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Should Breastfeeding Hurt?

rosie ireland

By Rosie Ireland

Blogger + new mama.

Feb 29, 2024

Today, let’s dive into a topic near and dear to my and many new mamas’ hearts: breastfeeding. Ah, the joys, the bonding, the snuggles… but what about the pain? Should breastfeeding hurt? As a mother of a two-year-old and someone who has spoken openly and proudly about my breastfeeding journey, this is something I wanted to explore and share.

What To Expect At The Start

First, it’s essential to understand that while some discomfort is common initially, breastfeeding shouldn’t be excruciating. If you find yourself wincing in pain every time your little one latches on, something might be amiss.

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, this was me. Wincing and tears streaming down my face every time my baby latched. Once the milk started flowing, the pain subsided but it was very painful for me.

The Latch

The latch is KEY. Getting that perfect latch can make all the difference in the world. Ensuring your baby has a wide mouth and takes in a good portion of the areola, not just the nipple, can help prevent soreness and discomfort. It’s all about positioning, patience, and practice. For us, we had to experiment with different positions to accommodate my painful c-section incision and get comfortable. Eventually, we found that the rugby ball hold worked perfectly and the pain began to disappear.

Here are my tips on how to get the perfect latch:

First things first, positioning is key. Ensure you’re comfortable and relaxed, with good back support. Bring your baby close to your breast, aiming their nose to your nipple. Now, here’s the trick: wait for a wide-mouthed gape before bringing them to the breast. This ensures they take in a good portion of the areola, not just the nipple, which can lead to soreness and discomfort.

Once they’re latched on, listen for those satisfying swallowing sounds. If you hear more sucking than swallowing, it might be time to reposition. Gently break the suction with your finger and try again. Remember, it’s all about patience and practice.

Different Breastfeeding Positions

There is the classic cradle hold. This timeless position involves holding your baby in the crook of your arm, with their head resting on your forearm. It’s perfect for those cozy nursing sessions at home, providing ample support and closeness.

Next, we have the football hold, also known as the rugby ball hold, clutch or underarm hold. Picture yourself holding your baby tucked under your arm, like a little football or rugby ball. This position is fantastic for mamas who’ve had a cesarean birth or for those with larger breasts, as it offers excellent visibility and control.

Then there’s the side-lying position, a godsend for tired mamas during those late-night feeds. Simply lie on your side with your baby facing you, and feed away in blissful comfort. It’s a game-changer for those sleepy nighttime snuggles.

And let’s not forget the cross-cradle hold, a variation of the cradle hold where you use the opposite arm to support your baby’s head. This position is fantastic for newborns or babies who need a little extra help latching on.

Whatever position you choose, remember to prioritise comfort and relaxation for both you and your little one. Experiment with different poses until you find what works best for you.

Learn more: 7 Easy Breastfeeding Positions for You and Bub

What If It’s Still Painful?

If the pain persists, please don’t suffer in silence! Reach out for support. Your midwife, health visitor, NCT feeding coach, Australian Breastfeeding Association or lactation consultant can offer guidance and assistance. Trust me, they’ve seen it all and are there to help you succeed on your breastfeeding journey.

I am UK based so I opted for NCT. I was very fortunate to have a visit with my NCT feeding specialist every Wednesday as part of my NCT course and local area. This weekly catch-up was very informal and my fellow NCT Mums would use it as a coffee, cake, and chat each week. There was no embarrassment or scaremongering – just new Mums and professionals working together to make happy babies.

For Australian parents-to-be and breastfeeding Mamas, check out Australian Breastfeeding Association. They are the AU equivalent and have amazing resources to help you on your journey.

leaking nipple while breastfeeding

Milk Supply

Now, let’s talk about milk supply. Are you worried that you’re not producing enough milk? First off, take a deep breath, you’re doing amazing mama!

Being calm and happy can have a great, positive impact on your milk supply so try to stay calm. Remember, your body is amazing and designed to nourish your little one. Breastfeed as often as possible, ensure proper hydration and nutrition, and consider techniques like skin-to-skin contact to boost milk production. When this was a concern for me I took it all back to basics. I stayed in bed or on the sofa, put on a romantic comedy, and got both myself and my baby undressed. We snuggled under a blanket and dozed without forcing a feed. Our natural connection and the oxytocin between us helped my milk supply to flourish. It was truly magical.

Night Feeds

And what about those nighttime feeds that seem to last forever? Ah, the joys of motherhood! But fear not, sweet mama, you’re not alone. They are hard and it can feel relentless but it won’t last forever. From the mother of a 2-year-old, it feels like I’ve blinked and my hungry newborn is now a fiercely independent toddler who sleeps in his own room! 

It’s also a comfort to remember that your milk supply is the best at night. Your baby will receive the best and most nutrient-rich milk during their night feeds. So, while it feels super hard and you’re exhausted, you’re doing the best for your baby.

Where To Find Breastfeeding Support

The NHS offers a plethora of resources and support for breastfeeding mothers. From breastfeeding clinics to peer support groups, there’s help available at every turn. Don’t hesitate to reach out and take advantage of these invaluable services.

How Else Can I Help?

Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but a little discomfort in the beginning is normal. Focus on achieving that perfect latch, seek support when needed, and remember to be kind to yourself. You’re doing an incredible job, and your baby is lucky to have you.

Until next time, keep snuggling those little ones and embracing the beautiful journey of motherhood!


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