After suffering from sore nipples, a new mom's family helped her try a breastfeeding hack to alleviate her pain. And not only did it work for her, but the touching moment was captured in an incredible photo that serves as an important reminder that moms don't have to tackle breastfeeding challenges alone.
"The breastfeeding journey can be, and often is, just as challenging as pregnancy and birth," New Jersey birth doula and certified lactation counselor Stephanie Sauer Pasternak, who shared her client's photos on Instagram, tells Romper. "And without support many women would just be like, 'you know what, I can't do this anymore, it's too hard.' ... The support is essential."
In the photos Sauer Pasternak, founder of Bergen Doula, shared earlier this month to mark World Breastfeeding Week, one of her clients can be seen getting a helping hand from her mother and sister. According to Sauer Pasternak, the new mom pictured had been breastfeeding for a week or so when, like many women do, she developed sore nipples.
"Everyone is different, but one way that most women are similar is that when you have a new baby and the baby is not latching properly yet, when you're not really sure what you're doing yet, your position could be a little off, the baby's position could be off, the baby's latch could not be exactly as it needs to be. What happens in a very short period of time is women's nipples get very sore," Sauer Pasternak tells Romper. "Sometimes to the extent that it becomes a cringing experience to breastfeed your baby."
To help alleviate the discomfort, Sauer Pasternak recommended the new mom soak her nipples in an Epsom salt bath for anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes. But as anyone who has ever tried to do a salt soak on their nipples knows, it's harder than it looks, especially when you're alone and caring for a newborn.
"It's absolutely imperative that women have support to help them get through all of this. It's very exhausting," Sauer Pasternak says. "The fact that this woman had a mother and a sister to help her do that, and that they were encouraging her to do that ... it's huge."
To further alleviate sore nipples, Sauer Pasternak recommends applying heat for muscle pain or cold for inflammation and swelling, as well as applying coconut oil and a bit of your own breast milk to the affected nipple. "Breast milk is the first thing that you always should use after every feed or every pump," Sauer Pasternak says, noting that it has healing properties that can relive soreness. "Hand express a little breast milk, dab it on your nipples and your areola, let it dry and then dab some coconut oil on top of that."
However nursing parents ultimately find relief, Sauer Pasternak says what's most important is that they reach out for help and support. "The minute a parent has any breastfeeding problems or challenges they should really reach out for help because the sooner you nip those in the bud, the better," she says.
She recommends calling your care provider or pediatrician first and explaining your specific situation, challenges, and issues with nursing and asking what resources or help they can connect you with. Certified lactation counselors or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) can also be a wonderful resource. You can search for board certified lactation consultants in your area via the IBCLC Directory. Other resources include La Leche League, an online organization that aims to provide nursing parents with encouragement, educational resources and connect them to local support groups.
As for the new mom who turned to family for help alleviating her sore nipples, Sauer Pasternak reports the Epsom salt soak was a success. "The Epsom salt bath was great!" the new mom told her via text. "Very soothing. I can now say one nipple doesn't hurt at all during feeding. The other one is still healing."