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In the early weeks of breastfeeding, you may experience sore or tender nipples. Tender nipples from breastfeeding are normal during the first week or two. Establishing a proper latch from the start will minimize nipple soreness and help you and your baby get the most from your breastfeeding experience.
Your breastfeeding comfort depends on where your nipple lands in baby’s mouth, and that depends on how your baby takes the breast, or latches on. Learning the correct latch takes practice for both you and baby and can be the difference between a painful, or wonderful, breastfeeding experience. To understand this better, use your tongue to feel the roof of your mouth. Behind your teeth are ridges, and behind those ridges the roof of your mouth feels hard. When your nipple is pressed against this hard area in your baby’s mouth, it can hurt. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a Lactation consultant.
Further back in your mouth the roof turns from hard to soft. Near this is the area some call “the comfort zone.” Once your nipple reaches your baby’s comfort zone, there is no undue friction or pressure on your nipple and breastfeeding can become a pleasant experience.
To make this happen, let gravity do the lion’s share of the work.
• Lean back with good neck, shoulder, and back support and move your hips forward.
• Lay your baby tummy-side down between your exposed breasts.
When your now calm but hungry baby feels your body against their chin, torso, legs, and feet, it will trigger their inborn feeding reflexes. And as their chin touches your body, their mouth will open and they will begin to search for your breast. In these “laid-back positions,” gravity will help your nipple reach the comfort zone.
In other positions, you may need to work a little harder to help encourage a good latch and bring your nipple more deeply into your baby’s mouth to find that comfort zone. Use the following tips to help get your nipple to where you want it to be:
• With your baby’s body pressed firmly against you and their nose in line with your nipple, let their head tilt back a bit (avoid pushing on the back of her head).
• Allow their chin to touch your breast, then move away.
• Repeat the first two steps until their mouth opens really wide, like a yawn.
• As they move onto the breast chin first, gently press your baby’s shoulders from behind for a deeper latch.
That last gentle shove will help your nipple reach the comfort zone. Breastfeeding tends to feel better when your baby latches on off-center, so the lower jaw lands far away from the nipple.
In the process of mastering the latch, you may experience pain and sore cracked nipples. If you feel nipple tenderness or discomfort, gel pads can prevent clothing friction and help soothe and heal your nipples. When choosing a gel pad, look for ones that you can wear in your bra like a nursing pad and that won’t stain your clothing.
It is also worth investing in a good lanolin cream to provide immediate relief and soothe your sore nipples. We suggest choosing a cream that is natural and hypoallergenic so it’s safe for your baby. This way there is no need to remove it prior to breastfeeding. The cream should create a thick barrier to protect against further soreness.