Breastfeeding may be one of the most natural things in the world, but it’s not always the easiest. Many babies take a while to adjust to nursing, making it a painful experience for them and you. I remember the first two weeks of breastfeeding my daughter being absolute torture every time she latched on, thanks to sore, cracked nipples, but that wasn’t all. Even after we mastered nursing and everything was going smoothly, I was still left wondering why breastfeeding letdown hurts and what I could do to minimize the pain.
For those who aren’t familiar, breastfeeding letdown is the release of your breast milk, according to Parents. It usually occurring once your baby latches on and begins to nurse, but can happen at other times, too, like when you hear your child crying, or if your baby skips a feeding and your breasts are overfull. Not all women can feel the letdown happening, but if you do, you might find it painful. Your breasts might tingle, providing a pins and needles sensation that is reminiscent of a limb waking up after “falling asleep.”
I felt my body’s letdown reflex often and couldn’t help but grimace every time. This feeling is totally normal, but if you’re experiencing more intense pain, there might be something else at play, and you should consult with a doctor immediately. But for those experiencing ordinary pains, here are five things that may cause your breasts’ letdown reflex to hurt, and what you can to do relieve the pain.
1. Oversupply Of Milk
Kelly Mom notes that an oversupply of milk can cause letdown reflex to be fast and forceful. Your baby might even gag while nursing because of how quickly the milk is coming out, but it can also cause you some pain. Since many can already feel the tingling sensation of milk squeezing into the ducts, a powerful let-down can make that feeling even more uncomfortable. If you think you have an oversupply, your body will regulate itself with a feeding schedule, but you can also let your milk letdown release in a towel before feeding.
According to La Leche League International, it’s common for nursing mothers to experience thrush, a yeast infection, as their baby’s warm, moist mouth makes a perfect environment for the infection to occur in a mother’s breast. Because thrush enters the milk ducts, you may experience more pain with your letdown if you have an infection. You’ll need to speak with your doctor if you think you have thrush.
As written on Kelly Mom, engorgement can make breasts feel heavy and swollen, making it more noticeable as the milk comes through your ducts. For some women, pumping after a feeding to fully empty the breasts help, but this can also cause your breasts to have an oversupply. Try releasing some milk, just for comfort, into the sink or a towel.
4. Blocked Milk Duct
If your baby isn’t nursing as often or your breasts aren’t emptied during a feeding, Baby Center pointed out that you are susceptible to a blocked milk duct. This causes inflammation of the surrounding the tissue, blocking the duct from releasing the milk. As the letdown reflex happens, you might feel pain in the blocked milk duct as the milk isn’t able to fully letdown. If you can handle it, let your baby nurse on the breast with a blocked milk duct to hopefully unclog it with their sucking. Massaging the area can also help or using a hot compress.
Baby Center emphasizes that when a blocked milk duct is left untreated, it can become mastitis. With inflamed, swollen tissue as one of the symptoms, your let-down can be increasingly painful to your breast if you have mastitis. You should call your doctor if you think you have mastitis as it can also come with a high fever and fatigue. Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.