"Breastfeeding will hurt."
"I couldn't breastfeed because it hurt me too badly." "You can't breastfeed once they get teeth, they (your baby) will bite your nipples off."
"Breastfeeding is painful for everyone at first, but it will get better."
"You just have really sensitive nipples, maybe breastfeeding is just not meant for you."
These are just a few of the many phrases I have heard over the years as a La Leche League Leader, WIC Peer Counselor, and IBCLC. Let me say this now: "BREASTFEEDING DOES NOT, AND SHOULD NOT FEEL LIKE YOU ARE NURSING A BABY DINOSAUR!"
If it feels like you have a baby dinosaur (or maybe a giant T-Rex) latching onto you, you should stop reading right now and schedule an appointment today. Ok, don't stop reading. This will give you great information about why breastfeeding may hurt, and how we can work together to make this a pain free and enjoyable experience for both you and your baby.
In this blog I will first go over why pain occurs during breastfeeding. Then I will talk about some ways you can reduce pain or eliminate it. Then I will talk about how breastfeeding should feel once you make some slight adjustments or an appointment with me so that we can work together to make breastfeeding the experience you would like to have.
The MOST common reason that breastfeeding hurts is because the latch isn't deep enough. Did you know that your nipple actually needs to go to the back of your baby's mouth where the hard and soft palate meet to trigger them to suckle and to transfer milk without it being painful? It is called breastfeeding, and not nipple feeding for this reason. If your baby is nipple feeding you are going to have pain, cracking, bleeding, and this is not going to be a good all around experience for you or your baby. There are many reasons latching can be shallow including lip/tongue tie, high palate, poor positioning, poor latch on technique, and tightness on one or both sides of the baby's body. LIP/TONGUE TIE:
We all have a frenulum under our tongue, and between our upperlip and gums. The extent of the tightness and function loss is what determines whether it is normal or a restriction. A restriction caused by these tissues can cause painful breastfeeding. It can also cause low weight gain or excessive weightloss, lack of milk transfer, and eventual low supply in the nursing parent due to inadequate demand to maintain a normal healthy supply. The sooner this condition is treated the quicker breastfeeding can improve. If your baby has a tie, you will need to work with an IBCLC (thats me!), and possibly someone for body work. Many babies who have ties are also tight in other parts of the body along the mid-line and need help in loosening and strengthening other muscles for breastfeeding to reach its full potential. Scroll down for lip/tongue tie release information.
This can be caused by the above condition due to the tongue not sitting on the palate correctly when at rest. It can cause bubbling and/or high palate. Getting the restriction released can help in proper formation of the palate. There is a ton of information on the web about tongue and lip ties as well as issues cause by them including palate formation issues. When searching for such topics be sure to stick with those from reputable sources.
POOR POSITIONING AND POOR LATCH ON TECHNIQUES:
The most common reasons the nursing parent has pain is due to ineffective latching on and positioning. If the positioning is not optimal, the latch on cannot possibly be optimal. I will go over normal latch on and common positioning below so keep reading. TIGHTNESS IN ONE OR BOTH SIDES OF THE BABY'S BODY: This requires work with a variety of specialists which work on tightness of muscles and joints, as well as awakening of correct muscles for breastfeeding. This could involve a neurological component as well. This is not my specialty and I always refer out to professionals in my clients geographical location for these needs.
So how do I get a good deep latch so that I can breastfeed my baby pain free?
This will be achieved from both good positioning, and good latch-on. It doesn't matter what position you start in, you always want your baby's nose at your nipple (not their mouth) to start with. You baby will smell your breast and possibly some leaking milk and open their mouth nice and wide. They will also at the same time tip their head back like a baby bird looking for a worm from its mother. At this point you want to quickly pull your baby onto your breast, or in laid back position they will bob their head for it to latch onto the breast. Your baby's head should be slightly tipped back. Your breast should look like a third chin added onto the baby's chin. The only way this can occur is to have the baby's chin driven into the breast and the nose slightly touching or just off of the breast.
What are some good positions?
Most people have heard of the following positions for breastfeeding: laid back breastfeeding/biological breastfeeding, football hold, cross cradle, cradle, and side laying.
There are some main things to look for in good positioning regardless of which of those listed you are using. The number one thing to think about is being belly to belly with your baby. In a position like football hold this will be baby's belly to your side. The closer your body's are with no gaps, the farther your breast will go into your baby's mouth. The second thing to think about is starting out with baby's nose at your nipple, not the mouth at the nipple. This is explained above. Baby's use their hands to help them find the breast and give them some stability at the breast. It may seem at times like they are getting in your way in getting latched on, however if you take their hands from them they have a harder time latching on and staying on deeply. They also feel more secure with use of their hands.
What if my baby has tongue/lip tie? One of the most common and quickest treatments for ties is to have the tethered oral tissues released by either a dentist or ENT who specializes in release of ties. The two main techniques are laser and scissor. There is no preferred technique. Whichever one the provider is most educated and trained on is going to be the preferred method for that provider. You will need to follow up with an IBCLC (thats me!), and a body work professional. The type of body work needed will be based on how breastfeeding went before and after revision. Preferably you will have started working with these professionals prior to the release.
Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is not easy for many of us. Breastfeeding SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL! It should not feel like a baby dinosaur has latched on with 20 teeth and is trying to bite your nipples off. If it does, you need to seek help to make breastfeeding better and more enjoyable. I hope this blog helped to explain some common causes of pain as well as how to make breastfeeding be an enjoyable experience for both you and your baby. Please become a member above for free if you enjoyed or found this blog useful. You will get notifications when I post future blogs as well as updates on this website with new services as I grow my business.