Ok, first up the disclaimer...I am NOT an expert in this field and you should always seek expert opinion if you are unsure or feel something isn't right. This blog is written from my own experience as a mum of two, both of whom I breastfed, and from speaking with other mums and hearing their stories.
I recently posted on my social media feeds (IG: @claxtonandco and FB: @claxtonco) that I believe the saying "if the latch is right, breastfeeding won't hurt" is misleading. While I do believe a poor latch can contribute to pain while breastfeeding, it's unfair to hang all pain on the 'latch hat'.
The reality is, breastfeeding can be extremely painful in those first few weeks. And it makes sense really. Your otherwise oblivious nipples are suddenly being drawn in, quite forcefully I might add, and sucked on. That's probably not something they are used to - at least not 8-12+ times a day, every day. It is sore. It is uncomfortable. It can lead to bruising, blistering and bleeding. And it can take a few weeks for them to 'toughen up'.
I experienced nipple pain with both my babies. In O Boy's case (my first born) he had a lip and tongue tie which contributed to the discomfort. In Baby H's case his latch was great and we had zero issues. But I still experienced pain, blistering and bruising, which took about three weeks to heal.
Following my experience feeding O Boy and speaking with numerous experts to get it all sorted, I learnt a thing or two about the signs to look for, other than nipple pain, that could indicate a poor latch. When I had Baby H, and started to experience some discomfort, I asked myself the following:
- Does the pain continue past the initial drawing in? Is it sore the entire feed? Is it still sore if I try feeding in a different position, or do I get some relief?
- Is my baby taking ages (over an hour) to feed, but still seems hungry and won't settle? Or wakes soon after a feed for another one? Note: cluster feeding, especially around day two, and in the evening is pretty normal behaviour for a newborn.
- How does my nipple look after the feed? Is it misshapen or slanted?
- What is my gut telling me about how my baby is feeding?
No one of these things can be taken in isolation as an indicator of a poor latch - as I said it is not uncommon to have pain, nor is it uncommon for your baby to want to feed often - but combined they may indicate there is something more going on. If you are a breastfeeding mumma experiencing prolonged pain, or you feel something isn't right, it could be worth going to see a lactation consultant. Find one who cares for you and your baby, and who you click with.
But also know that breastfeeding can cause nipple discomfort in those first few weeks, but it might not be something to panic about straight away. I think mums are blessed with an extra sensitive gut feel when it comes to their baby’s. Often what you are feeling deep down about the situation is bang on, so don’t be afraid to trust and go with your instincts, and/or ask for help if need be.
Some of the (Auckland based) professionals I dealt with and found very helpful:
Trish Warder, Lactation Consultant - Breastfeeding Support
Dr. Yvonne Lefort, GP & Lactation Consultant - Milford Family Medical Centre
N. Julian Holland, Ear, Throat & Nose Surgeon - Mercy Ascot