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Two Tips to Avoid Nipple Pain when Nursing!

Dr. Sarah Winward, ND IBCLC

Concerned about nipple pain?

Pain with breastfeeding is one of the most common concerns for new parents, and with good reason! How can we be expected to do something for 20-40 minutes, 8-10 times per day if it hurts every time!?

I hate seeing parents in pain, it’s especially hard because to make a full assessment as I have to see baby latching, which means I’m asking them to be in more pain so we can make things better.


Pain in breastfeeding is never normal.

Let me repeat that. 

Pain in breastfeeding is never normal.

Not in the first few weeks, not when your baby is teething, never.

Especially not when there’s damage to your nipples or you’re curling your toes every time you latch your baby. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. 

Pain in chestfeeding is not normal.

If you’re experiencing pain I highly recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant for hands on support. The most important thing is to figure out why you’re having pain so you can fix it.

Here are some of the two most common reasons for having pain with nursing:

A good latch can help you avoid pain.
  1. Latch mechanics– basically this is how you’re holding your baby. We have an article here on how to get a good latch, I recommend taking a look and reviewing it. One of the things I see commonly is that if you’ve had pain, you’re expecting pain and so you hesitate when you go to latch your baby. The hesitation means that baby’s latch ends up being more shallow – which will hurt. So, when you do go to latch them, make sure you’re latching with intention by putting pressure through their shoulder blades. 
What’s going on with baby?
  1. Oral mechanics- this is something that’s going on with baby. This could be a tongue or lip tie, it could be tension in their body or it could be something else getting in the way of their having proper oral function. This is where an assessment from a lactation consultant really makes a difference, especially if the latching tips aren’t resolving the pain. 

A note for those having pain sometimes during the feed but not all the time. This is very common, and usually can be fixed with just a few tweeks:

If you’re having pain at the beginning or end of a feed

Hangry babies can hurt!

Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the flow of milk to get going, if your baby is ravenous they can tense up before the milk gets going and this can hurt. Then, once the milk comes they relax. Catching baby on early feeding cues can help a lot so they aren’t “hangry” when you latch them. The other thing that can help is breast compressions, adding a bit of pressure at the chest wall to pick up the flow. If the pain picks up again once they’ve been on there awhile take this as an indication to switch sides. 

If you’re able to get things pain free but only if you hold your breast ‘just so’

Don’t force a latch.

You’re bringing your breast to your baby. A lot of times parents kind of pick up their breast and put it in their baby’s mouth. What happens is that if you move or change the latch they tense up their mouth because they’re trying to hold on to your nipple. Leaning back and bringing your baby to where your breast naturally lies will help a lot with this. 

If you’ve tried all the tips in this article and you’re still having pain, I highly recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant for a full assessment. For parents in Ontario, you can book a free 15 minute call with me here.

Sarah Winward
Dr. Sarah Winward, ND IBCLC
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