Stay pain-free when breastfeeding

By ParentsCanada staff on September 17, 2012
Engorgement and sore or cracked nipples are preventable and easy conditions to deal with.


Engorgement is a temporary condition, often lasting 24 to 48 hours. It occurs when breasts become very full – even hard and painful – and are warm to the touch. The nipples and areola are often swollen and fl attened, and the baby may have diffi culty latching on. Engorgement occurs more often in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding. It is a sign the baby may not be emptying the breast well or often enough.

Prevention and care

  • Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth. Make sure your baby feeds frequently and effectively. 
  • Do not feed your baby anything other than breast milk. (If she is fed formula or water, she won’t take much of your milk and you risk becoming engorged and making less breast milk.)
  • Heat helps the milk to flow. Stand under a warm shower or soak a towel in hot water and and wrap it around your breasts for about 10 minutes.
  • While you are in the shower or applying heat, massage your breasts to move the milk down out of the clogged milk glands.
  • After massaging, express some of the milk – just enough to make the nipple and areola soft so that your baby can latch on more easily.
  • If your breasts still feel full and sore after feeding, express some milk to soften the breasts and then apply cold compresses to the breasts. (Bags of frozen peas work well!)
  • Pain medicine taken 20 to 30 minutes before breastfeeding may help you and won’t harm your baby.

Sore/Cracked nipples

This is when nipples crack or are painful to touch.

Prevention and care

  • Make sure your baby is latching on properly. Damage to a mother’s nipples is almost always caused when the baby doesn’t take enough areola tissue into her mouth. 
  • Rub a small amount of your breast milk into your nipples after each feed ing to provide natural protection.
  • Do not use soap on your nipples and don’t wash them right before or after a feeding. Let your nipples air dry for a few minutes right after feeding.
  • Change your baby’s position often when you feed her to avoid putting pressure on one part of your nipple.

Published in ParentsCanada: Best Wishes, Spring 2012.

By ParentsCanada staff| September 17, 2012

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