Doctors, midwives and health visitors have an obsession with telling breastfeeding mothers that “if it hurts, then your baby isn’t latched on correctly”. For first time breastfeeders, this is quite often true. This is sometimes even true for mothers who have done it before, but sometimes, there are medical reasons for why breastfeeding hurts. It seems though, no matter what the reason, health professionals will always tell you it’s the latch that is wrong. It is so important to stand your ground if you feel they are giving you the wrong diagnosis. Health Visitors don’t have much training. Book a same-day (sometimes referred to as an emergency) appointment with your doctor (not nurse). They know more about breastfeeding complications and can get you the right treatment straight away.
I breastfed my oldest daughter and I tandem breastfed my twins. I know the difference between a good latch and a bad latch. I know how breast pain from a bad latch feels. I have been breastfeeding Baby Bear for 26 weeks and have so far overcome 3 different problems which caused pain during breastfeeding. Every one of those times, the doctors, health visitors and midwives tried to convince me that my baby wasn’t latching on properly. I told them all, every time, that my baby was in fact getting a good latch.
I invited midwives and health visitors to come over and watch me breastfeed. I sent photos of my baby latched onto my boob to friends who were breastfeeding peer supporters and family and friends who have breastfed before. They all agreed that my baby had a good latch. Yet the midwives and health visitors still couldn’t come up with another cause for my breast pain. They instead said, “well this is a perfect latch, but perhaps sometimes it’s not always this good?”. I was despairing at them because they couldn’t come up with alternative reasons. It was a lazy guess from all the health professionals. So I had to set about self-diagnosis instead and I hit Google.
The first time I was struggling with breast pain, was when Baby Bear was just 2 days old. I was in tears. I was sobbing to my boyfriend that my latch was perfect but it still hurt, but I must be doing it wrong (because that’s how health professionals like to make you feel). I asked my midwife to check him for tongue-tie but she confirmed that he did not have tongue tie.
So why were my breasts hurting?
Quite simply, my milk was coming in full force. With my other three children, my milk didn’t come in until day 4 or 5 after giving birth. This time, my milk came in very quickly, the day after my baby was born. The pain and engorgement lasted about 5 days, and then it calmed down and breastfeeding went beautifully for a few weeks.
The second time I was suffering with excruciating pain, dry cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, pink and red sore patches, similtaneous burning and itching sensations. Again the health professionals insisted I had a bad latch – until I ended up at the out of hours doctors in tears, with a self diagnosis of nipple thrush. I was right. And Baby Bear had oral thrush. And we were passing it back and forth between the two of us. After 3 days of treatment with a prescribed cream for me and medicine for Baby Bear, we were back to a harmonious breastfeeding experience.
Roll on to number 3 on my list of breastfeeding complications…
My left boob was hard and lumpy, it was hot to touch and it hurt like hell when I latched Baby Bear on. My right boob felt absolutely fine. Again the health visitor said, “you must be getting bad latch. you must be doing something wrong”. I was in absolute agony. So much so, that I bought nipple shields… but it still hurt like hell to nurse. A few days later, after having Googled again, I called the doctors and said, “I think I have Mastitis”. They told me to come in, I was thoroughly checked over and my doctor told me that I did indeed have Mastitis and I needed treatment with antibiotics. In fact my Mastitis had gotten so bad, (because I’d been fobbed off with the bad latch diagnosis yet again), that he was concerned I might need to go to hospital to have a lump drained. The lump was caused by the Mastitis being left untreated. I followed all of the doctors advice and took the tablets and thankfully, within a week, I was back to normal.
I can’t tell you how deflating it is as a mother when health “professionals” are constantly telling you that you are feeding your baby wrong. I imagine many worried mums probably give up breastfeeding because they are hearing this, instead of getting the support and the diagnosis they need.
Below is some links and advice to help mothers who are experiencing breastfeeding complications:
If it IS a latch problem…
Breastfeeding support groups, peer supporters and midwives can give you good advice on how to get the perfect latch. There are also lots of images on Google and even some videos on YouTube which explain how to get the perfect latch. The NHS has a page with very helpful pictures and description on how to get a good breastfeeding latch. If your baby has a bad latch, take them off and put them back on. Keep doing this until they are on correctly or you will make the issue worse. Between feeds you can use nipple creams to help heal the nipples. If the problem reaches the point that feeding is unbearable, you can use nipple shields whilst you heal, but it’s still important that you persevere with finding the right latch. This process can be exhausting and get you down, but if you are someone who passionately wants to continue with breastfeeding, trust me… it get’s easier.
If like me, you are confident that it’s not the latch which is causing you pain, there could be other breastfeeding complications. Please find here some links which helped me and might help you:
Here’s a link to the NHS information on Mastitis.
Here’s a link to the NHS information on Tongue Tie.
Here’s a link to the NHS information on Nipple Thrush
One last thing I would say is, if you can, keep feeding through the pain until you have a diagnosis, so that your milk supply isn’t affected. Particularly with Mastitis, as feeding can help unblock the milk ducts. The doctor will also tell you to feed through it and should give you antibiotics which are safe for breastfeeding.