Nipple pain is common when you begin breastfeeding and is often a natural and normal part of learning how to feed your newborn. Sometimes, however, conditions such as infections, plugged ducts or engorgement could cause sore nipples or breasts that feel warm. If you are concerned about the pain you are feeling in your breasts or nipples while breastfeeding, talk to your physician, a local lactation consultant or your pediatrician.
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For the first few days after your baby is born and begins breastfeeding, your breasts and nipples may feel sore or get cracked. You may even notice that they bleed. Some women experience intense pain with sore nipples, while others only feel slightly uncomfortable. If the baby latches on well, the pain should subside, though you may feel a pinch for the first few seconds to a minute after your baby latches. A lactation consultant can help you make sure your baby is latching correctly and also help you learn tips and tricks for breastfeeding more comfortably.
Full, Swollen Breasts
You may notice that your breasts feel very full in the first week or two after giving birth. Often, your body will produce excess milk to ensure your baby is getting what he needs. Once you have breastfeeding established and are feeding your baby regularly -- every one to three hours for at least 15 minutes on each breast -- your body will produce just the right amount of milk and the swollen, warm feeling will dissipate.
Engorgement is different than full breasts. It is caused by an increase in your milk supply, extra fluid and blood flow to your breasts, according to the California Pacific Medical Center. Fullness is a normal condition that occurs right after birth as you are adjusting to breastfeeding, whereas engorgement can happen at any point while you breastfeed. If your baby skips a feeding, your breasts may become engorged. To lessen the swelling, use cold or warm compresses or take a hot shower. Massage your breasts to express milk or use a hand pump or electric pump to decrease the amount of milk in your breasts.
Plugged Milk Duct
Sometimes you may feel a hard, painful spot on your breast caused by a plugged milk duct. The California Pacific Medical Center states that plugged ducts often occur due to partial feedings or putting pressure on the duct for an extended period of time. You can try to open the duct by using warm compresses before breastfeeding, massaging the breast in the sore area, nursing frequently and using different breastfeeding positions, wearing loose clothing and avoiding underwire or tight bras.
Mastitis occurs in women with plugged ducts, engorgement or cracked nipples, women who wear tight bras, those who have skipped feedings or women who are anxious and fatigued, according to MedlinePlus. Mastitis is an infection that causes flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches, fever and hot, red, sore breasts. Antibiotics or other simple treatments can quickly cure the condition, so talk to your doctor if you think you may have mastitis.
A yeast infection called thrush can be transmitted between mother and baby while breastfeeding and causes severe, stabbing pain, according to Dr. Larissa Hirsch of FamilyDoctor.org. Thrush is often diagnosed once latching issues have been corrected but pain continues. Symptoms of thrush may include nipples that flake, itch, are red or shiny and a a baby whose mouth has white patches on the tongue or inside of her cheeks or is fussy, gassy and has diaper rash. Sometimes pain may be the only symptom. If your baby latches well but you still have intense pain while breastfeeding, contact your physician for diagnosis and treatment.