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When I was pregnant with my first child, I dreamed of the beautiful connection I would create through breastfeeding. I went to a lactation class at the local hospital, read several books, and stocked up on nursing pillows, pads, and a pump. I was ready for the magic to happen. Fast forward to after her birth: my nipples were cracked, bleeding, and hurt so much that I dreaded feeding my baby. Worst of all, nobody told me breastfeeding might hurt. I’m here to tell you that it can, but it will pass with the right care. Here are my very best tips for breastfeeding pain relief.
Don’t Blame Yourself
There’s a lot of pressure to breastfeed out there—don’t feel like you’re defective because it’s not working perfectly. There’s a reason why there are classes and books on breastfeeding: it can be really hard to do. Yes, it’s natural, but there’s also a learning curve. Please don’t blame yourself if you feel guilty about it not working in the beginning. It will get better and you will get the hang of it, I promise!
Use a Nipple Cream
There are a lot of creams out there on the market that you can apply each time you feed your baby. I’m partial to Bamboobies Boob-Ease Cream, which I found to be very soothing.
You can also use coconut oil. In my more extreme case, a nurse told me to use a cream found in drug stores called Udderly Smooth (you guessed it—it was originally made for cows with sore udders—how appropriate!). This is an awesome product, but be sure to wash it off before feeding, since it’s not specifically made to go in your baby’s mouth.
Try a Prescription Cream
When I nursed my second child for the second time dread set in: I was feeling the beginnings of pain again! I thought I had done my time! Not so, apparently. In fact, it’s common for mothers to experience pain when feeding a second child.
Fed up and unwilling to go through a bloody nipple debacle again, I asked the lactation consultant at the hospital what I could do. She had my doctor write a prescription for Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment which can be filled at a compounding pharmacy. This was an absolute godsend. A few weeks of using this cream and my nipples were back in tip top shape! Plus, my husband used it after he got a bad burn on his hand—it healed right up! This contains lidocaine, so be sure to wash this off before feeding your baby.
Use Natural Pads
In the very beginning, you need to use nursing pads because…well, leaks and all that. I started off using the disposable kind and they were no bueno for my skin. Use pads made from breathable bamboo instead. I like these Bamboobies pads. While it’s a little extra laundry for you, it’s well worth it. I recommend buying at least two boxes so you have to was them less.
Use a Breast Shell
Yes, you read shell, not shield. Personally, I tried a shield (which is a plastic cover for your nipples) and it didn’t work well for me at all. A breast shell is another plastic device that’s worn when you’re not feeding the baby. Basically, it keeps your hurting nipples away from anything else (like your bra) that’s going to irritate it even more. Genius!
Express Milk After Feeding
Your own breastmilk has healing properties. When you finish feeding your baby, squeeze a little out and rub it on your nipples. It helps. I also recommend walking around shirtless for a while after feeding, especially if you’re sore. If there are people around, try covering up with a nursing cover or a robe. Or, you can be like me and not give a flying….you know, because I just had a baby and really didn’t care about covering up in front of my husband and mom.
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Use a Soothing Pad
There are some great soothing pads on the market that will help you after feeding. The Bamboobies Soothing Nursing Pillow is a lifesaver. You can put it in the freezer or microwave depending on how you want to be soothed. (Can you tell I love this brand? I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, I just love their stuff!)
Contact the La Leche League
When I was lost, I called the local chapter of the La Leche League, a group of nursing moms. I got a call back from a lovely person who was so supportive and reassuring. Sometimes it helps just to have someone kind in your corner. The La Leche League also holds meetings you can attend to meet other moms.
Find a Private Lactation Consultant
About two weeks in, I was feeling pretty desperate. I found the name of a local lactation consultant that was able to come to my house. It was also mostly covered by my insurance! I had to pay for her to come to my home, but I thought that part was worth it. If cost is an issue, look into it with your insurance company, because this was an incredible experience.
She watched me feed the baby and helped me to work on my positioning, which was pretty key in the problems I was having. She also offered me the support and care I needed when I was ready to pull my hair out. It was totally worth it. Click here for a directory of lactation consultants.
Pump Exclusively Until You Heal
For me, this is what finally helped me to heal and move on. My nipples were so badly damaged that I had to pump exclusively for an entire month until they healed. It was so long, that I was afraid that my daughter wouldn’t go back to the breast after so much bottle feeding—but she did! And, when I finally tried it again, after a very long month, I didn’t hurt at all! Finally, I had the beautiful connection I wanted and it lasted for another 14 months. I got my happy ending and so can you!
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