I've got a question from one reader that she experience nipple pain while pumping.
Is there anything that she could do to avoid the pain?
Even though I've replied her personaly, I thought it is a good idea to create a separate article about this.
So that, if some of you have not started pumping yet, you can learn how not to hurt your nipple.
And if some of you are experiencing this now, you can check on the possible solution.
Finally, if any of you already experienced this before and has alternative solution, do share it with us.
Ok, let's go back to the discussion. When your nipple hurts while pumping, first you need to check on 2 things:
(1) Do you use a correctly-sized breast shield
Too small or too big breast shields may cause pumping discomfort (nipple pain included) and also cause your breast not emptied thoroughly.
Especially when you are using a too small breast shield, in a lot of case your nipple may rub the side wall of the flange while pumping, resulting in sore nipple while or after pumping.
Another thing is, some moms prefer to use soft flange cushion (such as the one from Avent) while pumping simply because pumping with it feels more comfortable.
If you belong to this group, then by all means, go get the soft cushion and pump with it.
There will be a little bit of trial and error while you are trying to decide which breast shield size is best for you, but until you try it, you'll never know.
(2) Do you use too high suction strength?
A lot of moms wrongly belief that she should use the highest suction strength in order to thoroughly empty her breasts, which is, I would say, not necessary.
The general recommendation is to use the highest setting that feels comfortable for you.
So if you are feeling discomfort / pain with certain setting, that is a good indicator that you should lower down your suction level.
Also, some moms have very sensitive nipple such that even the lowest setting may feel uncomfortable for them.In that case, try to see if running your breast pump in let-down mode all the way (I.e. No need to switch to expression mode at all) helps to pump milk more comfortably.
Up to now, I've already heard several cases in which moms prefer to express in let-down mode, which is totally fine, as long as it is comfortable and you are able to empty your breast thoroughly.
If you have a breast pump with separate suction and speed setting (like Spectra S1 or S2), I strongly recommend you to play around with the best setting combination in your first few days using the pump.
Though myself personally prefer high suction and fast speed, it does not mean all moms will pump better with these settings.
I've been hearing some pump with suction level 2 and still drain the breast well.
Remember: Different mom has different pump setting preference. So find your own unique setting that feels most comfortable for you.
Now, if you feel that your nipple pain is not because the two reasons above and the pain keeps coming even when you are not pumping (e.g. During or after direct latch), it may be time to evaluate if you have the following:
This is a yeast infection that can happen to either you or your baby, or even both.
Here are a few symptoms that may indicate that you get a thrush:-
- itchy / pink / red / burning nipples
- shooting breast pain while or after feeding
- you also may have vaginal yeast infection
And the infection can also pass on to your baby. Pay attention to the following:
- White patches that look like cottage cheese in her inner lips and cheeks, that are not easily removed
- frequently crying during the feeding
- may also have yeast infection on diaper area
If you suspect you have thrush, consult medial practitioner immediately.
You may be prescribed anti-fungal medication that can be applied topically.
To help with the throbbing pain, you can take pain killer medication such as ibuprofen to help relieving the pain.
Also remember that since this infection may pass to your baby, keep washing your hand thoroughly before changing your baby's diaper, wash your nurse pad / bra separately from your baby's diaper (especially if you are using cloth diapers and washable nursing pads).
(4) Nipple bleb / nipple blister
A nipple bleb or blister is basically a milk duct whose opening is blocked by a tiny bit of skin that overgrows it. It looks like a white / yellow dot in the nipple / areola and it feels painful to touch.
What to do:
- Continue doing what you usually do when having a clogged duct
- Continue massaging your breast while feeding and pumping
- Warm compress in between, and try to empty your breast regularly (not waiting until your breast gets super engorged to avoid recurrence).
- In the event of mastitis (clogged duct accompanied with fever), consult doctor immediately to avoid prolonged effect leading to breast abscess that require surgery).
(5) Sore nipple due to incorrect latch.
This usually occurs in the first few days of breastfeeding, where mom and baby are learning together to find a perfect latch.
Your nipple may bled, or changes in shape after nursing (e.g. becoming lipstick-shape), and you may notice a tiny bit of blood gets mixed together with the pumped milk.
What to do:
Applying a nipple cream (in the first few days) or a little bit of breast milk (once your milk comes in) after feeding helps the nipple to heal faster.
Sore nipple should stop on its own after the latch is corrected.
If the condition persists, I highly encourage you to consult with a lactation consultant who can give you a more thorough evaluation about your baby's latch, checking your baby's mouth anatomy, and your breast / nipple anatomy.
So that's it. Five things that can cause nipple pain while pumping. hope this article helps you solving your nipple pain problem while pumping breast milk.
:: Now onto you...
Have you ever felt pumping discomfort before?
And what did you do to help you pump comfortably?
Feel free to share your story in the comment, remember that your story may worth so much and helps new moms who are still navigating their breastfeeding journey.