Breastfeeding, although natural, isn't always the most comfortable thing you can do for your baby. Even when nursing is going well, there are ways you might be making breastfeeding less comfortable without knowing it. And let's be honest, you're already barely getting by with your sleep deprivation. Do you really want to make it worse by being uncomfortable while breastfeeding?
For a lot of moms, especially new ones, not knowing much about breastfeeding could cause you to make decisions that aren't great for your body. You'll hear conflicting advice from everyone, like breastfeeding is supposed to hurt and always use a nursing pillow. You'll pump all day, every day, because you want to build up a supply and then spend the next few weeks trying to contain the leakage from your breasts. You'll do what all of the books say and then, at the end of the day, you'll realize that your instincts were probably right and breastfeeding shouldn't be this hard.
But even though breastfeeding can be difficult, especially if you struggle with supply or latch issues, it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. If you've resigned yourself to the fact that you're going to be in pain, it's time to see if you're doing any of these 15 things that could be making breastfeeding uncomfortable for you. You might not even realize what you're doing, but luckily, they all have a pretty simple solution for you.
1. You're Pumping Too Much
I know you want to build up that freezer stash of breast milk and make sure that your supply never decreases, but pumping too much can cause some major discomfort. According to La Leche League International, pumping too much can lead to an oversupply which can make your breasts engorged and painful. Engorgement not only makes it difficult for your baby to latch on, but it also puts you at risk for infections like mastitis.
2. You're Not Correcting A Latch Issue
If you've decided that your baby's latch isn't a big deal, you might want to think again. What To Expect noted that an improper latch can give you cracked and bleeding nipples, not to mention restrict your baby's milk flow, which is another risk for engorgement. Your baby's latch is the key to breastfeeding success, so reach out to a lactation consultant if you need help correcting.
3. You're Forcing Yourself To Follow A Certain Position
When I was in the hospital with my daughter, the nurses taught me the football hold for breastfeeding my daughter. But after two days of trying to get it right, I switched to another position that worked best for me. There is no one absolute position that works for everyone and trying to force it can make you uncomfortable and dread breastfeeding. "I honestly think there is too much emphasis on trying to master a specific position with a specific name.," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor tells Romper. "The best nursing position for a mom is one where she is comfortable, not hunched over, and her baby is super close. We are all different sizes and shapes, so there is no one size fits all."
4. You're Skipping Feedings
If you decide to give your baby a bottle, you've essentially skipped a feeding which can decrease your supply and leave you feeling engorged. KellyMom suggests never skipping a feeding, and if you bottle-feed for a session, make up for it by pumping the milk your baby would've drank from your breast.
5. You're Wearing Too Tight Of A Bra
I know, you're tired of buying clothes for a season of life, but a bra that fits your new breastfeeding breasts is an absolute must. Whether you want a nursing bra, a pumping bra, or just a new bra to fit your new breasts, make sure it fits comfortably. If it's too tight or small, Dr. Sears' site noted that you're increasing your risk of a clogged duct as your breasts are compressed and block the flow of milk.
6. You're Timing Your Baby's Feedings
You've probably heard from well-meaning family, friends, and breastfeeding books that your baby shouldn't eat more than 15 minutes per side (30 minutes total) or that if they're eating longer than usual, they're using you as a pacifier. Throw all of that away. According to the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, you should never time your baby's feedings. By letting them eat until they're full, you're regulating your milk supply, which decreases your chances of engorgement. When you time your baby, you're putting yourself at risk for clogged ducts and infections as your breasts are never fully drained.
7. You're Waiting Until Your Baby Is Screaming To Nurse
KellyMom notes that crying is not an early indicator of your baby's hunger. Crying is when they are desperate and you may find that trying to feed a screaming baby is hard as h*ll and super uncomfortable, especially if your little one clamps down on your nipple or suckles on your areola instead of your nipple because they are so hungry. Try picking up on your baby's hunger cues, like rooting or sucking on their hands, so that you can feed them as soon as you notice and prevent them from screaming.
8. You're Not Completely Draining Your Breasts
Whether it's from pumping or feeding, if your breasts aren't fully drained, you might be uncomfortable. Not only does emptying the breasts mean you aren't at a risk for clogged ducts or infections, but Kelly Mom noted that it also regulates your milk supply and can even increase it if you're having trouble keeping it up.
9. You're Not Alternating Breasts Each Feeding
Some women use both breasts during a feeding and others use only one, letting their baby completely drain it. But no matter which side you're on, be sure to alternate the breasts for each feeding. If you started on your left last time, it's time to start on your right. By alternating your breasts, The Bump noted that you're making sure one is always fully drained and producing more milk and you're keeping engorgement at bay.
10. You're Assuming Breastfeeding Should Be Painful
Nipple sensitivity and tenderness in the early days of breastfeeding are normal, but Medela notes that if the pain continues, something may be wrong. Don't assume breastfeeding should be painful — it's meant to be a pleasurable, comfortable experience.
11. Your Nipples Don't Get A Chance To Dry
A wet environment is perfect for yeast infections and thrush to grow and your nipples are going to be wet most of the time while breastfeeding. Dr. Sears recommends air-drying your nipples to not only help any soreness or irritation, but also to keep them from staying moist and warm, providing an ample place for infections to grow.
12. You Don't Want To Use A Pacifier
OK, look, I know there's a lot of conflicting information out there about pacifiers. Do they cause nipple confusion in breastfed babies? Are they safe? Are they worth the fight later when you take them away? But if you refuse to use one, you may find that your breasts are your baby's only source of comfort, prolonging any soreness or pain.
13. Your Pump Accessories Don't Fit
Just like most things in life, your breast pump is not one-size-fits-all. Medela notes that breast shields that are too small can lead to chafed nipples, soreness, and even leave imprints on your breasts where the edges are digging into your skin. If your breasts are very full, the pain can be even worse with flanges and shields that are too small. You can find accessories that fit at any baby store or online.
14. You're Relying On A Nursing Pillow
Nursing pillows can be a big help, but they can also cause problems if you rely on them too heavily. "Many moms let babies lay on the breastfeeding pillows and hang from their breast, causing sore nipples," Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC, tells Romper. Use them to assist you feeding your baby, not to take on all of the weight of your little one and hurt your nipples in the process.
15. You're Not Expressing Breasts That Are Full
If over-pumping scares you, I can understand, but moms that don't hand-express engorged breasts can be in pain, too. By expressing just enough to make your breasts comfortable, the National Childbirth Trust noted that you don't ruin your supply or put yourself at risk for infections. Also, hand expressing can soften your engorged breast enough for your baby to latch on and make nursing easier on both of you.