If you’re having pain with breastfeeding, you are not alone. You may have heard breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, and that’s true. However, sometimes just the thought of putting your baby on the breast can bring a new mother to tears. Here are some tips for pain-free breastfeeding.

Nipple Pain

When a baby sucks, the nipple is stretched into the roof of the baby’s mouth. Some nipples must stretch farther than others. You may not have been told about “nipple stretch pain”, which can be intense in the beginning for the first time mother. Count to 10 and the discomfort should be gone.

If discomfort persists, your baby may not be latched correctly. A shallow latch can be painful and cause nipple damage like bruising or blistering, as well was poor milk removal. Slip you pinky finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and between the gums to break the suction, and begin again. It is normal to feel tugging, but a deep and effective latch should not hurt. When your baby comes off the breast, if the latch is correct, your nipple should be round.

Newborns have natural instincts that help them locate the nipple and achieve a good latch. In a semi-reclining position, try placing your baby on your chest nose-to-nipple, and allow her to reach up and over the nipple to take in a big mouthful of breast. This is one way to achieve a good latch. Breastfeeding goes better when both mom and baby feel relaxed, comfortable and well supported. Experiment with different positions until you find some that both you and your baby like. Sore nipples are not caused by too much time spent at the breast. Frequent breastfeeding, especially in the beginning, is normal and necessary to establish an abundant milk supply.

Three to four days after delivery, as your breasts fill with milk and become firm, it can be difficult for the baby to stretch the nipple. Hand expressing or pumping to soften your areola will help the baby latch deeper and prevent nipple damage.

Sometimes sore nipples or painful latch can be a baby problem. Tongue-ties and lip ties can prevent good suction, causing nipple pain and damage. Some ties are obvious, but others are not. Jaw asymmetry, sucking coordination, and muscle tone can all contribute to sore nipples. If your baby is causing nipple pain or trauma and it is not a positioning issue, contact a member of your healthcare team who is experienced in breastfeeding support for a thorough evaluation.

Breast Pain

A painful lump in your breast may be a clogged milk duct. Gently massaging the lump while breastfeeding or pumping, and positioning your baby to breastfeed with his chin pointing toward the lump may help to resolve a clogged milk duct.

If you develop a red, painful area in your breast that does not improve with breastfeeding or pumping, and is accompanied by a low-grade fever and body aches, you may have a breast infection. Contact your physician right away. Mastitis, or a breast infection, may require treatment with antibiotics.

The conditions mentioned here are not a complete list of nipple and breast problems and this text is not intended to be used as medical advice.