Do sore nipples make feeding difficult?

Your nipples are one of the most sensitive parts of your body – and it doesn’t take much for them to start feeling painful. And that ‘not much’ can be your baby being incorrectly positioned at the breast.

The most common reason for positional sore nipples is the fact that the baby doesn’t take enough breast into his mouth.

As a result, the nipple is not far enough into the mouth, and it rubs against his hard palate – ouch! Another possibility is the fact the baby grasps the nipple with his tongue, compressing it against the ridge of palate just behind his upper gums – ouch and ouch again!

One or two feeds like this is enough to crack the skin of the nipple.

A certain amount of tenderness is normal at the start of breastfeeding. But if things are getting worse, not better, after a day or so, then get help.

Don’t settle for comforting words from someone who looks at him feeding, and then tells you ‘he’s well-latched on, I can’t see anything wrong.’

Remember: If it’s hurting, it’s wrong. And if it’s wrong it needs putting right.

Your baby needs to have his mouth wide open and his tongue forward. Poking your nipple into his mouth like threading a needle is no good. Nor is allowing him to suck you in like straw.

You need help from someone who knows to look at how the baby gets latched on, as well as what he should like when he’s done it.

Get another midwife to help, or a breastfeeding counsellor…don’t put up with it.

Give your baby lots of practice at getting it right by taking him off when he gets it wrong. This will mean practising when he is awake but not frantically hungry, or he’ll get cross. Keep your baby next to you, so you can respond to his cues for feeds before he cries. A crying baby has his tongue in the wrong position for feeding, and it can get in the way. Don’t let your baby work himself up into a fighting mood. Learning to feed effectively and happily may need time, and calm….babies who are pushed onto the breast or have their heads held too firmly can resist and make a fuss.

Note: soreness unconnected with position can be the result of thrush on the nipple. In this situation both you and your baby need treatment, whether or not your baby has symptoms. You can be prescribed a gel or a cream by your doctor. If you have shooting pains in your breast, and sore nipples, it is strongly suggestive of thrush.

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