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Among women who wean in the first three months, 33 percent do so because of nipple and breast pain. Cracked nipples, bleeding, blisters and bruises are all signs that something is wrong—usually related to the baby’s latch and/or positioning.
“Breast pain is misunderstood,” says Ann Witt, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., a breastfeeding medicine practitioner at Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio in Cleveland. “Many women are prescribed antibiotics or anti-fungal medication even though they don’t have a bacterial infection.”
Get evaluated immediately by a pro. There are a lot of different causes of breast pain but most can be traced to an incorrect latch. A lactation consultant can teach you and your baby the best positions for pain-free nursing. “It’s easier to correct early on,” says Witt. “The majority of breast pain issues are manageable and most women can continue to breastfeed.”
Don’t jump to antibiotics first. Signs of a breast infection (aka mastitis) include red, tender or swollen breasts, fever and tenderness in the armpit area. If you have cracked nipples and are not running a fever, it’s likely a latch problem, not an infection. To get the right diagnosis, see a practitioner who is breastfeeding- friendly and knowledgeable. Visit the site of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ilca.org) to find one near you.
Allow your breasts to heal. Pumping instead of nursing for a few days may be uncomfortable, but it won’t be painful and it will buy you time to recover. once healed, you can put your baby right back on the breast—with the correct latch, natch.