Breast pain (sore breasts) can have various causes. Please keep
in mind that we are only talking about breastfeeding-related breast pain.
To begin with, listen to your pain: are your entire breasts
sore or just the nipples? Nipple soreness is normal during the first week of
breastfeeding, especially at let-down.
Once your breasts learn
to hold your milk supply and the nipple gets used to your baby’s touch, breastfeeding pain
should go away.
If nipple pain persists, check the way your baby latches on and how you two are positioned.
Nipple pain can also result from your baby not sucking correctly. Make sure
there is a swallow every one-two sucks. Visit Sore Nipples section to read more.
Here is Why
If you determine that you have sore breasts rather than just sore nipples, here is what may be causing it:
Slow milk let-down. Some women experience slower milk release. The baby has to suck for some time before the woman feels familiar tingling sensation. Before milk let-down a woman may experience breast pain. If the pain is severe, try pumping before the feeding session to speed up the process.
Incorrect latch-on and positioning. These can cause breast soreness too along with the nipple soreness. Visit Positioning section to read more.
Engorged breasts. Engorgement can cause severe pain. It is most common during the first weeks of nursing. Engorged breasts are swollen and hard. They feel extremely full. Visit Engorgement section to read more.
Clogged milk duct. It is caused by obstruction to the milk flow. Breast is hard, can be lumpy. Breast skin may redden and be warm. There may even be some low-grade fever. Visit Clogged Milk Duct section to read more.
Mastitis. It may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms: fever, headaches, fatigue, sleepiness, dizziness. Breasts are swollen, tender, warm and red. Read more here.
Abscess. You'll see a well-defined reddened lump on the breast. Flue-like symptoms. There may be pus coming out of the nipple. The breast is swollen and extremely painful. Visit Abscess section to read more.
Thrush or yeast infection. Yeast infection pain is a spreading pain from the nipple deep into the breast. Pain comes and goes. Nipple may look abnormal (flaky, shiny, reddened) and feel abnormal (itchy, burning, irritable). Your baby may have a thrush mouth. It is characterized by white patches on the tongue, the inside of the cheeks and lips, gums, and back of the throat. Visit Yeast Infection section to read more.
Breast papilloma. You may see clear or bloody discharge from the nipple. Breast may feel lumpy in the nipple or areola area. Single papillomas can’t be felt, multiple grouped together can. This article has more info about breast papilloma.
Milk blister (white dot, or nipple bleb). These are tiny milk-filled sacks on the nipple or areola. Visit Milk Blister section to read more.
Oversupply. Too much milk may cause extreme breast fullness and pain. Visit Oversupply section for more information.
Recent injury or surgery. Try to remember if you had any of these recently, especially if the pain only affects one breast, or one injured area of the breast. Such pain should not be severe and should go away gradually.
Check your pump. It may be too strong for your breasts, especially if pain starts with pumping. Make sure you attach pump breast shields correctly. They should be centered carefully, so that not to pull the nipple to one side. Prolonged incorrect pumping may lead to breastfeeding pain and cracked nipples.
Check how your clothes fit. Too tight clothes (especially bras) putting pressure on the breast may lead to breast pain.
Menstruation. If your period is back some cyclical (regular) breast pain is normal.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon/Syndrome. Irregular sporadic breast pain can be caused by temporary narrowing of blood vessels carrying blood to the breasts. It decreases blood flow to the breast and the nipple. It usually lasts a couple of minutes. This syndrome can be caused by stress, cold, caffeine, nicotine, medications, incorrect latch, positioning or sore nipples. Breasts may turn white or bluish. If breast skin color change is combined with sporadic pain avoid all the possible triggers listed above.
Fibrocystic breasts. Fibrocystic breast condition is characterized by lumpy breast tissue. The cysts are non-cancerous. Pain, swelling and lumpiness peak before period. Breastfeeding has been reported to improve and even temporarily relieve the condition and the pain associated with it.
Inflammatory breast cancer. It is a rare type of breast cancer. The breast becomes swollen, red and painful. This condition looks similar to breast infection or mastitis. Talk to your doctor if you suspect mastitis to rule out inflammatory breast cancer.
Pay attention to your body.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt all the time. If it does, your body is trying to tell you
something. Listen to it, change things around, eliminate breast pain and continue enjoying breastfeeding!
There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win
their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.