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Why does breastfeeding HURT? (Pro tip - it shouldn't)

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Breastfeeding absolutely should not be painful. If you have pain while you are breastfeeding, talk with an experienced IBCLC.

  • Feeding is OK on my left side, but I cringe when my baby tries to nurse on my right side.

  • My friends mentioned I need to get through the first few weeks of pain. Breastfeeding will be OK after that (won't it?)?

  • My baby's latch HURTS, but she's finally on my breast, so I try to let her stay. Is that OK?

  • Breastfeeding is going OK, but I have to keep latching my baby because she slips down to the nipple (and it hurts!). What should I do?

If you jump on some Facebook groups or talk to your friends (family, coworkers) about your plans to breastfeed, chances are you will hear one statement over and over.

Breastfeeding hurts so badly for the first couple of weeks (months, entire time you feed your baby)!

Good golly. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? In the grand scheme of things, maybe a couple of weeks or months doesn’t sound like an awfully long time. BUT, when you have just had or adopted a brand new baby, and you are feeding that baby from your very painful breasts/nipples 8-12 times per day, that is a whole lot of pain for a whole lot of time.


But for a lot of people, it does! I absolutely believe the people who tell you that breastfeeding hurts. I believe the ones who tell me. I am certain it did for them. and that’s something we want to fix as quickly as possible for you and your baby. So how do we do that?

Let’s figure out why.

Breastfeeding can hurt for a bunch of reasons. Some reasons are very easily fixable.

Breastfeeding can hurt because of an off latch.

Sometimes baby is just not in a great position for breastfeeding. They may be latched onto a part of the nipple or breast that causes pain. Their bodies may be turned a certain way during feeding that can make having a comfortable latch difficult. This can be fixed with just some small adjustments to how your baby goes to breast.

Breastfeeding can hurt because of supply issues.

Sometimes supply issues can cause pain with breastfeeding. If you have an oversupply, your baby may clamp down or vigorously latch in an attempt to control the flow. Or maybe your milk isn’t coming in quite fast enough for your very eager nurser, and they pull and tug and clamp at the breast.

Breastfeeding can hurt because of physical issues.

Sometimes breastfeeding hurts because of the way your baby’s mouth fits to your breasts. Sometimes babies have a very small mouth which makes it difficult to latch on to a larger (and perfect) nipple. Sometimes babies really want to latch and suck, but it may be difficult for them if mom has short or inverted (and also perfect) nipples. And then there are times when the way baby’s tongue is able to move can make it hard to latch on well to the breast. There are ways to address these situations that make feeding work for you.

And there’s more, and more, and more.

The point is, yes, breastfeeding CAN hurt. But if breastfeeding does hurt, support that gets you feeling better is right around the corner. I can help.

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