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Breast pain - Part 2

Mastitis

If an area of your breast becomes inflamed, this can mean you have a painful condition called mastitis. It happens when excess milk is forced out of a duct and into your breast tissue. Your breast will be red and tender, and you will feel feverish. You can keep breastfeeding your baby, but see your doctor straight away for treatment.

What can I do about breast pain?

If you learnt ways to relax at your antenatal classes, try bringing them to mind as you breastfeed. They may help you to cope with discomfort during letdown. You can also take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease the pain.

If your breasts are engorged, your baby may not be able to latch on well enough to suckle fully. You may need to start with gentle hand expressing or a breast pump until your baby is able to draw your breast comfortably into her mouth.

Try using warm, damp flannels on your breasts before a feed to help the milk to flow. After feeding or expressing you could use cold damp flannels, cold gel packs or cold, green or white cabbage leaves on your breasts. Cabbage leaves may reduce the swelling, though there isn't much firm evidence for this.

A strong letdown from over-full breasts can also make feeding difficult. If your baby comes off your breast spluttering from too much milk, try this technique:

- Put your baby to your breast, as usual.
- When you feel your milk let down, gently break the suction and catch the initial spurt in a towel.
- Let your baby latch on again when the flow slows down a bit.

The more often your baby latches on well, the more quickly your supply will settle down and you will become more comfortable.

If your breast pain does not go away within a few days, see your GP, midwife or health visitor to rule out causes that need treatment, such as thrush or mastitis.

If you are finding it difficult to get your baby to latch on, try to get help from a breastfeeding specialist. Ask to be referred to one, or contact a breastfeeding organisation from our directory for advice.

What else can cause breast pain?

Things that have nothing to do with the act of breastfeeding may be giving you pain. It may be:

- A badly fitting nursing bra. The side seams should be on your ribs, not your breast, and the cups should not squash or press on your breasts. If you have uncomfortable bras, have a proper fitting by an experienced assistant before buying new ones.

- Premenstrual pain. If your periods have started again, your breasts may feel painful. You're most likely to feel the pain in the upper, outer part of your breasts, towards your armpit.

- This pain should go once your period begins, and stay away for the next week or two. The tenderness then starts to build up again after you have ovulated mid-cycle. You'll start to recognise this pattern if the pain is related to your menstrual cycle.

- Fibrocystic breast disease happens when lots of lumpy areas in your breasts fill with fluid and feel tender and painful. It is harmless, and you can still breastfeed if you have it. But if you think you have it, see your doctor so that she can rule out other possible causes of your pain.