Some mild tenderness is to be expected as you and your baby acclimate to breastfeeding, but should improve within 3-5 days. Breastfeeding should not be painful. If it is, you need to determine the problem and correct it. Very sore nipples are usually caused by poor positioning or a baby that is latching onto the nipple improperly.
Make sure you’re positioned comfortably, with pillows supporting your arms and in your lap (to bring baby up to the position of your breast). Your baby should be face-to-nipple and tummy-to-tummy with you so that he/she doesn’t have to turn to latch on to your nipple. Baby’s chin should be just below the nipple so it presses into your breast while nursing. If you don’t feel comfortable, detach and reposition baby.
Don’t get frustrated. Some babies take to breastfeeding more naturally and easier than others; it’s a learning process. As you and baby become more experienced, you’ll find there are a number of other comfortable positions for breastfeeding. Experiment and see what works — as long as you’re comfortable and baby is nursing well.
When latching onto the nipple, the baby needs to open wide to take in a good mouthful. (You may need to brush the tip of the nipple along the center of the baby’s lips to stimulate baby to “root” for the nipple.) If baby does not get enough of the nipple into the back of the mouth during sucking, the baby’s tongue may be rubbing against the tip of the nipple or the baby may be gumming the base of the areola (over the milk sinuses).
This kind of nursing is very inefficient (baby will not get enough milk and will want to nurse more frequently, making nipples even more sore) and will lead to painful nipples. If baby is making a smacking sound while sucking, he/she isn’t latched on properly.
If you’re having problems, try the following:
- Make sure baby’s mouth is opened very wide before pulling baby into the breast. Baby should latch on far back on the areola – approximately one inch beyond the nipple.
- Make a “V” with your first and second fingers around the edge or slightly beyond the margins of the areola or by supporting your breast with your fingers underneath and thumb on top, pressing in to flatten the breast while pushing back toward your chest. This makes the areola more taut, longer, and narrower and easier for baby to take into the mouth.
- Use the index finger on the hand supporting the breast to push down on baby’s chin while baby is latching on. This will help keep baby’s mouth open wide. Always break the suction before taking baby off the breast by slipping a clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth or pressing down gently on the breast near baby’s mouth.