When Breastfeeding Hurts, Part 2: Sore Breasts

Most women experience some tenderness in their breasts as they fill up with milk in the week after the birth. This tenderness may last a few weeks until the amount of milk your breasts produce becomes balanced with the amount of milk your baby takes. The tenderness will return from time to time if you go longer than usual between feeds. However, severe pain in the breasts is almost always indicative of a problem. This article will cover common causes of painful breasts. Follow the links to learn more about your situation.

Hard Breasts

Engorged breasts are probably the most common cause of painful breasts in the early days of breastfeeding. Engorged breasts feel very firm, warm and sore. Excess fluids in the breasts, including milk, blood and tissue, cause engorgement. The extra fluids that a woman receives during labor if she receives an epidural can cause engorgement even before the milk comes in. The only way to avoid engorgement is with frequent effective breastfeeding.

If you become engorged, the use of cold packs on the breasts is both soothing and helps the milk to flow. A pain reliever that treats swelling, such as ibuprophen may bring you relief. The most important thing is too keep the milk flowing.

Bruised Breasts?

Plugged ducts and mastitis feel like someone punched you real hard in the breast. The pain occurs in a specific area of one breast. With a plug duct you will feel a lump in your breast and may have a plugged nipple pore. With mastitis you may or may not feel a lump. Mastitis is accompanied by a fever and a plug duct isn't. Inefficient milk removal is the main cause of both of these conditions. Warm compresses on the painful area, messaging the milk out during breastfeeding or expressing, and rest may solve the problem. If you develop a fever that does not improve with self care, i.e. heat, rest, emptying the breast, you may need to take antibiotics. Mastitis that isn't treated may become an abscess. A breast abscess is a collection of pus in the breast that seals itself off from the rest of the breast. Abscesses need to be surgically drained. Any lump that does not disappear after a few days of treatment should be evaluated by a physician.

Deep Breast Pain

Deep breast pain can be caused by a yeast infection, also known as thrush, by Raynaud's syndrome or by let down pain. Let down pain normally subsides as time goes on and your body adjusts to breastfeeding. Raynaud's and thrush need to be treated. Read about both to know if you have either of these problems and how to treat it.

Remember: breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. If you can't find the reason for your pain, get professional help. You deserve to enjoy breastfeeding your child.


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