Welcoming a new baby is an exciting journey, often centered around the idealized vision of motherhood. For many mothers, breastfeeding is a cherished goal, often involving the practice of pumping. While pumping is an excellent way to provide your baby with essential nutrients, it can be challenging, especially during the first postpartum month. Sore nipples and breast pain are common, leaving many mothers feeling tender and uncomfortable for extended periods. Some even consider giving up expressing milk due to the intensity of the discomfort. If you're experiencing discomfort while pumping, know that you're not alone.
We've put together some valuable tips to help reduce soreness and make this beautiful experience more enjoyable.
Is Pain During Pumping Normal
As a mother, your body goes through significant changes. While creating and expressing milk is a natural process, it's not always pain-free. Every woman's experience is different, and there's a wide range o feelings associated with pumping. For some, it's slightly uncomfortable, with a tingling sensation, while others may find it relieving. Generally, during the first pumping sessions, you might experience mild discomfort, especially in the first ten to fifteen seconds. This discomfort occurs as the pump stretches your nipples, allowing collagen fibers to release milk. It can also leave your nipples feeling sore and tender afterwards.
While this aching is normal, sharp, shooting pain is not and may indicate other issues such as a plugged duct, engorgement, or mastitis.
A Plugged Duct
If you were to look inside your breast, you would see multiple milk glands that resemble a bunch of grapes. When a small plug is formed inside the strands connecting the ducts to the nipple, it can cause a blockage for the milk, which leads to swelling. A plugged duct can happen for a few reasons, including stress and not expelling your milk regularly. A blocked duct can produce one or multiple lumps of varying sizes, anywhere from pea-sized to three inches. Additionally, plugged ducts can form due to mastitis or engorgement.
When you're breasts are full of milk, they can become painful. This condition is called engorgement, and it can happen before any feeding, especially in the first few weeks post-partum. Engorgement is entirely natural and generally clears up once you pump or breastfeed your little one; however, it can sometimes lead to plugged ducts or mastitis.
If you've talked with breastfeeding or pumping mothers, you've probably heard about mastitis. It strikes fear in women everywhere due to the pain and discomfort it causes. Mastitis is an inflammatory condition that blocks the milk ducts and can lead to extreme pain and flu-like conditions. It presents itself in two ways:
- Non-infective mastitis - When dead skin cells and debris clog milk ducts.
- Infective mastitis- When bacteria from the surrounding skin or saliva enter the breast tissue through the milk ducts or skin cracks.
While it won't harm your baby, mastitis can be very painful and make pumping and breastfeeding a challenge. If you experience intense pain while pumping, you should notify your doctor.
Tips on Avoiding Pain While Pumping
Pumping shouldn't be a painful experience. Here are some tips to make it more comfortable and enjoyable:
Massage Your Breasts
Prepping your breasts for pumping can help improve milk production and make expressing it easier. Before pumping, place a warm, damp compress on your breasts to boost circulation and improve letdowns. The heat can also open your milk ducts, preventing them from becoming plugged. With your fingertips or a lactation massager, lightly begin massaging your breasts from the top down, including your nipples. Using a circular motion, press gently, going counterclockwise and clockwise across the entire breast. Spending a few minutes massaging your chest before pumping can greatly reduce discomfort and increase your milk supply.
Ensure You're Using the Pump Correctly
When selecting a breast pump, choosing a model with a high-quality flange is essential. If your flange doesn't fit correctly, it can cause a reduction in milk production, soreness, and even injuries. The right breast pump, whether electric or manually operated, will make the pumping process easier and more enjoyable.
To avoid pain while pumping, follow these steps:
- Follow your pump's guidelines.
- Ensure the pump is clean and sanitized before use.
- To begin pumping, lean forward and place your nipple in the funnel, centered within the flanges.
- Begin at a slow speed with a low suction. Starting with a higher intensity can cause irritation and soreness. Slower speeds better simulate your baby's natural sucking motion.
- Let the pump run for five to seven minutes. You may not express milk during this time; that's normal. This pre-pump encourages letdown, which occurs once the milk begins flowing.
- Begin pumping again. Once complete, store the milk in a cool location until the next feeding.
- One mistake women make while pumping is stopping too soon. It may seem like common sense to disconnect your pump once your milk stops flowing, but doing so can decrease your milk supply. After the milk stops, continuing to pump for fifteen minutes will stimulate the milk ducts to produce enough milk to replace the emptied breast.
Don't Forget the Nipple Cream
Pumping can leave your nipples sore and dry, causing them to itch, crack, and bleed. You should avoid pumping if you observe cracking or chaffing on your nipples, as it can worsen the problem and cause pain. Using a high-quality nipple cream to keep them moisturized and comfortable effectively protects delicate nipples over time.
Soak in Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is an underrated homeopathic remedy that really does work. It's considered safe for breastfeeding and can reduce discomfort from pumping. While effective, you should avoid bathing if you are within your first six weeks post-partum.
Utilize Heating Pads and Ice Packs
Heating pads are a great way to encourage letdown while pumping. They can also relieve the painful symptoms associated with plugged ducts, engorgement, and mastitis. If you are experiencing swelling, an ice pack can reduce inflammation and comfort sore nipples.
You don't have to endure pain while pumping. You can experience relief using these tips. At Momcozy, we are proud to provide a wide selection of quality breast pumps, nursing bras, and accessories. We have everything you need to bring joy to breastfeeding. Take control of your motherhood journey with Momcozy.