Causes of Breastfeeding Pain or Discomfort

During and after pregnancy, your breasts may feel sensitive. However, there is no reason to be alarmed. It is perfectly natural for you to feel some degree of pain in your breasts. Here are some of the reasons why: 

  • Nurse frequently, at least every two hours
  • Use ice packs in between feedings. It can help reduce the swelling
  • Massaging engorged breasts can also offer relief. Gently "knead" areas with the palm of your hand
  • Wear bras the offer good support but are comfortable and not too tight

Uterine Cramping

Some women experience cramping when they nurse. This is caused by the hormone – oxytocin – that stimulates milk to be released from the breast which also causes the uterine to contract. Usually these cramps are worse during the first days after delivery, but usually disappear over the first week of breastfeeding. To treat these symptoms, there are several over-the-counter medications that you can take, such as ibuprofen.


This is caused not just by the increase in the volume of milk being produced, but also because of the increase in blood flow to your breast and tissue swelling. For some women, they experience only moderate fullness. But for some, they become engorged. Though quite uncomfortable and usually painful, the engorgement generally lasts only a few days. To relieve your pain, you can do the following:

However, keep in mind these two:

  • You should only press out as as much milk as is necessary to relieve pain. Over pumping large amounts of milk can send signals to the body to produce more milk which can exaggerate the engorgement.
  • If your baby has difficulty latching on because your breasts are too full and tense, try taking a warm bath or a use a warm compress. Then pump out some milk to soften your breasts before nursing.
  • Breastfeed more frequently
  • Apply warm compresses before feeding
  • Wear a comfortable bra
  • Massage the sore area
  • Have your baby nurse on the sore breast first. You can try to position your baby as such that his/her chin is over the side of the breast that is painful – and thus there will be more "suction" applied. Try switching feeding positions every time you feed so that milk is extracted more evenly from different areas of the breast.
  • See you doctor for the following reasons: if the pain worsens, you have fever, are unable to breastfeed, if the lumps do not go away after 1-3 days or if you repeatedly experience blocked ducts.

Blocked Duct

This happens when the milk cannot pass through the duct to the nipple. This problem can occur anytime during the breastfeeding period. Women usually feel pain in a localized area in their breast. There may be a reddened area of the breast over a tender lump. Blocked milk in the ducts can be infected. To treat this problem you can do the following:

There are certain pains in the breasts that are caused by infections. And these pains should be given medical attention.

Mastitis and breast abscesses

These are infections in the breasts can be quite painful. If may affect the entire breast or just some portions of breast tissue. They may occur as complications of a infected section of the breast or may appear without preceding problems. Be wary of mastitis as it can be very misleading. It symptoms may not be isolated to the breast/s.

Some nursing mothers may think they have the flu because mastitis is is accompanied by headache and flu-like symptoms, fever and more breast redness and tenderness which shows up a day or two after. If you suspect mastitis:

  • Seek medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics which can help relieve your symptoms for 36 to 48 hours.
  • If you can tolerate it, nurse your baby often and on the sore breast first. Do not be worried to be breastfeed your baby. The infection poses no risks for your baby.
  • Nurse along with a hot compress to help clear the infection faster.
  • If you baby does not like the taste of your milk (because it tastes saltier than usual), relieve your breasts by pumping milk frequently.
  • Do not use ice packs.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding abruptly. This can lead to a walled-off infection in your breast called breast abscess.

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