World Breastfeeding Week 2020: Easy tips and techniques for new mothers to reduce breast pain, soreness
One of the most common myths about breastfeeding stems from the idea that it is a painful practice and can hurt the mother’s breasts and nipples.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrates World Breastfeeding Week during the first week of August every year to spread awareness regarding the immense benefits of breastfeeding. This mission is important because despite it being a healthy and natural practice, many myths regarding breastfeeding not only exist but also make the compliance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life difficult. One of the most common myths about breastfeeding stems from the idea that it’s a painful practice and can hurt the mother’s breasts and nipples.
Why breastfeeding issues may arise for new mothers
And it’s true too. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) reveals that around 90% of new mothers experience nipple pain and soreness in the early days of breastfeeding. While pain and even nipple bleeding may occur when your baby starts teething — proper teething care for the infant and medications for the mother’s breast are available for that stage of development — why you experience it during the first few weeks after childbirth might confound you.
The simple reason behind this early pain and soreness is that breastfeeding is a gradual process. Neither the baby nor the new mother is born knowing how to do it right. As you learn to apply the correct methods for breastfeeding, the pain and discomfort recede too. This is the reason why the APA says that breastfeeding pain is an extremely common condition and disappears within a few days. Practice makes perfect and both you as well as the baby gradually learn how to get it right.
How to avoid your breasts getting hurt
There are, however, a few techniques you can use to minimise this pain from the beginning. The following are some methods you should focus on, as per the 2015 book by the WHO, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Postpartum and Newborn Care: A Guide for Essential Practice.
1. Correct positioning: Holding the baby right is key. Make sure the baby’s head and body are in a straight line, then bring the baby close to your body. Supporting the baby’s entire body, and not just the neck and shoulders, is a much more comfortable feeding position for both mother and child.
2. Right latching: How the baby latches on to the nipple also matters. Touch the baby’s lips with the nipple, wait for him or her to open the mouth wide, and quickly move the baby onto the breast while aiming at the lower lip (this improves the quality of latch). A good attachment is where the lower lip is turned outwards, the baby’s chin is touching the breast and the areola is visible more above the baby’s lips.
3. Correct suckling: If your baby’s mouth is wide open and he or she is suckling slowly, deeply and pausing sometimes for breath, then this suckling is right. If not, you should reassess the positioning and latching of the baby.
4. Proper removal: Remember that suckling creates a vacuum and removing your baby from the nipple by force can also cause pain. Wait for the baby to be done with the feeding, and he or she will naturally let go of the nipple.
5. Maternal clothing: Your maternity bra should be comfortable and give proper support to your breasts. If it’s too tight or the wrong kind, you’re very likely to experience pain. Make shopping for the perfect maternity bra your priority, and wear loose and comfortable clothes in general.
Easy breast care tips while breastfeeding
Since newborns need regular feeding, you’ll have to use these techniques every time. But since some pain is likely to occur in the early days, you can also use the following tips to manage breastfeeding:
- Dip a clean washcloth in warm water, squeeze the excess and apply on your breasts. The warm compress can help reduce pain and make expressing milk easier.
- Use your fingers to express a small amount of breast milk, rub it on the nipples and let it dry. Many women reportedly find this method effective in reducing nipple pain.
- Gently massage the base of your nipples and breasts with your fingers. This can reduce pain.
- Ask someone to gently massage your neck and shoulders before every feeding. This can reduce muscle stiffness and pain, and lessen the chances of wrong positioning.
- Offer both your breasts to the baby alternatively, and change breasts during the feeds too if possible. This will lessen the strain on just one breast.
- Discuss relieving methods with your obstetrician if the pain becomes too unbearable.
For more information, read our article on Diet for breastfeeding mothers.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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