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Ouch! When breastfeeding hurts

Ami is a writer who is also a childbirth educator and former doula. In addition to her love of all things birth and babies, she is addicted to celebrity news and isn't ashamed to admit it. Ami lives in Chicago with her husband and her te...

Breastfeeding shouldn't suck

Repeat after me: Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. Ever. A little preparation, help and support goes a long way toward preventing common breastfeeding problems.
Mom breastfeeding baby

You've probably heard at least one mom say, ”Breastfeeding hurt too much so I stopped. Or, Breastfeeding is going to hurt a lot at the beginning.

Once your friends regale you with their tales of sore, cracked nipples it's no wonder so many women have no desire to even try breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding is a choice and every mom has to do what she feels is best for her and her baby, if you want to breastfeed, it's crucial to find support. Whether it's a mom who had a successful nursing experience (more on that later), a board-certified lactation consultant or doula, you need someone who not only knows a lot about breastfeeding, but who's also on your side.

How to pick the perfect doula >>

Proper positioning

There are many ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding him. Try different positions until you're both comfortable — it's kind of like finding comfortable positions during labor, but different. Common positions include the cradle hold, football hold, and cross-cradle hold. Side-lying is also a popular position for nursing, especially if you have a C-section. Proper positioning during breastfeeding means you're comfortable — no sore back, shoulders or, of course, breasts — and that your baby is able to latch on correctly.

Latching on

Think breastfeeding is all about the nipple? Think again. Your baby should open his mouth wide, and latch onto as much of your areola as he can. This will stimulate milk production and avoid the sore nipple issue. If your baby reverts back onto your nipple, you can place a clean finger in his mouth to gently remove the suction, coax his mouth wide open and try again.

Finding support before nursing issues arise

The easiest way to avoid painful breastfeeding? Prevention.

Don't make these top 10 breastfeeding mistakes >>

A labor and delivery nurse may be able to help you get started nursing. Some nurses have more breastfeeding training and expertise than others, so don't be afraid to ask. The same goes for doulas. Your best bet is to be seen by an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) before being discharged. If there's not an IBCLC on staff, ask your childbirth educator, nurse or OB for referrals to one in your area, just in case you need extra support when you're home. Some moms and babies breastfeed beautifully from the start, but most have around a two-week learning curve to get positioning, latching on and successful feeds well established.

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt

It should never hurt to nurse — even at the very beginning, right after your baby is born and you're both getting the hang of this whole feeding thing. Sure, you may be a little uncomfortable at first, and two to four days after giving birth, when your milk comes in, your breasts may feel warm or tingly, but there should be no pain.

If you remember just one thing from this article, this is it — no pain, no gain does not apply when it comes to breastfeeding your baby!

More about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding after breast surgery
Guide to breastfeeding for working mothers
Making breastfeeding work

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