All Children's Hospital Logo

Health Information Library

Parents > Growth & Development > Feeding & Eating > Breastfeeding FAQs: Pain and Discomfort
Breastfeeding FAQs: Pain and Discomfort

Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common inquiries that mothers — new and veteran — may have.

Is it normal to have cramps while nursing?

Yes. During the first few days to weeks after delivery, you may feel strong, menstrual-like cramps in your uterus when your milk lets down. Breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may have less blood loss after childbirth.

Is it normal to feel pain during or after nursing?

If your baby is latched on properly, you may have 30 to 60 seconds of pain (from the nipple and areola being pulled into your baby's mouth), then the pain should subside. But if you continue to feel pain, stop feeding momentarily and reposition your baby on your breast. If the pain persists, something else might be going on.

If your baby consistently latches on wrong, sucking on your nipple without getting much of your areola in the mouth, you'll probably feel discomfort throughout each feeding. Some moms say it's painful or feels like a pinch as their babies nurse. And you'll probably have sore, cracked nipples in no time. Consulting with a board-certified lactation consultant can help with these situations.

areola illustration

Could the pain be caused by a breast infection?

If your breasts are sore and you have flu-like symptoms, fever, chills, a hard or red area of the breast, or red streaks on your breast, you may have an infection in your milk ducts called mastitis. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor. If he or she finds that you have mastitis, the infection can be easily treated with antibiotics.

You may also have a yeast (or thrush) infection of your breast. It's important that you call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

Babies with oral thrush may have cracked skin in the corners of the mouth, and whitish or yellowish patches on the lips, tongue, or inside the cheeks.

Sore breasts with a lump also may be a sign of a plugged milk duct, in which a particular duct gets clogged. To help unclog the duct and ease your pain:

Women who have inverted nipples (that turn inward rather than protrude out) or flat nipples (that don't become erect as they should when your baby is nursing) also may have trouble breastfeeding and may experience frequent nipple pain. If either is the case, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultation about ways to make nursing easier and reduce any pain.

How can I ease my breast or nipple pain?

When dealing with sore breasts or nipples, here are some pointers for avoiding general pain in the future as well as making yourself more comfortable while your breasts heal:

If you find that you're consistently unable to nurse your baby without pain, be sure to call your doctor or a lactation consultant.

Can I still breastfeed if I have a breast infection?

Yes. Contrary to what many people think, you can continue to nurse your baby while treating your breast infection. In fact, continuing to breastfeed can help clear up the infection.

Is it normal for my breasts to become engorged?

No! If the breasts are emptied frequently, engorgement will not occur. Engorgement can lead to mastitis, and should be avoided.

But the longer you wait to breastfeed or pump — both initially and throughout your time nursing — the more uncomfortable and engorged your breasts may become.

If you can't feed your baby right away, use warm compresses and try to pump or manually express your milk. One way you can express your milk is by holding onto your breast with your fingers underneath your breast and your thumb on top. Gently but firmly press your thumb and fingers back against the chest wall, then roll your thumb and fingers toward your areola over and over to help push the milk down the milk ducts.

Also, nursing frequently (approximately every 2 to 3 hours) and trying to empty your breasts can help with the initial discomfort and prevent engorgement.

Reviewed by: Joseph DiSanto, MD, and Karin Y. DiSanto, IBCLC
Date reviewed: January 2012

Related Articles
P    Bonding With Your Baby
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Out and About
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Pumping
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Safely Storing Breast Milk
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Sleep - Yours and Your Baby's
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Solids and Supplementing
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Some Common Concerns
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand
P    Breastfeeding FAQs: Your Eating and Drinking Habits
P    Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
P    Burping Your Baby
P    Nursing Positions
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2014 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com

Additional Info

Pocket Doc Mobile App
Maps and Locations (Mobile)
Programs & Services
Employment
For Health Professionals
For Patients & Families
Contact Us
Find a Doctor
News
CME

All Children's Hospital
501 6th Ave South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 898-7451
(800) 456-4543

Use Normal Template
© 2014 All Children's Hospital - All Rights Reserved