I recently had a client call me in desperation. She said she wanted to breastfeed and knew it was suppose to hurt but she didn’t think she could take it anymore!
My response, “Whoa, who said it was SUPPOSE to hurt?” Her mother told her breastfeeding will hurt and she should be “toughening” up her nipples by rubbing them between feeds, preferably with a rough towel.
No wonder this poor woman’s nipples hurt! Breastfeeding should not be hurting. If nipples are raw, cracked or bleeding there is a latch problem that needs to be assessed and fixed. Sure, in the first few days the areola may be tender since this area is not use to so much action. However, the pain should not be “toe curling” even to latch. By adjusting position and using latch techniques to encourage a deeper latch, the baby should be able to get on the breast without causing pain.
There is no reason you should be “toughening” up your nipples. And please don’t rub them with anything! Some women notice drying in the third trimester, whereas some notice the nipples are suppler than they every have been. If drying happens, applying olive oil as a natural lubricant, or using a commercial nipple cream should help to relieve the dry skin. Avoid washing nipples with soap. Soap washes away natural oils and promotes cracking.
Have an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) assess the damage, or preventatively, have a prenatal consult to have nipples assessed, discuss latch techniques and different positions for breastfeeding and to prepare you for what to expect in the first 72 hours of breastfeeding. Some women have flat, inverted or dimpled nipples that may need assessment and altered breastfeeding positions may be required.
Nipple shields and breast shells need to be used with caution. Please note that if you are recommended to use these products, you require close monitoring for milk transfer and milk production. These products can down regulate milk production.
Breastfeeding is a natural process and not one that is supposed to invoke pain! Please don’t suffer and please don’t follow old wives tales to “toughen” up a delicate part of your body. If there is pain, call for help. Feeding your baby should be a pleasure and a great bonding experience, not something you dread.