It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve encountered as a new mum; a gummy, sucking and wide open mouth, launching itself at my sore, bleeding and cracked nipple.
I’d heard that your breasts got sore when breastfeeding, but the chasm that stretched itself across my nipple was not what I was expecting. Sore nipples are no joke. They HURT. Like really, really hurt.
Whether you breastfeed, express or use a combination of both, your breasts are the main source of nutrition for your baby during the first 12 months and beyond. So you should probably take pretty good care of them – for bubs benefit and your own comfort.
Whichever method you choose to feed your baby, your nipples are going to cop a beating. There are however, a lot of conflicting opinions out there about whether your nipples SHOULD become sore and tender. Many experts state that with the right latch, your nipples should survive relatively intact.
While the right latch is absolutely essential, in our experience, the majority of women experience SOME nipple tenderness and sensitivity, after all, breastfeeding is TOTALLY NEW. You've likely never had anyone attached to your nipples for hours at a time and that kind of constant action takes some getting used to!
If your nipples are red, sore and tender, there are a few things you can do to help heal them quickly. If the damage goes beyond that and into cracked, bleeding, blistered territory then you absolutely should consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for help, support and advice.
There are a few things you can do to ease soreness and minimise the likelihood of cracked nipples:
Sore, tender boobs? Chances are good that you're engorged. Engorgement can happen when your milk first comes in or if your bub goes a little longer between feeds. Typically, your breasts will feel hard and tender and baby may have trouble latching.
It's important to get on top of engorgement as it can lead to other things like blocked or plugged ducts and even mastitis. Heat and massage are your best friends when it comes to relieving engorgement and clearing blocked ducts. Using hot/cold packs, warm compresses and a lactation massager at every feed can help get things moving, as can changing the position in which you feed bub.
If the lump doesn't begin to shift, your breast becomes hot, or you start to feel unwell, you'll beed to contact your GP ASAP as it's likely you're developing mastitis. Mastitis can make you very, very unwell quickly and usually requires antibiotics to be cleared. Click here to read more about mastitis and how it can be prevented.
Find out more about engorgement and how it can be managed and shop products that can help here.
You’ll need a good quality bra that is soft, supportive and has good clips to make accessing your breasts for feeding or expressing easy. The last thing you want is an impatient baby pulling at your $4 nursing singlet, snapping the clasp and leaving you to do the grocery shopping with it all just… um…bouncing there!
A good bra is also essential if you're planning on returning to exercise. It's highly likely your breasts will be larger (and far more tender) than they were, pre pregnancy and baby, and supporting the girls properly with a breastfeeding friendly sports bra is super important.
If you're having trouble feeding or need help and advice, check out our article on what to do when breastfeeding ISN'T working
You can also contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association MUM2MUM hotline for support 24/7 on 1800 686 268
To shop our range of breast and nipple care products, click HERE
There are many reasons why a mama may sometimes need to supplement her baby with expressed breast milk or formula.
While giving this little bit extra via a bottle is usually what we think of first, a Supplemental Nursing System or SNS can be a super handy option for supplementing mamas who want to avoid nipple confusion and keep baby at the breast full time.
Worried about your milk supply? You're not alone! Fears about milk supply, primarily not making enough of the good stuff, are one of the primary reasons that women stop breastfeeding. Here is how to find out if you've got low supply AND what to do about it.