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    Home ›› How to soothe breastfeeding nipple pain & other breastfeeding issues

    Home ›› How to soothe breastfeeding nipple pain & other breastfeeding issues

    How to soothe breastfeeding nipple pain & other breastfeeding issues


    Reading time: 10 mins.


    Whether it’s your first time breastfeeding, or you’re keen to avoid breastfeeding pain this time round, preparing for common breastfeeding issues is important for both mother and baby. For some mums, it can be a little painful, so knowing how to soothe breast pain when breastfeeding can help to put your mind at ease.


    If you’re faced with an inefficient breastfeeding latch, cracked nipples or other breastfeeding problems, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve put together these breastfeeding tips to help answer common breastfeeding questions – so you can spend less time worrying, and more time enjoying the special bond between you and your baby.


    Tip: We’re here to help you understand how to relieve and avoid breastfeeding nipple pain, but our advice doesn’t replace that of a healthcare professional. Always consult your doctor if you’re worried about breastfeeding issues.

    Common breastfeeding issues

    1. Breastfeeding latch problems


    Latching on can take a little time to learn, and trouble latching on is one of the most common causes of breastfeeding pain – but be gentle on yourself: you’ve both got this.


    If your baby won’t latch on to your breast, it’s important to seek help as your milk supply may decrease if your baby won’t latch properly. To help, use these breastfeeding tips:


    • Create a calm environment. The key to a comfortable feeding session is to be calm and relaxed. Lie in your bed with pillows or sit in a comfortable chair.
    • Cuddle your baby skin-to-skin. Place your baby on your bare chest between your breasts for relaxing skin-on-skin contact.
    • Don’t force the latch. Allow your baby to take the lead during nursing sessions. You can guide and support your newborn, but you certainly shouldn’t be forcing the latch.
    • Find a comfortable position. Sometimes the trick is knowing which positions work and which ones don’t. Explore the different breastfeeding positions that can help your baby to latch.
    • Use a good breastfeeding latch technique. Start by brushing your nipple against your baby’s nose to activate their senses. This will help your baby to open their mouth wide, which may help to get more of your areola in their mouth.

    2. Breastfeeding nipple pain and cracked nipples


    In the early days, it’s quite common to experience some tenderness on your nipples. Breastfeeding nipple pain can be linked to multiple causes, from skin sensitivity to poor positioning.


    Another common issue among mothers who choose to breastfeed is cracked nipples, often caused by a shallow breastfeeding latch. This is when your baby is not getting enough of the breast tissue in their mouth and sucks on your nipple instead.


    Some of the most effective ways to soothe and protect your nipples so you’re able to comfortably breastfeed include:


    • Applying expressed breast milk to your nipples. That’s right, you can use your own breast milk to soothe your cracked nipples1. Simply apply a few drops of breast milk to your nipples and air dry.


    Tip: If you’re expressing your breast milk, whether it’s to avoid breast pain while breastfeeding or simply to give yourself a break, make sure you have all the correct equipment. Ensure your expressed milk is at its best for your baby using good-quality bottles and a suitable bottle warmer – after all, the milk from your breast isn’t cold when they drink it!
    • Encouraging milk flow before feeds. Apply warm compresses to the area and express some breast milk before you feed your baby to help stimulate milk flow.
    • Protecting sore nipples with nipple protectors. If breastfeeding hurts, why not relieve some of the pain with nipple protectors? Nipple shields can help to ease nipple discomfort while nursing. Applying nipple cream after feeds can also help to soothe and moisturise the area.
    • Using breast shells to prevent nipple chafing between feeds. Simply wear your breast shells inside your bra to help prevent nipple irritation and to collect excess breast milk. You can also use breast pads to keep your clothes stain-free from your breast milk.
    • Positioning your baby comfortably. Often, the solution to breastfeeding nipple pain can be as simple as using a pillow to elevate your baby or latching them onto your nipple from a different angle.
    • Asking for help. If the cracks won’t heal or you have more questions, reach out to your GP for help.

    What you need

    3. Thrush


    Pink, sore nipples that itch could be a symptom of thrush. If your nipples are infected with thrush, your baby may be suffering from oral thrush.


    Contact your GP if you think you have thrush. If they confirm that thrush is the problem, they’ll usually be able to treat it using antifungal medication. Both mum and baby should be treated2.

    4. Blocked milk ducts


    You may have blocked milk ducts if you are suffering from tender, hard, hot breasts. This condition can be very painful but can be treated at home by getting lots of rest, feeding from the affected side to clear the blockage, and applying heat to the affected area3.


    Hand expressing may also help to clear the blockage, and pain relief may help to alleviate any discomfort (speak to your pharmacist to find out what you can take while breastfeeding). Contact your GP if you are still experiencing pain 48 hours after onset.

    5. Mastitis


    Mastitis is a painful condition that can be caused by a bacterial infection, or improper drainage of the breast. The affected breast(s) will feel hard and hot to the touch, will appear red and inflamed, and you may experience a burning sensation during feeds. Mastitis is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms.


    Contact your GP if you think you are suffering from mastitis, since antibiotics are sometimes needed to fight the infection. Use heat compresses, drink plenty of water, rest, and continue to feed through the affected breast to speed up recovery3. Your GP may recommend pain relief for the discomfort.

    6. Breastfeeding issues due to baby coughing


    Whether it’s your first time breastfeeding or a subsequent breastfeeding journey, it’s common to produce a strong flow of milk when establishing your milk supply. The fast flow of milk could be causing your baby to choke, cough, or spit up milk during feeds.


    This reaction typically goes away as your milk supply stabilises, but if you’re concerned about your milk supply or how much milk your baby should be drinking, you can always consult your GP for advice.


    In the meantime, a couple of techniques that can help your baby and you avoid breastfeeding problems are:


    • The scissor-grasp trick. Restrict the flow of your milk by gently using a scissor-grasp on your nipple while feeding.
    • Reclining while nursing or expressing. You may find it useful to try a reclining position while breastfeeding your baby to help slow your milk flow. Another trick to help slow down your flow is to try expressing a little breast milk before you start nursing.

    7. Flat or inverted nipples


    Because your baby needs to latch fully onto the nipple and breast to successfully breastfeed, inverted or flat nipples require a little extra help to ensure your baby latches on successfully. You’re not alone: up to 10% of women experience the same breastfeeding issue4. If you have flat or inverted nipples, use these helpful breastfeeding tips:


    • Use your fingers. You can try to use your fingers to extend your nipples.
    • Use nipple shields. Nipple shields can help your baby to latch if they’re struggling with the shape of your nipple. However, they can also reduce the amount of milk your baby is able to get through breastfeeding, so it’s best to use them only when necessary5.
    • Speak with your doctor. If you’re concerned about your nipples, you can always ask your doctor for advice.

    8. Tongue-tie


    Some babies are born with an excessively tight piece of skin connecting the floor of the mouth to the underside of the tongue. This is known as a tongue-tie and can cause feeding problems.


    If you think your baby has a tongue-tie, or if you are experiencing ongoing feeding problems, you should contact your GP for diagnosis and treatment. Tongue-tie often causes nipple soreness, low milk supply and slow weight gain.

    The secret to successful combination feeding


    Combining breastfeeding and bottle-feeding is simple with the Philips Avent Natural Response baby bottle. Not only does it resemble the breast, but the unique nipple opening and tip release milk just like breastfeeding, too – only when compressed by your baby’s tongue.


    Your baby can experience a calm and comfortable feed each time because the unique nipple opening and tip are designed to stop the milk flow during pauses. Your little one has a moment to swallow and breathe without drips before actively drinking to trigger the milk flow again. Recreating your baby’s natural feeding rhythm is the secret to successful combination feeding.

    Never ignore breastfeeding pain


    When you’re a new mum, it’s easy to focus all your attention on your baby. But if breastfeeding hurts, it’s important to take the time to look after yourself too. Ask all the breastfeeding questions you need, use these breastfeeding tips and enjoy every moment of closeness with your child.

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