another option is to use the Medela Shells, which give your breasts space to breathe and prevents it from chafing against your clothing. A huge lifesaver for sure! Air-drying your breasts and preventing it from touching your clothing helps any wounds to heal quicker.
- Use dry breast pads. Make sure to use dry breast pads to prevent fungus from growing. You can use disposable pads, or simply buy a lot of cotton ones like I did that you can wash frequently.
- Use nipple shields. Some lactation consultants recommend nipple shields if the latch is still too painful. This is an option that has helped many moms continue to breastfeed while lessening the pain.
- Express excess milk if you’re engorged. Some moms admitted that the pain was only there when their breasts were engorged and hard as rock. A quick remedy is to express excess milk before you nurse. You can do this by manually squeezing your breasts (doing this in the shower helps), or pumping beforehand.
- Take pain medicine before breastfeeding. If you have a somewhat regular feeding schedule, try to time it so you take pain medicine before you start. Take it with enough time for the medicine to kick in.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and set rule for when breastfeeding stops hurting. Some never experience any pain at all, while others had so much pain they either exclusively pumped or chose formula instead. There really is such a wide range of when breastfeeding finally became comfortable.
But as you saw, most moms found a noticeable difference around the two-week mark. Sure, the pain didn’t entirely go away for some, but that was when they saw a huge turning point and a boost of confidence to keep going.
You also learned some of the factors that contributed to this change, from practicing the right latch to the initial wounds finally healing. And lastly, you discovered several tips you can apply today to speed the process along and make breastfeeding less painful.
If anything, know that you’re not the only one who has turned on her computer at three in the morning looking for breastfeeding motivation. Because sometimes, that little pep talk can make all the difference.
Get more tips:
- Burping a Newborn After Breastfeeding: Necessary or Not?
- Essential Breastfeeding Supplies You Need to Have
- When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? Top Tips to Ease the Pain
- Scared to Breastfeed? 7 Reasons That Will Tame Your Fear
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
Tell me what you think in the comments: When does breastfeeding stop hurting?
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