I'm an only child and my mother was a La Leche League Leader so when I got pregnant I was going to breastfeed, it just was what you do, for me at least. My mom had some experience, some advice...She said you should sit in the bath, before you deliver, and use a wet washcloth to rough up your nipples. I laughed!
Sure, like that would really work! Ha Ha Ha! Like I'm really going to sit in the bath and use a washcloth to do that! An old wives tale I was sure. Did I do it? Absolutely not. Who listens to their mother anyhow?
So baby came and I was nursing! Yippee, see this was easy, piece of cake. Until....maybe a few days or so into it. I started to feel a burning pain when my daughter nursed, it turned into a searing pain, and then into an eye watering excruciating pain, a very bad I am now totally dreading breastfeeding my new baby pain.
I asked my mom in all seriousness "Is my nipple going to fall off? Can it fall off?" I was really worried. It felt like someone was cutting it off with a razor blade every time my daughter nursed.
Turns out that having a baby gnawing and sucking at the breast takes a little getting used to, a lot of getting used to and there is a learning curve. Sure, baby is getting milk and appears to be nursing just fine but is she latched on properly? It's hard to know, especially since everyone's breasts and nipples are different.
We figured out that she wasn't latching on quite right, not enough of the areola was in her mouth. Using my thumb to gently encourage her to open a little wider seemed to help. It took a couple weeks for the latch to improve and the pain to go away. I'll never know if I had used the washcloth method to rough up the nippples for a couple weeks before the birth if that would have helped but heck, hindsight is 20/20 and when I was in pain I seriously wished I had given it a try.
My advice is...
- Make sure you have a good nipple cream. Lansinoh, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Coconut Oil...Something that will help relieve the pain and discomfort you might experience.
- Use cloth breast pads.
- Ask for help. You may be modest but you just have to get over it. If you're in pain past about day 10 you need to see a lactation consultant, doula or midwife who can take a look and make sure baby is properly latched on.
- Stay positive. Once you've got the right latch and you've found your breastfeeding groove, it only takes a little while before you're poor nipples adjust.
Here's a good couple of links if you need to check out latch-on techniques:
Julie, Cloth Diaper Geek