Pain in the nipples during initial breastfeeding is quite a normal thing and it absolves itself as the baby learns to suckle properly. The pain occurs initially because the baby is still learning how to hold the sensitive nipples. During this period, there may be soreness of the nipples as well, but this is also mostly temporary. However, if the pain lasts for longer than a few days and if it is severe, then it requires remedial attention.
Causes of Sore and Cracked Nipples
The most prominent cause of sore and cracked nipples is wrong breastfeeding techniques. Holding the baby in a wrong position, or if the nipple itself is held wrongly by the baby, then it will lead to sore nipples. Continuing feeding with these sore nipples will cause the nipples to become cracked, and finally even bleed. This is quite harmful as a baby should not be fed through a bleeding nipple.
The prime causes of sore and cracked nipples are given below:-
- As mentioned above, wrong breastfeeding techniques play a very important part in causing sore and cracked nipples. This is especially seen when the baby is just learning how to suckle. The baby will experiment with different methods of holding the nipple in its mouth and this is the time when it may 'bite' at the nipples causing tremendous pain in some cases.
- The first few minutes of any breastfeeding session are important as this is the time when the baby is trying to get a proper hold on the nipple. More soreness is observed during this period.
- A woman who has inverted nipples will have to undergo a terrible ordeal during breastfeeding. The baby will have to make several attempts at getting the nipple in its mouth leading to pain and soreness.
- If the mother is not able to let down her milk through the breasts for some reason, then this will make the baby to suck harder. Surely this will be a cause for sore and cracked nipples.
- In rare cases, infants may have ankyloglossia, which is commonly called as tongue tie. These babies have a tight frenulum (the membrane attaching the tongue to the base of the mouth) which restricts the movement of the tongue. As a result the baby suckles harder at the areola causing soreness of the nipple.
- Young and inexperienced mothers who do not use supports for their babies while breastfeeding will feel a pain in their shoulder after some time. This will make them pull the baby away from the nipple to alter the position of the arm. This is often done suddenly and will cause the baby to tug at the nipple for some time before releasing it. Pulling the baby away from the nipple before it has released it will lead to soreness.
Methods to Avoid Soreness and Cracking of Nipples
Due precaution needs to be taken to prevent soreness ad cracking of nipples. Below is a list of what to do and what not to do.
- Learn the proper breastfeeding technique beforehand, especially if you are a first time mother. You can approach maternity counselors for this job.
- If you feel any soreness in the nipples in the first few breastfeeding sessions, then it is wise to get your breastfeeding technique examined by an expert. This will entail examination of the breasts and advice on how to correctly position the baby while feeding. There may also be the possibility that the pain is due to infection of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.
- If you have inverted nipples, talk to your gynecologist about how to avoid breastfeeding complications.
- Visit health care and maternity care professionals and discuss any letting down problems you may have. If milk flows freely to the nipple, it will enable the baby to suckle easily and reduce the sore and cracked nipples problem.
- Use a support for the baby while feeding. Before the baby begins to suckle, hold the baby in your most convenient position so that you do not have to alter positions later on.
- If your baby is used to feeding for a long time, then slowly release its mouth from the nipple and place it on the other breast so that one single breast is not over-exerted.
- Alternate your breasts for the baby's feeding each time.
- Sometimes nipples may become sore if the milk gets engorged in them. This problem can be rectified by pumping out excess milk from time to time.
- Allow some milk to flow out and dry on the nipple before the feeding begins. This will help a lot because milk is naturally smooth and will lubricate the nipple for easy suckling by the baby.
- You can use lanolin or such other hypoallergenic creams on the nipples before the feeding. This will reduce the problem of sore and inverted nipples.
The problem of sore and cracked nipples is a very common problem, and it is one which can be taken care of quite easily. Proper knowledge of breastfeeding techniques will help you resolve the issue and will provide your baby with its nutritious diet without being much of a pain to you.
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