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Article Gapianne sur les douleurs liées à l'allaitement, causes et solutions

I have pain when breastfeeding: causes and solutions

When your child was born, you made the choice to breastfeed. You wanted to know this experience and bring the best to your baby. After all, you offer him better nutrition, you share special moments… However, after a few days/weeks of breastfeeding, you feel pain during breastfeeding. Pain so unpleasant that you consider stopping breastfeeding. What are the causes of this pain and how to respond? Should you really stop breastfeeding and what will be the consequences? We take the time to clear up all these questions with you in this article.

Causes of pain when breastfeeding

That’s it, you are fully breastfeeding ! Breast engorgement, breastfeeding cracks, your baby's frenulum too present, bad position when breastfeeding: there are several reasons, pathological but not only that, which can lead to pain during breastfeeding !

🚩 The list opposite allows you to pinpoint the difficulties you encounter and what may cause you pain when breastfeeding. Self-diagnosis is useful for information purposes and to identify the symptoms that affect you. However, we can only recommend that you consult a healthcare professional (general practitioner, midwife or gynecologist) to assess these symptoms and treat them, if necessary.

Bad breastfeeding position

Poor position of your baby in relation to your breast when breastfeeding can be one of the first causes of pain and, unfortunately, lead to others later. So, breastfeeding cracks, which we will talk about again right after, are generally caused by a poor breastfeeding position.

Finding the right breastfeeding position

There are many different breastfeeding positions. The right breastfeeding position for you is the one that adapts to your current health issues, allows you to feel good and allows your baby to take milk well and be comfortable. Don’t hesitate to try several to find the right one(s) for you and your baby!

If you continue to have pain despite everything, talk to your healthcare professional or even a breastfeeding coach – the latter, specialized in breastfeeding, will be able to give you personalized recommendations.

Breast engorgement

Breast engorgement is a common condition that occurs when the breasts produce more milk than your baby consumes. This can cause milk to build up in the breasts, causing them to feel swollen, tight, and sometimes painful .

Solutions to reduce and relieve breast engorgement

  • Encourage more frequent feedings: Encourage your baby to nurse frequently to stimulate milk production and relieve engorgement.
  • Check your breastfeeding position and change it regularly: Make sure your baby latches correctly to avoid complications. Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to ensure baby empties all quadrants of the breast.
  • Apply heat: Applying a hot compress or hot water bottle to your breasts before breastfeeding encourages milk flow. A hot shower may also be beneficial.
  • Practice gentle massages on your breasts: Before feeding, perform gentle massages on your breasts to encourage milk flow.
  • Use cold compresses: After feeding, apply cold compresses to your breasts to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Note: in some people the pain is rather relieved by heat. In this case, instead apply a hot compress or hot water bottle after feeding.
  • Use a manual or electric pump: If your baby can't nurse enough, you can use a pump or breast pump to expel extra milk and relieve pressure. Warning: the goal is to relieve engorgement, not to stimulate excessive milk production... The risk of this method is to make the situation worse by causing your body to produce more milk.
  • Avoid tight bras: Wear comfortable bras and avoid tight clothing. 🌈 At Gapianne, we notably offer a seamless nursing bra from the Smoon brand. Particularly elastic, it adapts to fluctuations in the size of your chest for your greatest comfort.

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Also read: 12 galactogenic foods that stimulate lactation >

Blocked milk ducts

Blocked milk ducts, also called blocked milk ducts, can occur during breastfeeding. This occurs when milk does not flow properly through the breast ducts, causing milk to build up in a specific area of ​​the breast. Common symptoms of blocked milk ducts include a painful lump, localized redness and warmth in the breast.

Solutions to relieve blocked milk ducts

The solutions to relieve blocked milk ducts are the same as those proposed above to relieve breast engorgement (see above).

If symptoms persist or worsen despite these measures, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional. In some cases, a canalectomy, the incision of the blocked canal, may be necessary.

Breastfeeding cracks

Breastfeeding cracks are painful cracks or cuts that gradually form on the nipple and areola during breastfeeding. They can occur due to the baby's poor position during feeding, improper sucking, dry skin or other factors.

Solutions to relieve breastfeeding cracks

  • Make sure your baby has a good latch: Generally caused by poor grip of the breast by the baby, the first solution to relieve and above all, avoid aggravating breastfeeding cracks is to check that your breastfeeding position is Good. Have a midwife or breastfeeding coach accompany you if necessary.
  • Change your breastfeeding position: Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to find the one that is most comfortable and effective for you and your baby.
  • Promote impeccable and regular hygiene: If you suffer from breastfeeding cracks, it is absolutely necessary to wash them regularly. Beyond your daily shower during which we recommend that you opt for a very gentle soap, wash with a mild soap after each feeding. The goal ? Keep the wound clean and avoid secondary infection!
  • Moisturize with your own milk or lanolin: Breast milk has antibacterial properties and can help speed up the healing process. After feeding, express a small amount of milk and apply it to the crack. Use medical lanolin creams on the nipples after each feeding to help prevent dryness and promote healing. 🌈 On our e-shop, we have selected nursing shells from the Hina Moon brand. These help protect the nipples from friction from the fabric.

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  • Avoid tight bras: Wear comfortable bras to avoid further irritating your crevices. 🌈 At Gapianne, we notably offer a seamless nursing bra from the Smoon brand. Particularly elastic, it adapts to fluctuations in the size of your chest for your greatest comfort.

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  • Stop breastfeeding and/or use a breast pump: Stopping breastfeeding can be a solution to avoid making breastfeeding cracks worse. If you want to continue breastfeeding and not stop lactation, you can use a breast pump to continue producing milk and giving your milk to your baby.
    🌈 In our store, we have selected for you the portable and wireless breast pump from the Perifit Pump brand . Discreet and effective, it slips into the bra to allow you to continue your activities without worrying about it. You will also like the application which will allow you to follow the quantity of milk extracted by your breast pump.

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Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast tissue that can occur in women who are breastfeeding on one or both breasts. It is often caused by an obstruction of the milk duct, which leads to an internal infection. If the nipple does not change in appearance, the infected breast enlarges and a greenish discharge (this is pus) may escape from the nipple. The appearance of fever is also a symptom that should alert you.

🚩If you suspect mastitis, make an appointment with your doctor immediately: this infection is not dangerous but requires rapid treatment, particularly with antibiotics.

Solutions to relieve mastitis

After consulting a doctor to check the extent of the infection and treat it if necessary, you can try to reduce the pain associated with this problem. Here are some tips:

  • Continue to breastfeed: It is important to continue breastfeeding, as emptying the breast helps relieve engorgement and prevent more serious infection. In the absence of antibiotic treatment, there is no major risk for your child to continue breastfeeding.
  • Encourage frequent feedings: Encourage your baby to feed frequently, ensuring that the breast is well emptied at each feeding. This will reduce your pain.
  • Change breastfeeding positions: Varying breastfeeding positions during breastfeeding and between feedings helps ensure your baby empties all quadrants of the breast.
  • Use hot compresses or a hot water bottle: Before feeding, apply warm compresses to the affected area of ​​your breast to encourage milk flow. Heated, it will flow more easily.

Thrush on the nipple

Nipple thrush, also known as breast candidiasis, is a fungal infection that can occur in breastfeeding women. It is caused by the fungus Candida albicans. The infection manifests itself by pain in the nipples and during breastfeeding , itching and redness in the nipples and the presence of white patches on the nipples . Your baby may also be affected, you will then notice the presence of thrush in his mouth.

🚩If you suspect an infection of this type, contact your doctor quickly: breast candidiasis is not dangerous but requires treatment, through antibiotics and/or antifungal treatments.

Solutions to relieve thrush on the nipple

After consulting a doctor to check the extent of the infection, on you and your baby, and, if necessary, benefit from treatment, you can adopt different solutions to relieve the symptoms linked to breast candidiasis and limit his recurrence.

  • Continue breastfeeding, if you can: It is not recommended to continue breastfeeding your child in the event of breast candidiasis. However, it may be necessary to put in place various precautions to be established with your doctor, particularly if your child has not been contaminated.
  • Change bedding and bras: To prevent the spread of infection, change nursing pads, bedding and bras regularly.
  • Practice rigorous hygiene: Be sure to maintain rigorous hygiene, washing nipples thoroughly and changing breast pads frequently.
  • ⚠️ Never use gentian violet in case of breast candidiasis without first consulting your doctor. Preparations based on gentian violet are often recommended to treat fungal infections. However, the absorption of gentian violet is harmful and your breastfed baby may suffer: consult your doctor.

Strong ejection reflex

The strong let-down reflex (or let-down reflex) occurs when breast milk is ejected from the breast with greater force than the baby can easily handle while breastfeeding.

Here are some signs to be aware of it:

  • Your baby coughs and chokes while feeding
  • He seems restless or struggles while breastfeeding
  • Your baby may turn his head away from the breast or refuse to nurse
  • He may cry or appear frustrated while breastfeeding
  • Breasts may leak excessively between feedings

Solutions to slow down your milk flow

  • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions: Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to help baby better manage milk flow. Positions where the baby's head is higher relative to the breast can help. Try the lying down position for breastfeeding, as this can help reduce the force of milk flow.
  • Express the first stream of milk: Express manually or use a pump to trigger the let-down reflex before putting your baby to the breast. This can reduce the strength of the initial flow.
  • Encourage more frequent and shorter feedings: Encouraging more frequent and shorter feedings can help prevent a too rapid flow of milk.
  • Use nursing pads or a nursing bra equipped with pads: Absorbent nursing pads help manage excess milk between feedings.

If problems with the strong let-down reflex (or what you think is the strong let-down reflex) persist, consult a breastfeeding coach. This professional will be able to ensure that your problems are indeed linked to this issue and provide you with personalized advice to manage the strong ejection reflex.

Baby malformation

Certain malformations (not necessarily serious!) in your baby, such as a tongue frenum that is too short or a labial frenum that is too thick and tight, can affect breastfeeding and cause pain. In fact, these malformations can restrict or even prevent the movements necessary for good suction.

These malformations are generally identified in the maternity ward. However, if you feel that your baby is having difficulty breastfeeding, it is important to speak to a doctor or your midwife. They will be able to carry out a diagnosis and refer you to specialized health professionals, in particular an ENT specialist.

Is it normal to have pain while breastfeeding?

It is not normal to have pain while breastfeeding.

Generally, the first pains related to breastfeeding are caused by a poor breastfeeding position which can lead to other problems such as cracks.

Other pathologies can then intervene, such as mastitis, breast candidiasis or engorgement.

Whatever pain you feel during breastfeeding, from maternity or after some time of breastfeeding, it is important to report it to a health professional in order to quickly find the causes and prevent the situation gets worse. In fact, continuing to breastfeed despite the pain can tend to worsen the situation to the point of forcing you to abandon breastfeeding against your will.

Reduce pain with breastfeeding techniques

Generally speaking, you will be able to reduce the pain felt during breastfeeding using two solutions:

  1. Consult a health professional , then a breastfeeding professional: We mentioned this throughout the first part on the pain felt during breastfeeding: feeling pain during breastfeeding is often linked to the position of breastfeeding and/or a pathological problem. The first solution to reduce this pain is to consult your healthcare professional (treating doctor, gynecologist and/or midwife). Depending on the feedback and their diagnosis, then consider consulting a breastfeeding professional if you wish to continue breastfeeding: they will give you personalized tips and techniques to reduce your breastfeeding pain.
  2. Vary breastfeeding positions: The second solution to reducing breastfeeding is to vary breastfeeding positions . This will allow you, on the one hand, to find the breastfeeding position that best suits you and your child, but also, on the other hand, to completely empty your breasts during feedings in order to limit the risks associated with congestion.

How to take care of your breasts and prevent pain

Although breastfeeding-related pain cannot be 100% prevented, there are still solutions and accessories to protect you!

  • Promote rigorous hygiene: In addition to your normal body hygiene, adopt hygiene specific to your nipples. Clean your chest after each feeding with soap-free intimate gels.
    🌈 On our e-shop, we have selected for you a very gentle soap-free gel from the Jhô brand.

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  • Apply your own breast milk to your nipples as a soothing and healing balm: breast milk has soothing, antiseptic and healing properties. Place a little bit on your nipples after each feeding.
  • Apply nursing shells for more comfort: Nursing shells are polished shells that provide cold to your nipples after feeding and protect the healing balms applied to your chest from the friction of your underwear . It's a breastfeeding must-have for your comfort!
    🌈 On our e-shop, we have selected nursing shells from the Hina Moon brand. They are polished in France by a specialist mother-of-pearl craftsman.
  • Wear a seamless nursing bra : Beyond being easy to handle when breastfeeding, nursing bras are comfortable and elastic, adapting to significant variations in the size of your chest.
    🌈 At Gapianne, we have spotted a seamless nursing bra from the Smoon brand for you.
  • Adopt fabric nursing pads to absorb excess milk and let your nipples breathe: There are plastic or fabric breast pads. We recommend fabric ones to allow your nipples to breathe better and avoid irritation that can result from a plastic pad.
  • Use a breast pump to continue breastfeeding: If you experience pain while breastfeeding, it may be necessary to stop breastfeeding for a while (especially in the case of breastfeeding cracks). In this case, using a breast pump will allow you to both continue to give your baby breast milk and maintain lactation so that you can continue breastfeeding after recovery.

What are the consequences of stopping breastfeeding?

Stopping breastfeeding has two consequences:

  1. You will be forced to give your baby formula. In many ways, powdered formula is similar to breast milk : both provide the energy and nutrients needed by the baby while quenching their thirst. Your baby will therefore grow up healthy, whatever milk he drinks. Breast milk has additional benefits to formula milk, such as the mother's supply of antibodies or the donation of white blood cells, but many babies are mainly fed formula without health problems.
  2. Stopping breastfeeding requires you to stop it permanently. Indeed, stopping breastfeeding gradually causes lactation to stop. If you want to continue breastfeeding your baby after taking a break to take care of yourself, for example, you must continue to express your milk, particularly using a breast pump.

We are taking the liberty of giving you this information because if there is only one thing you should take away from this article, it is that you have the right to stop breastfeeding if you feel the need to do so. We are absolutely trying to relieve you of guilt: stopping breastfeeding because of pain (or for any other reason if that is your decision) will not make you a bad mother. It is also important that you think about yourself, your health and your mental health as a young mother.

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