Breastfeeding may be the most natural thing in the world but it can take a bit of practice to get right. Whether it’s cracked nipples, a bad latch or sore breast, you can overcome your breastfeeding problems
Whether breastfeeding comes naturally or takes a little while to get the hang of, there are still some problems that can crop up or make the process a bit tricky.
Still, don’t be disheartened. It could be sore breasts or a bad latch, but there are ways to make things work a bit more smoothly.
How do I know if the latch is right?
Getting your baby to latch on to the breast can be tricky at first – so don’t worry if it takes a few attempts to get right.
Position your baby so that his nose is level with your nipple. Once he opens his mouth wide, bring him to your breast (don’t bring the breast to him). He will tilt his head back and come to your breast chin first and take a big mouthful of breast from beneath the nipple.
A good latch requires your baby’s mouth to be wide open (and his tongue down) as he comes to your breast – to encourage him to open wider, try gently stroking his top lip.
Pain can be a sign that your baby isn't latching on correctly. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to gently insert your finger between your baby's mouth and your breast to break the seal – and then have another go.
If you carry on feeding despite it hurting, you risk sore nipples.
Sore or cracked nipples
If your nipples hurt or begin to crack and bleed it can be a sign your baby isn’t latching on correctly.
Pain while breastfeeding isn’t normal, so ask your breastfeeding advisor to check that your baby is attached effectively.
In the meantime, the following breastfeeding tips can help sooth sore nipples:
- At the end of each feed squeeze out a few drops of your milk and gently rub onto your nipple.
- Make sure your nipples are fully dry before dressing.
- Change your breast pads regularly and use ones without a plastic backing to reduce friction.
- Avoid using soap, as this can be drying for skin. - Help the air to circulate by wearing a cotton bra.
- Smear a little Vaseline or cracked nipple cream over the crack (not the whole nipple) to help it heal and prevent a scab forming.
Soreness can occur when an over-supply of milk builds up in your breasts. This can happen for a variety of reasons – from incorrect attachment (which means your baby isn’t taking milk effectively) to wearing a bra that’s too tight or missing a feed.
The following may help ease sore breasts:
- Offer your baby the breast more often. This can help ease overfull breasts. The sooner your baby is latching on and feeding well, the more quickly your supply will settle down.
- Let your baby feed on the tender breast first. That way she’ll help to relieve any over-fullness or ease a blocked duct. Whereas if you feed her from the breast that isn’t sore first, she may be too full to help drain the sore one.
- Hand express some milk to relieve the fullness if your baby can’t suckle effectively or if your breasts still feel full after a feed.
- Encourage milk flow by warming your breasts before a feed – try warm flannels or have a bath or shower.
- While your baby is feeding, gently stroke the lumpy or tender area towards your nipple with your fingertips. This should help the milk to flow.
- Ease the pain by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
A red patch of skin that's painful to touch, flu-like aches and pains and a raised temperature are all signs of mastitis, an inflammation of the breast. If your breasts feel hot and tender or you think you have a blocked duct, see your GP as soon as possible.