Breastfeeding Pain: Causes and Solutions

Mother breastfeeding child outside by a tree

As a new mother or an expectant mom considering breastfeeding, one of the most common concerns that may arise is whether breastfeeding hurts. The truth is that breastfeeding can be accompanied by some discomfort initially, but it is essential to understand that it shouldn't be an ongoing painful experience.

We’re here to provide you with factors that might cause discomfort during breastfeeding, how to address these challenges, and provide tips to ensure a more comfortable breastfeeding journey.

Does Breastfeeding Hurt?

Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable initially as your body adjusts, but it shouldn't be consistently painful. Proper latch and positioning, along with support, can minimize discomfort. If persistent pain occurs, consult a lactation expert for guidance.

Understanding Initial Discomfort

During the first few days of breastfeeding, it's not uncommon for mothers to experience some discomfort. This is primarily due to the process of establishing a proper latch and adjusting to the new experience for both you and your baby. Some reasons why breastfeeding might feel uncomfortable initially include:

  • Latch Issues: An improper latch can lead to sore nipples and inefficient milk transfer. Ensuring a deep latch, where the baby takes in both the nipple and a portion of the surrounding areola, can help alleviate this problem.
  • Engorgement: In the initial days after birth, your breasts might become engorged as they start producing milk. This swelling and fullness can cause tenderness and discomfort.
  • Nipple Sensitivity: Some women have more sensitive nipples, and the stimulation during breastfeeding can be mildly uncomfortable initially.
  • Clogged Milk Ducts: When a milk duct becomes blocked it can lead to localized tenderness and swelling in the breast. Prompt attention and techniques like massage and warm compresses can help alleviate this discomfort and prevent further complications.

Addressing Discomfort and Pain

While it is normal to experience some discomfort in the early stages of breastfeeding, persistent pain is not. If breastfeeding is consistently painful or if you notice any signs of nipple damage, it is crucial to address the issue promptly. Here are some steps to help you manage and reduce breastfeeding discomfort.

1. Seek Professional Support

It's crucial to seek guidance from a lactation consultant or certified breastfeeding specialist if you experience pain during breastfeeding. They can evaluate your breastfeeding technique, ensuring your baby has a proper latch, which is essential for pain-free breastfeeding. Their personalized solutions can make a significant difference in your comfort and breastfeeding success.

Check with your hospital to see if they offer free lactation consulting during your stay and after your discharge.

2. Nipple Care

To alleviate discomfort, consider applying a few drops of your breast milk to your nipples after each feeding. Allowing them to air dry can promote healing. Additionally, nipple creams like lanolin or other soothing balms designed for breastfeeding mothers can provide relief from soreness.

3. Alternate Breastfeeding Positions

Experiment with various breastfeeding positions to discover what works best for you and your baby. Popular positions include the cradle hold, football hold, and side-lying position. Changing positions can distribute pressure and help prevent one spot from becoming overly sore.

4. Ensure a Good Latch

A deep and proper latch is crucial for both efficient milk transfer and minimizing pain. If you feel discomfort or pain during breastfeeding, gently break your baby's latch and try latching again. A good latch can be obtained and identified by:

  • Positioning: Proper positioning is key. Hold your baby close to your body with their nose aligned with your nipple. Ensure their head and body are aligned, and that you are belly to belly with your baby.
  • Waiting for a Wide Mouth: Before offering your breast, wait for your baby to open their mouth wide, like a yawn. This ensures they can take in more breast tissue. You can gently stroke their lips with your nipple to encourage a wider latch.
  • Nose to Nipple: Bring your baby's nose to your nipple rather than the other way around. This encourages them to open their mouth wide to latch. Their chin should be the first thing to touch your breast.
  • Tickle the Upper Lip: To trigger a deeper latch, you can gently stroke your baby's upper lip with your nipple. This can encourage them to open their mouth wider and take in more breast tissue.
  • Lip and Tongue Control: Ensure that your baby's lips are flanged outward (like fish lips) and not tucked in when they latch. Also, their tongue should be extended over the lower gum to create a good seal.
  • Support the Breast: With your free hand, gently compress your breast to make it easier for your baby to latch onto a larger portion of your breast. This can help guide them to take in more breast tissue.
  • Listen for Swallowing: Once your baby latches correctly, you should hear a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern. This indicates that they are effectively nursing.

5. Managing Engorgement and Preventing Clogged Milk Ducts

To address both breast engorgement and prevent clogged milk ducts, consider expressing a small amount of milk before nursing when your breasts feel uncomfortably full. This not only softens the breast, making it more comfortable for your baby to latch, but also reduces the risk of milk stasis and blocked ducts. This simple practice can help you avoid pain and potential complications associated with engorgement and clogged ducts.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

While it's normal to experience some degree of discomfort when breastfeeding, severe or persistent pain should not be dismissed. It could be a sign of an underlying issue that requires medical attention. If you encounter any of the following symptoms, it's crucial to consider seeking medical assistance.

  • Cracked, Bleeding, or Blistered Nipples: Nipples that are cracked, bleeding, or blistered can indicate an improper latch or other issues that need to be addressed. Persistent damage to your nipples can lead to infection and further complications, so it's essential to seek help to determine the root cause and find solutions.
  • Shooting or Burning Pain During Breastfeeding: If you experience shooting or burning pain while breastfeeding, it could be a sign of various issues, including nipple trauma, infection, or a blocked milk duct. A healthcare professional can assess your situation and provide appropriate treatment to alleviate the discomfort.
  • Signs of Mastitis: Mastitis is a painful condition characterized by red, hot, and swollen breasts. It's often accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills. If you notice these symptoms, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider promptly. Mastitis requires medical attention, and treatment may include antibiotics to resolve the infection.
  • Signs of Thrush: Thrush is a fungal infection that can affect both the mother's nipples and the baby's mouth. It often presents as pink or red, shiny nipples with sharp shooting pains. If you suspect thrush, both you and your baby may need treatment to prevent reinfection. Consult a healthcare professional to confirm the diagnosis and receive appropriate anti-fungal treatment.

My Experience Breastfeeding

I experienced both nipple sensitivity and clogged milk ducts while breastfeeding, but I found effective solutions that made a world of difference in my breastfeeding journey.

First and foremost, achieving a deep and proper latch was a game-changer in addressing nipple sensitivity. Following the steps outlined for a good latch, like positioning my baby correctly and waiting for that wide mouth to ensure a wide latch, significantly reduced discomfort. My baby taking in more breast tissue, rather than just the nipple, meant less friction and irritation, easing the sensitivity issue considerably.

When it came to clogged milk ducts, I discovered the power of gentle massage. Massaging the area around the clogged duct, along with applying warm compresses, helped to release the blockage and alleviate the pain. Incorporating this into my routine, especially before and after feedings, proved instrumental in preventing the development of new clogs.

These strategies, combined with a deep latch, transformed my breastfeeding experience from one fraught with discomfort to a more comfortable and enjoyable bonding time with my baby.


Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful way to nourish your baby, and while it may involve some initial discomfort, it should not be excessively painful. Understanding proper latch techniques, seeking professional guidance, and addressing any challenges early on can help ensure a more comfortable and rewarding breastfeeding experience for both you and your baby.

Remember, every mother-baby pair is unique, so be patient with yourself and allow time to adjust and establish a positive breastfeeding relationship.

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Author, Founder @ Latch Luxe

Stefanie Statler

Stefanie Statler is an author and the founder of Latch Luxe, with a loving husband and daughter. She is a dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers and understands the challenges and joys of motherhood firsthand. Email me at

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