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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:

  • Make sure your baby latches onto your breasts correctly every time.
  • Ask your doctor to recommend a special over-the-counter breastfeeding lotion to put on your nipples in between feedings to reduce any dryness.
  • At the end of a feeding, massage some breast milk on your nipples, and then allow them to air dry.
  • Some women find it helpful to nurse more frequently but for shorter periods of time, rather than nurse for extended periods.
  • Try to nurse first on the side that's less sore.
  • Gently break suction when removing your baby from your breast. (Slip your finger in the side of your baby's mouth, between the gums, and then turn your finger a quarter turn to break the suction.)
  • Vary breastfeeding positions to help drain all areas of your breast.
  • Use wet or dry heat on your breasts (a warm water bottle, heating pad, washcloth, or warm shower) right before feeding. (However, if you have a yeast infection in your breast, you'll need to keep your nipples dry because the yeast thrives on moisture.)
  • Put ice packs or cool compresses on engorged breasts after feedings.
  • Gently massage the sore area before nursing.
  • Get plenty of rest and fluids.
  • Some mothers with cracked or sore nipples find that pumping for 2 to 3 days allows their nipples to 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.

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