It's unpleasant to think about, but nipple pain during breastfeeding is actually pretty common. In some cases, nipples can become cracked or even start to bleed. But just why do nipples bleed during breastfeeding? The answer (and, luckily, the solution) is pretty simple, according to the experts.
Although at some point your nipples will likely be sore, especially at first, as you continue to breastfeed, any severe pain that doesn't get better, cracking, or bleeding is a sign that something isn't right. La Leche League International, one of the leading resources for breastfeeding moms, suggested that anytime your nipples become cracked or bleed, it's due to an improper latch.
Baby Center also noted that more often than not the solution to fixing a latch issue is as simple as switching positions or helping your baby get a larger amount of the breast in their mouth.
The American Pregnancy Association gave a few great tips for ensuring that you get the perfect latch:
- Make sure you're sitting comfortably, with enough back support.
- Hold your baby tummy to tummy and cradle their head in the arm on the side you're nursing on first.
- Keep baby's ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line, which will help with swallowing.
- Hold your breast using a "C" shape and aim the nipple at your baby's nose, causing them to lift their head slightly.
- Allow your baby to latch on to the nipple, including a portion of the areola.
- Make sure your baby's upper and lower lips are both flanged out, not tucked in. You can gently use your finger to open their mouth a little wider to fix this.
More often than not, latch problems can be solved with a little bit of extra practice. In some cases though, the pain is very hard to handle, and before you consider stopping altogether, book an appointment with your local lactation consultant. Consultants are professionally trained to help solve your baby's latch problems, and will likely make a night and day difference in your breastfeeding experience.