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Breastfeeding is very painful for me. Is there a solution?

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Dr. Sayed Mujahid Husain, Paediatrician with Apollo Medical Centre, Bangalore, India explains the possible causes of pain during breastfeeding and whether it is normal to experience it.

It is normal to feel cramps, pain and discomfort in the initial days of breastfeeding. This is the period when both the mother and the baby learn their way to breastfeed and settle down in the routine. But once you both are adept at it, it should not be painful. If breastfeeding is painful, it could be a warning sign that needs immediate medical attention.

Some of the causes of pain and discomfort while breastfeeding include:

  • Breast engorgement: Overproduction of milk leads to breast engorgement, which is quite painful, but it is temporary. Once your baby feeds, it should be back to normal. You can also express some milk to reduce the engorgement.
  • Blocked milk ducts: Improper drainage of milk from the milk ducts could lead to blockage resulting in painful lumps. Feeding from the affected breast is helpful. If the lump continues, consult your doctor.
  • Mastitis: Untreated blocked milk ducts can lead to inflammation of the breast, called as mastitis. You may experience flu-like symptoms along with pain. Get it treated immediately, and continue breastfeeding, as this can ensure no further deterioration of the condition.
  • Breast abscess: Sometimes mastitis can develop into breast abscess that needs to be operated to drain it.
  • Thrush: You may develop a yeast infection of the nipple. It is one of the most common causes of pain while breastfeeding.

An occasional tender breast, pain and soreness while breastfeeding are common. But, if the discomfort persists for more than a day or two, creating difficulties in breastfeeding, it should be medically addressed. Thrush, abscess, mastitis or blocked milk ducts could be one of the possible reasons for the pain and soreness. All such conditions should be treated at the earliest to ensure successful breastfeeding sessions.

Taking a warm bath, warm compresses, massages, putting cool cabbage leaves are some of the measures that are said to relieve the pain. Often poor or faulty latching could lead to painful sore or cracked nipples. Treat your nipples with creams or use nipple shields.

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