Nipple soreness—sore breasts while breastfeeding newborns
In the beginning, it is common to have some pain or discomfort when your baby first latches on to your nipple and begins feeding. Later, you may experience tugging, though pain should not be present. For many women, nipple soreness can be caused by:
- Baby’s position on your nipple
- A teething baby
- Dry, cracked nipples
- Your breastfeeding position
Ways to relieve pain and discomfort:
You might notice your baby continues to suck when coming off your breast. Help them learn to release your breast by gently inserting a finger into the side of their mouth to break the suction. This can also reduce discomfort for you.
For dry or cracked nipples, smooth some breast milk onto your nipple and keep your breast open to air long enough to dry after nursing. Changing to a different breastfeeding position can also help relieve nipple pain. Learn more about different feeding positions in our Breastfeeding guide.
Breastfeeding engorgement pain (or "full" breasts)
Engorgement happens when the mammary glands and blood vessels in the breast swell. This can happen when your milk arrives, causing your breasts to become swollen, hard, and painful. Sometimes with engorgement, the nipples cannot point outward to allow the baby to latch on correctly. This can make nursing even more difficult.
Pain, stress, and anxiety can limit milk flow and may result in milk buildup.
Ways to relieve breast engorgement:
- Learn to relax and find a comfortable position
- Nurse often (8 times or more in 24 hours) for at least 15 minutes per side
- Express milk with your hand or with a pump for a few minutes to soften breasts enough to allow your baby to latch
- Alternate warm showers with cold compresses to help relieve discomfort
Clogged milk duct—symptoms and treatment
Plugged milk ducts are common, and this happens when a milk duct is not drained properly. A milk duct can become plugged when your baby is not feeding well. It can also get blocked if you skip a feeding, which is common when you’re trying to wean your baby off the breast. Wearing a bra that’s too tight can even be another cause.
Symptoms of a blocked milk duct are:
- Breast pain
- Warmth and slight redness in one area
- A lump you feel close to the skin
You may see a tiny white dot at the opening of a duct on your nipple. Massaging and putting gentle pressure on this area can help to remove the plug. Try to relax and get extra sleep when possible.
Mastitis—symptoms of a breast infection
A breast infection, called mastitis, causes a red, hot area on the breast and may be accompanied by fever and body aches. If you have these symptoms, be sure to call your doctor. You can still nurse from the affected breast since this will help it heal and won’t harm your baby. But if nursing becomes too uncomfortable, you can use your hand or a pump to express the milk.