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Breast pain, irritation... Where does it come from and how can you relieve these discomforts during breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a magical experience to share with your baby that marks for life, but it can also happen that you have to face some complications: pain, itching, irritation... If this is your case, do not let the pain settle because breastfeeding, when done correctly, should not hurt. Discover here the different obstacles that you can encounter during breastfeeding and especially how to treat them.

1. How to treat cracks?

A crack is a lesion of the nipple, a crack or even a bloody wound when it is at an advanced stage. For most breastfeeding mothers, cracks are caused by poor positioning of the baby or ineffective sucking by the baby.

To make sure you are in the right position, you need to make sure that your baby's belly is pressed against yours and that his body (ear, shoulder and hips) is aligned. His mouth should be open and should surround the nipple and part of the areola. In order to prevent cracks, test different positions and choose the one that seems the most suitable. In most cases, they should not reappear.

Different solutions exist to treat cracks: 

  • Spread a few drops of your breast milk on your nipple after feeding to speed up healing
  • Apply lanolin cream to moisturize your nipples
  • Use nursing shells or silver cups to maintain moisture around the irritated wound
  • Apply hydrogel compresses to relieve pain.

To learn more about cracks, we have written a article here.

2. How to unblock a blocked milk duct?

If you feel a painful or warm lump in your breast or a small white ball on the tip of your nipple, you probably have a blocked milk duct.

What is a blocked milk duct? A blocked milk duct is a blockage that occurs in a specific area of the breast that prevents the milk from draining and coming out properly. Again, baby's suckling may be the cause: if baby is not suckling properly, your breasts may not be well drained and the milk duct may become blocked. 

How to unblock a milk duct? :

  • You must first make sure that you empty the affected breast by giving it to baby at each feeding while massaging the area. Of course, make sure that both breasts are drained at the same frequency to avoid a second engorgement. You can also finish the feeding by expressing your milk manually to be sure that the breast is emptied.
  • Heat also helps: apply hot compresses, a warm glove or a jet of hot water to the sore breast before feeding to soothe it and to encourage milk ejection.
  • Your breasts should not be compressed with a tight bra.

If the lump does not disappear after 24/48 hours and the symptoms worsen, you should consult your doctor because it may also be mastitis.

3. How to treat mastitis?

The symptoms of mastitis are very similar to a blocked milk duct because mastitis occurs when the duct has not been unblocked in time. If you have a red and painful breast and you have flu-like symptoms (fever, joint pain, feeling hot and then cold...), you may have mastitis which is an inflammation of the breast tissue.

In this case, you should see a doctor to determine if it is infectious mastitis or non-infectious mastitis. If it is infectious mastitis, antibiotics (compatible with breastfeeding) will be given.

If it is non-infectious mastitis, follow the advice given above for a blocked milk duct. Your doctor may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

4. How to treat breast candidiasis?

Mammary candidiasis is an infection caused by the fungus Candida Albicans. This fungus has always been present on our skin or mucous membranes, but when an immune or hormonal imbalance occurs, the fungus can develop abnormally and become pathogenic. 

If your baby's nipples are sore, burning and itchy, if your baby seems to be suckling effectively and the pain doesn't subside and persists even after feedings, you may have breast thrush. This infection is also called thrush because white patches may appear in the baby's mouth or on the cheeks or buttocks.

Mammary candidiasis should be treated simultaneously in both mother and child with an antifungal cream to be applied on the breasts and inside the baby's mouth after each feeding. The mother should also take care of her hygiene: wash her hands regularly and disinfect anything that has been in contact with her breasts and the baby's mouth (breast pads, clothes, pacifier, breast pump, teething ring...). She should let her breasts dry out as much as possible after feeding because this fungus proliferates in warm, humid and dark environments.

Fortunately, these inconveniences are not systematic, but we think that it is interesting for you to know their existence in order to recognize them if they appear... 

In addition, the contact of a midwife trained in breastfeeding or a lactation consultant will be very useful. This is why we recommend that you meet with one when you are pregnant, as she will be your support and relay in case of a problem!

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Breast pain, irritation... Where does it come from and how can you relieve these discomforts during breastfeeding?