Breast is best . . . and exceptionally painful?!?
June 10, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I can't take it anymore - is breastfeeding always going to be this painful?

My son is now about three weeks old and I've been breastfeeding him since day one. I expected some pain up-front, but now, three weeks later, I'm seeing no improvement and I feel like I can't even enjoy my time with my newborn son. I dread every feeding because of the pain it's causing me.

I've seen several different lactation consultants (about 4 visits total) and they've all confirmed that we consistently have proper latches, but the little guy is "as strong as a barracuda".

My nipples are flattened after every feeding. They're not chapped or bleeding anymore (they were the first couple of days), so I don't understand why they continue to hurt.

Something weird that I've noticed is that my breasts really itch throughout the feedings.

I feel like I can't continue with this anymore - it seems abnormally painful all of the time. I want to give the little guy the best start in life, but the pain!!!

I've tried pumping to give my breasts a break and my husband helped out by finger feeding a lot of meals, but then the baby started having regular green poop which is a sign of oversupply! We were then concerned that he wasn't getting enough hind-milk so we started block feeding a few days ago, but the pain is still persistent. I just can't win.

One other thing to note, the baby seems to have a lot of gas problems. He's always squirming and crying, even after long burping sessions; occasionally he'll fart and the crying will stop for a minute or two before picking up again. If he's not sleeping, he's crying.

Is this normal? Have you experienced this unfathomable pain? What helped you?

I'm at my wits end here - perpetually tired and in immense pain. I just want to enjoy my baby!
posted by lilgoyl to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oh you poor honey! I remember those days so well -- they're really a nightmare, aren't they? Once I was standing naked in my closet, turning a shirt inside out, and the cotton brushed (softly) against one of my nipples and I shrieked in pain, it was so bad. But YES YES YES, it will end . And probably VERY, VERY soon.

Exactly one month after my son was born, he latched on one afternoon and IT DIDN'T HURT. It was like a freaking miracle. Then I had a week or so of "hurt or not hurt, it will always be a mystery," which also drove me crazy. And then after that? NO PAIN AT ALL. And that is when breastfeeding gets easy and fun. You know those ladies who can breastfeed while doing something eles at the same time? You will be one of those ladies. Or the ones who are casually breastfeeding in public? You will be one of those ladies. (If you want to be, I should say.) You will no longer be a quivering mess, reeling with the pain, the discomfort and the sheer indignity of it all.

You are definitely in the very hardest period right now -- the early endorphins have tapered off and you're in the sheer hell of pain. But you are almost through it. And if you can just push through a little bit more, you're in for a hell of a reward. When breastfeeding gets easy, it's a joy for mama and baby. HANG IN THERE!
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Everything I've read says that if you stick it out to 6 weeks, somehow it magically gets less painful/much easier.

Also, if you're not reading it already (when you have a spare 5 minutes), Kellymom is one of the best resources on the web for information about breastfeeding.

Good for you for trying to do the best for your baby. I've got my first on the way in October, and will be reading this thread with interest for experienced moms' replies.
posted by chiababe at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2010

Mine hurt intensely for at least ten days until they finally lost sensitivity. One of the lactation consultants also got my OB/GYN to prescripe "all purpose nipple cream" which was expensive ($40, since it's this random mix of ingredients) but really, really helped.

Seriously it hurt so bad I wanted to bash my head into a wall. It was BAD. And I felt completely unprepared since nothing I'd read and none of my nurses admitted that anyone ever had pain breastfeeding, but after researching it specifically, it's pretty common.

Still, at 3 weeks I'm worried it might be something else. That's pretty long.

Does it hurt less as the feeding goes on?
posted by kpht at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2010

Oh -- I skipped one aspect of your question. The gas -- have you tried altering your diet at all? My boy also had some bad gas in the early days. My pediatrician suggested that I cut out dairy -- and he said it has to be all dairy, no more splash if milk in the decaf -- and see if that worked. For us, it did. Around the 3rd month I added dairy back to my diet, and my son didn't have a corresponding increase in gas, so I guess we got over that hump.

Lastly, this might be a perfect time to search out a La Leche meeting in your area, or a new moms group. My hospital offered two groups for new moms -- newborn to crawling age, then crawling to walking age. I found those most helpful, especially in the hardest first few weeks.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2010

I know very little about breastfeeding, but one of my best friends has a two week old and is recovering from mastitis. She said that getting a nipple shield really helped with the pain.
posted by shaun uh at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2010

I can testify that I turned a corner at 6 weeks. I was cracked and bleeding for over a month. On top of that I struggled with low supply. Just thinking back to that time makes me tense.
I started using a shield which helped *a lot*. I know a lot of lactation folks are against them but they allowed me to keep going and I eventually tapered off using them and breastfed for 10 months.
That said, I had a horrible postpartum period and I think a lot of it was the anxiety and pressure around being good at breastfeeding. It took me months to recover from that and finally bond with my baby. If I had it to do over again - I would have bailed and gone to formula and focused all of that energy elsewhere. Your baby will be happy and healthy with the boob or not - your health and happiness are important, too.
Feel free to memail if you want to chat more. I *totally* know what you're going through. Take good care of yourself!
posted by Wolfie at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ouch! That sounds so painful and discouraging. Everyone upthread has good advice that you're almost there. If it is totally unbearable, remember that lots of us writing these posts were bottlefed.

I'm indirectly addressing any pregnant woman reading this posting. About a month before delivery, roughly rub a towel against the nipples for a couple minutes after every single shower. Immediately massage on nipple cream--there are lots of over-the-counter creams that will do the job. This regime toughens the nipples quite a bit in advance and has helped lots of new moms breastfeed without such pain.

I hope your breastfeeding experience becomes much easier right away. Good luck.
posted by Elsie at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the pain, but with all that gas and crying, oversupply does sound like a distinct possibility.

If he's not sleeping, he's crying.

I'm sorry, that's miserable. Do you have help? If not, do what you can to get some.
posted by moira at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2010

If you decide to stick with it, know that it does get better! And if you decide not to, don't beat yourself up about it. The best thing for a baby is a happy mama.
posted by thekilgore at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

I would have bailed and gone to formula and focused all of that energy elsewhere.

I did bail -- really early on -- and have never once regretted it. One of the better decisions I made in the early days.

I'm not saying "bail" I'm just saying if you do, it's possible to look back on it without regrets. I was extremely distraught at the time over my inability to manage it and felt frankly kind of devastated. Two years later I'm unreservedly happy about how it all turned out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

The gas and the crying makes me think he may have acid reflux or something.

I second cutting dairy out of your diet.
posted by k8t at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2010

Have you seen his pediatrician? My son was crying a ton and eating ALL THE TIME and spitting up lots and having tons of gas and it was acid reflux. (and he wanted to eat MORE because the only way he knew to make his stomach stop hurting was to eat ... which of course made it worse, not better.) He took zantac for about six months and it was a MIRACLE, and then he basically outgrew it. We also used a hot water bottle with gently warm water in it to put on his tummy, and he'd clutch that thing like a lifeboat. (I finally covered it in flannel because a baby clutching this hospitally rubber thing made me so sad!) He also, after just about every feeding, had to remain upright for about 20 minutes, often with dad bicycling his legs. (Dad's feet up on table/ottoman, baby leaning back but upright on dad's thighs, dad bicycling legs while watching TV or something.)

I don't have any good breastfeeding tips -- the pain settled down for me on its own after a while and I breastfed for a year; it never settled down for my mother and she switched all her children to bottle after 6 or 8 weeks -- but just wanted to say that, if it's the decision you make in the end, using formula does not make you a bad mother. What's best for your baby is what's best for your FAMILY, including you!

As for the itching, my skin got super-dry when I was first breastfeeding ... moisturizing your breasts (not the nipples, the breasts) may help. I always felt itchier WHILE feeding, as if my body was saying, "LOOK! HE'S SUCKING OUT ALL THE MOISTURE AGAIN!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:58 PM on June 10, 2010

Hang in there, it will get better. The itching suggests thrush, which is a real pain to treat. Seconding Kellymom as a goldmine of breastfeeding info.
posted by libraryhead at 2:59 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Oh, and with the acid reflux my son had, no changes to *my* diet helped; he was just refluxy. Some refluxy babies respond to changes in mom's diet; others simply don't. A friend of mine who's a pediatrician was like, "He's got a four-inch esophagus and a two-ounce stomach, what do you expect?")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:59 PM on June 10, 2010

Veteran breastfeeder here, plus my own daughter breastfed her two.

It is okay if you supplement formula for a feeding or two to let your nipples rest. I do think you should check with the pediatrician for your baby's symptoms, as there may be some help with the gassiness (one of mine had this issue.)

If you can hang in there for another week or so it WILL get better. And any subsequent babies should be easier. That first month with a first baby is not easy breastfeedingwise!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:08 PM on June 10, 2010

As people have said above it will get better. I remember the first few weeks nursing my son it felt as if acid was being pulled from my armpits and out my nipples. Man did that hurt. Around 4 weeks the pain started to disappear and at six weeks nursing became somewhat enjoyable. At the very least I was always thankful I didn't have a ton of bottles around to wash on top of everything else little ones need.

I also think you should try cutting out dairy and will add that it can take up to two weeks to get out of your system entirely. I wouldn't worry too much about supply issues, green poop, block feeding etc. In my group of mom friends we have tried it all and the only thing has helped any of us has been cutting out dairy (myself included).

Congratulations on becoming a mom! You are doing great and remember if breastfeeding doesn't work for you it is okay - your kid will be fine, you will be fine - don't let anyone insinuate otherwise.
posted by a22lamia at 3:09 PM on June 10, 2010

"Lactation consultants" -- lactation consultants, certified consultants, or lactation consultants, nurses self-styled as ditto? Going via third-hand reports on-line it seems like there is a veritable army of the latter dispensing extremely poor advice. Find an IBCLC. I am alarmed if for-real professionals are giving you advice that amounts to 'suck it up.'

Is it possible you are dealing with thrush? (Your nipples are flattened -- you mean areola and all?)

I would not give a bottle. (My other dissent is that "reflux" is a fad diagnosis for normal newborn crankiness.)
posted by kmennie at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I totally feel for you, I HATED breastfeeding, and while we were finally able to get past it to where I could do it without hating every minute of it, it was never a bonding experience with us, so don't feel bad if you never like it. As far as the pain goes, I had a lot of trouble and was in pain for a long time too (definitely more than 3 weeks). I ended up using a nipple shield (at my lactation consultant's suggestion, if you have one that isn't open to you using something like that, definitely find a new one) and attending a breast feeding support group. The group was amazing and totally made me feel better with all the trouble I was having. I would totally suggest looking for one in your area (ask your lactation consultant for one). La Leche league can be good, but I have found that sometimes some of them/the people in them can be a bit crazy on the breast feeding side, so if you do look in that direction, don't let them make you feel bad for thinking of quitting.

As far as the itching, I had that too and realized that that was actually my milk letting down, which didn't make it any less itchy (or painful) but at least I knew what it was and that knowledge helped some. It did get less as we went along. You might also want to try different positions for feeding, I found that the lying on my side with the baby next to me was one of the few ways in the beginning that was less painful for me.

As far as the gas goes, I too had a gassy baby and tried mylanta (at my pedi's suggestion) for awhile and also the Mylicon drops. Both seemed to help a bit, but not much. But definitely try keeping your baby upright after feeding for a bit to see if it helps.

Also, for the crying all the time thing - do you have a big exercise ball? Sit on it and bounce with the baby, it was the only thing that kept my son calm many days. Without the ball you can just do deep squats, it is just trying, the ball gives you the same thing without the hurt legs. Something about the rapid ups and downs seems to calm them a lot in the first 3 months.
posted by katers890 at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2010

It hurt alot at first but I kept it up and it got better. I did supplement with some formula (at the behest of the midwife) and in retrospect that was a big mistake. Keep it up, it will get better. Also, the receptors for the supply of milk you have are being generated now, so I would pump off excess and keep my volumes up if I were you. That way you can freeze the excess and have some in case dad needs to give a feeding or if you want to sleep through the night. It will get better!
posted by zia at 3:17 PM on June 10, 2010

When I was 1st nursing, I referred to my son's "jaws of steel." Yes, it got better, became a wonderful part of my day, and I wish I could do it all over again. I nursed him for @ 18 months. So, yes, in my experience, it will get better. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2010

As others have suggested, the itching could be a sign of thrush. Keep checking your son's tongue & lips and get both of you on an antifungal at the first sign of it.

You should also consider getting some APNO (all purpose nipple ointment) now. Some of the pain might be due to inflammation and it will help with that. And if it is thrush, APNO does contain an antifungal. You'll just have to find a pharmacy near you that does its own compounding.

Good luck and hang in there!
posted by rbellon at 3:42 PM on June 10, 2010

Breastfeeding! My doctor referred to it as "so painful it curls your toes," but she assured me that the pain would pass, and it did. For me, it was after 4 or 5 weeks, and also I used nipple shields a lot. It was actually the pediatrician who gave me the shields, she just had them in her drawer, so I guess she handed them out to a lot of new moms. Baby can nurse right through them. They are also available at Target.

The other thing that helped me was improving the baby's latch. She had such a tiny little mouth, and she would not take in the area around the nipple. This put her latch too much at the tip of my nipple. I had better luck by using one hand to make a "breast sandwich" and using my other hand to pull her chin waaaay down, then I would quickly shove the flattened breast as far into her mouth as possible (I know, you can't make it very flat when there's milk in there). This helped immensely. As she grew larger and she got more praticed at nursing, she began to latch deeper on her own.
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:58 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

This entry on Offbeat Mama is really informative and a lot of women shared their experiences in the comments section.

There's a lot of information there. I've never breastfed so I doubt I'll be much help but I do work with a lot of moms and have heard the heart break and frustration a lot. Sorry you're going through it.

Also, for what it's worth, I think what babies need most are relaxed parents not in constant pain or stress. Don't stick it out if it's affecting your emotional well being.
posted by Saminal at 5:12 PM on June 10, 2010

First, be sure that you do not have thrush. If you are experiencing deep breast pain this maybe the issue. I thought breastfeeding was supposed to be painful and when I got diagnosed and medicated for thrush the pain went away. Emergency thrush cures include using clotrimazole on your nipples, air drying and be sure to wipe before feeding the baby. Baby will need nystatin so you do not reinfect each other.

Second, you might consider a nipple shield - the Medela one worked for me to cut on the pain.

If your breasts are cracking then breast bump and bottle feed your tyke until YOU heal.

I feel for you.
posted by jadepearl at 5:15 PM on June 10, 2010

I second Blahlala's sentiments about it all. The thing I'd like to add is when my kiddo was wee and we were both learning the right way to breastfeed, my lactation consultant suggested we (baby & mom) spend an entire weekend together in the bed with lots of skin-to-skin contact. Wee one in a diaper, mom in undies and have snacks, magazines, movies at the interruptions! It was the BEST advice I received in terms of helping us get through the learning curve.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do. This is not an easy-breezy time; be good to yourself in every way you can.
posted by ms.jones at 5:21 PM on June 10, 2010

Oh, I'm so sorry it's so painful for you! With both my kids, the first month or 6 weeks was pretty rough and I spent a lot of time crying, but then it got much better. Kid 2 is only 7 months & I barely remember those days. Hang in there!

And I'm going to second the recommendations for Mylicon (for the gas) and an occasional bottle of formula or pumped milk to give your nipples a chance to heal.

There's a lot of good breastfeeding (and other) info in the forums at
posted by belladonna at 5:25 PM on June 10, 2010

You are at the worst part for everything, the breastfeeding pain, the screaming, the not knowing what's going on, the lack of sleep: the whole new baby thing. It's all completely at its worst for everyone around three to four weeks. Then, I swear, at five to six weeks it begins to get better. Are you using lanolin? It was the only thing that worked at all for me and my nipples hurt so bad I would cry. My ex used to say that the baby would end up baaaing like a sheep what with all the lanolin I used but my children are grown now and perfectly healthy despite the way I slathered that stuff on like it was going out of style. Just hang in there and I really, really think it will get better.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:53 PM on June 10, 2010

With my first, I was in excruciating pain during latching for 6 weeks (cracked and bleeding). And then one day it just got better. Liberal application of lanolin helped the healing process. With my second, it took 2-3 weeks to be pain-free. I breastfed both for about a year each, and it was definitely worth it for us. No more pain after that, and so much more convenient for our lifestyle than formula. Your mileage may vary; as always, do what's best for YOUR family!
posted by ellenaim at 7:12 PM on June 10, 2010

There is some really good advice from everyone here. The biggest thing: three weeks is a very short period of time. I know it probably feels like an eternity but really, he's only been part of the outside world for three weeks! Everything is new, for both of you. Stick it out, if you can, for three more weeks. If things aren't better, or at least heading to better, you can make changes. I remember wanting to quit nursing when my son was about the same age as yours is now. My husband was so supportive and encouraging and he bent over backward to make it easier for me to nurse, so I stuck it out. Really, it was almost magical how things clicked during the sixth or seventh week. And if it doesn't for you, that's okay, too! Honest!

As for the gas, I'd try making your diet as bland as possible for a few days to see if that helps. My son seemed to always have issues when I had broccoli or other cruciferous veg and my daughter had problems when I ate dairy.

Hang in there, you're not alone, and you will figure out what the best option is for your family.
posted by cooker girl at 8:28 PM on June 10, 2010

I bled every day that I breastfed for the first month despite all the cream I could carry. I had three different experts in, all of whom basically said, "yup, looks like everything's right! WOW that kid has a powerful suck!" I wish someone had mentioned in advance that sometimes breastfeeding can be terribly painful: It would have left me more mentally prepared.

What kept me going as long as I could was knowing, right down to my toenails, what an amazing gift mother's milk is to a little bean. It's what got me to sit on the bed and pull up my shirt, even though I knew what was coming.

Hopefully you'll join the legions of women who find it gets better. Or maybe God will cut you some slack and your milk will dry up at 3 months like mine did. Give it your best shot. You will be proud of yourself later for trying, and won't remember the pain like you do now.
posted by Ys at 8:30 PM on June 10, 2010

Is this normal?

More common than any of us thought before we gave birth, for sure!

Have you experienced this unfathomable pain?

Yes. Curling my toes, sweating profusely. Cracked, bleeding, raw for about 6 weeks, until I decided to pump on the heavily damaged side (it looked "eroded," in my mother's helpful phrase) and let the baby feed on the other side (he never needed the bottled milk; I had a lot of supply, too.) I also developed mastitis about 3 weeks in, with a 104-degree fever, from bacteria getting into the cracks in the nipple. It was horrible, by far the most challenging part of pregnancy/labor/delivery/early-weeks-with-baby.

What helped you?

Pumping on the very damaged nipple was helpful. I also had an unorthodox regimen, on the theory that cleanliness is always good for wounds, despite that lactation enthusiasts seem to believe that dried saliva and dried milk are the best medicine for nipple wounds: (1) Feed; (2) Wash breasts with Dove soap; (3) Put Neosporin on the cracked nipples; (4) Replace disposable nursing pads with fresh ones; (5) When baby needs to feed again, wash with soap before beginning, to remove the Neosporin, since they shouldn't eat it.

What with pumping, too, this regimen was time-consuming, but for me it worked to reverse damage and speed healing.

I also went to a great lactation consultant who helped me see why my nipples were being flattened by the nursing session -- my baby had a high palate, and was crushing the nipple against it. That was why it was never pain-free, even after latch, and also why I had deep shooting pains (which weren't thrush, in my case). This would change as his mouth grew bigger, she thought around 10 weeks. She was exactly right.

The other thing that helped me get through it was that there is very strong evidence for breastfeeding resulting in a reduced risk for a specific condition that my husband has, so I just felt like quitting wasn't an option. That's specific to my situation, though.

The good news: after pumping for a week or so, the nipple healed. I added back ONE feeding per 24-hour period the first week, then two the second week, then three, etc., until at about 10 weeks, all feedings were on the breast.

And after that ... I LOVE(D) NURSING. Breastfed my first for a year, my second for a little over a year, cried bitterly at each one's last feeding. I'm almost due with my third, and looking forward to nursing again. Once the pain is gone, it's just such a beautiful feeling, the warmth of ultimate caretaking mingled with physical closeness. Like love is flowing out of me and into the baby.

And it's so wonderfully convenient and easy -- I hated the bottles and washing almost as much as the pain, when I was pumping on the injured nipple.

But I would never deny that it was serious pain, for several weeks. So... no advice here as to what you should do. Just what worked for me, and how happy I personally have been, in two full years of nursing, to have pushed through and gotten to where it's good.
posted by palliser at 9:16 PM on June 10, 2010

For any pregnant people reading this thread - not everyone has such a hard time of it. I have had 0 problems breastfeeding for 19 months. No thrush, no mastitis, no cracks, no bleeding, no soreness. This all really varies by individual.
posted by k8t at 9:23 PM on June 10, 2010

My daughter is now 4 months old, and I keep meaning to take some notes about the first several weeks of breastfeeding and what I learned. Most of this has already been covered, but here we go anyway.
1. We also had some barracuda latching going on and I wish I could go back and tell myself that it was ok to use a nipple shield. My pediatrician gave me one and the first time I used it was such a huge relief, but all of the militant breastfeeding information told me that shields would negatively affect my supply, so I threw it out. In retrospect, the pain and immense stress of breastfeeding probably didn't do my supply any favors. With the next baby, I'll definitely alternate feedings using a shield until I build up nipples of steel.
2. As others have suggested, you can't use too much lanolin. Just keep in mind that it leaves huge oil stains on clothing, but you're probably not wearing too many silk blouses these days anyway.
3. The itching and pain could indicate thrush. I had horrible thrush, but because there weren't any white spots in my daughter's mouth and I didn't have any deep breast pain, it took a while to diagnose. I finally went on diflucan, and knew it was thrush because the pain subsided a couple of days after starting the medication . . . then it recurred. I cut out all sugar and most carbs, changed bras at least twice a day, air-dryed my nipples constantly, washed all of our clothes in hot water, and took the "pearl" probiotic. Any or none of those things could have been the silver bullet, but what matters most is that it's gone. For now.
4. The barracuda latch slowly let up and by the time she was 2 months, I was calling the lactation consultant because it was so loose that I was concerned she wasn't actually eating. My daughter always seemed to be starving in those early days, but as she gained weight, she became a more relaxed eater. At 4 months, feedings are some of the best times of my day.
5. No one's experience will be exactly like yours. I found it frustrating to hear that things like "it got better for me at 'x' weeks while I was at 'x+2' weeks and it still sucked. In my brief experience, I can say that overall daily life has gotten easier, but as soon as I think I've figured something out, it changes. It's both frustrating and comforting since it means that what's difficult this week will be a distant memory next week as you both move on to something new.

As for the squirming and crying, we went through it at that age, and while it certainly looks painful, I'm not sure it is related to pain. Your baby is adjusting to life outside of the womb and is being bombarded with sensory stimuli. Gas is often blamed for the crying, but who knows? I changed every component of my diet thinking she had some sort of food intolerance, and while she did become less fussy, in retrospect I doubt it had anything to do with my dietary changes. My baby is still farting up a storm, but doesn't seem at all fazed by it. The Miracle Blanket and the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (who has time to read?) gave us some hope in the early days. My daughter was also happiest when napping on my chest. The grandparents all warned me that I was spoiling her and would regret it, but it didn't happen and she sleeps alone just fine now.

Big hugs! A lot of people told me that it would be hard, but I didn't realize how hard. They also told me that it would be wonderful, but I didn't realize just how wonderful. Best wishes!
posted by defreckled at 9:27 PM on June 10, 2010

I'm seconding the thrush/oversupply thing. Oversupply can feed into thrush because your milk can be everpresent and such a lovely breeding ground.

I had low supply at first, and pain with both boobs, until baby anachronism got bigger and from six weeks on I had oversupply issues and no pain in my left boob. I had pain in my right until around 5 and a half months. At the beginning it was toe curling but it got less and less until nothing on the left. On the right it was painful for a lot longer but the pain wasn't awful and eventually at 5 and a half months it was consistently painless.

Have you learnt to feed while laying down? That was my go to - it was the only time I could get a painfree latch for a long time and it was the least pain with my right (so that weekend in bed shirtless is a GREAT idea). Lanolin was good too. I used a nipple shield the first few weeks as well. It didn't work fantastically for me (tiny tiny tiny nipples) but it offered enough protection that we could get some healing on the nipples without further screwing up the latch with bottles (she had bottles from birth and they don't offer any feedback on latch). They offered a bigger nipple for her to latch to as well. I stopped using it when she stopped latching with it on. My mother had massive oversupply and overactive letdown so would feed us laying on her back (and still manage to spray the ceiling sometimes) - we were still chuckers and refluxy from that overactive letdown.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:56 PM on June 10, 2010

I feel your pain. Or rather, I did! I had a terrible time with baby#1, breastfeeding was so painful it made me cry for a while. I don't remember how many weeks were like this - mommy brain erases this information in order to trick us into doing it again ;) but probably 6 weeks? If your son is on the smaller side of average, it may just be that he can't latch deep enough yet, or there might be a palette issue, or something else that I don't know about. The gassiness and screaming would make me want to check for a dairy intolerance or reflux, so talk to your pediatrician.

Definitely try and get hold of some all-purpose nipple ointment, you will need a prescription, but it will help the healing a lot. Take some painkillers. Try another lactation consultant. Find a support group. Pump a bit to give your boobs a break, but don't supplement with formula instead, that way leads to diminishing supply. I had to exclusively pump for the first month (he was physically too small to get the nipple in his mouth), then work on transitioning him from the bottle to boob, which is where all the pain came in. A nipple shield helped me too, and those medela shells which stop your clothing from touching your nipples.
posted by Joh at 10:57 PM on June 10, 2010

I have been through the green poop and squirminess/crying. My 9 month old had a problem with that for a while when she was about that age. I started pumping for a couple of minutes before I fed her, then fed her only on one side at a time to make sure that breast was completely emptied out and she got all the hind milk. It worked like a charm. She started acting satisfied after nursing, the poop turned back to a lovely mustard-yellow, and she started settling in for one extended nursing session rather than a bunch of latching on, pulling off, fussing and starting over - which gave my nipples a chance to recover. After a week or so of pumping first, my supply adjusted and we haven't had any problems since.

Also - I know you said your nipples aren't chapped any more, but I'll throw this out there anyway. The absolute best solution for sore nipples: hand-express a couple of drops of milk and smear them around on the nipple and areola. Let them air dry. I tried a number of creams and soothing pads, and that is the only thing that worked every time for me (four babies).
posted by Dojie at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2010

It’s been 8 years and I still remember the pain like it was yesterday. Although the cracking and bleeding stopped after a few weeks for me the pain never did, especially during let down. Combined with low production I stopped at 4 months. My daughter was like a new baby on formula, happy and satisfied.

Two things: you have done your best and breast fed the first few weeks, and while expert advice is a great idea don’t let anyone tell you what to do. I had a lot of lactation “experts” telling me do this, do that, but don't forget to trust your instincts. I know it’s hard right now with lack of sleep and hormones, but if your body is telling you it just can’t be done right now then give yourself a break. It can be a horrible time if you’re not taking care of yourself and I’m angry to this day no professional told me this.
posted by greensalsa at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow - thank you everyone for your response!

I saw another lactation consultant today and was given a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment so I'm using that right now. Even with a good latch my son still likes to clamp down on my nipple. She had him suck on her finger to see if he was doing anything funky with his tongue but she said he is sucking as he should be. So, it does seem that he is trying to slow down my overactive letdown. I am now trying to recline when I nurse him and will also try to take him off the breast when letdown begins so he's not getting shot with milk. I have a follow up appointment on Tuesday to see how things are going with these changes. A nipple shield may also be in my future but I only want to introduce that as a last resort.

I really am committed to breastfeeding my son and don't feel ready to give up - after all, I made it through the first days of extreme pain and bleeding. However, if it gets to a point where things just do not get better at all then I will not hesitate to exclusively pump or switch to formula. My baby needs a happy mama who is not in pain, I do know this. Reading what everyone has to say I feel like maybe I'm just about to that point where the pain stops and I will begin to enjoy nursing. I don't want to give up right now if I really am almost there!

The good news is that my son is gaining weight and getting all the milk he needs from me. That makes it very motivating for me to continue. Hopefully soon I will be able to update this with the great news of me being pain free and enjoying breastfeeding! If it does go the other way then at least I know that I gave it my best shot.
posted by lilgoyl at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2010

Just another person to say that breastfeeding really does turn the corner at 4 weeks (assuming he was born full term), and the whole enjoying-the-baby thing gets way more fun at 12 weeks.

You're doing good, mama!
posted by MeiraV at 7:36 AM on June 12, 2010

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