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    Common difficulties with breastfeeding

    Establishing breastfeeding can sometimes be hard work, but it often gets better. Persevere and you’ll be giving your baby the best possible start.

    Pain when breastfeeding

    The key to breastfeeding is getting the right latch. Your baby should have a nice wide-open mouth and should take in the areola as well as the actual nipple. If the shape of your nipple is distorted after a feed, your latch may need adjusting, and if it hurts when your baby is feeding it is more than likely because he or she isn’t latched on properly.


    Move your baby to your breast, rather than moving your breast to your baby's mouth.


    Sometimes when your milk comes in, your breasts can become painfully full and hard, and it can be difficult for your baby to latch on. Keep trying to feed, as that is the best way to drain your breast. To make it easier for your baby to latch on, you could try expressing a bit of milk before she feeds – either with a pump or by hand-expressing. Try expressing in a nice warm bath.


    Many women find alternating hot and cold compresses helps ease the pain of engorgement – cold Savoy cabbage leaves from the fridge are ideal, as are hot water bottles wrapped up in a towel.


    Mastitis is when your breast tissue becomes inflamed, possibly because of a blocked milk duct. Your breast may become tender and swollen and develop angry red patches, and you may develop flu-like symptoms. The best thing is to keep feeding your baby, as engorgement will make the symptoms worse, and to rest as much as you can. You should also talk to your GP to find out if you need a course of antibiotics, or to discuss what painkillers are appropriate.

    Cracked/bleeding nipples

    This will almost certainly be caused by an incorrect latch; keep trying to get it right. Ask your midwife to watch, as she should be able to help you. Speak to your GP about which painkillers are safe to take during breastfeeding, or try using AVENT nipple shields, which can offer immediate relief. Applying nipple cream immediately after a feed can also be a good idea, and avoid using soap on your nipples when you wash.


    If you have sharp, shooting pains while you are feeding, and they increase over the course of a feed (and sometimes continue for up to an hour after the feed is over), you may have thrush. Another symptom is itchy nipples, or extreme nipple sensitivity – even to clothing. Your nipple may be pinker or shinier than usual, and the roof of your baby’s mouth may have white patches. You both need to be treated, as otherwise the infection will continue to be passed between you – make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.


    Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance. Philips AVENT cannot be held responsible for any damages that result from the use of the information provided on this website.

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