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. It hurt. It really hurt.
I spent a lot of time prising Little Miss on and off the breast trying to get the ‘right’ attachment. She would get so cranky and hungry, and who could blame her – “here’s your dinner…now it’s gone…here it is…nope not yet…” If someone pulled that kind of trick with me and chocolate, they’d be in danger of losing an arm!
Eventually I’d just let her have the breast even with poor positioning and a shallow latch. It took about 6 months and an appointment with a lactation consultantbefore I could finally feed her without feeling stressed and apprehensive.
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 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 yo 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.
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