When Does Latch On Pain Go Away?

If you experience discomfort when baby is latching during the first couple weeks of breastfeeding, you’re NOT alone!

Studies show that a majority of new moms (as many as 90%) experience some level of nipple pain in the beginning.

It’s no wonder... both you + your baby are learning a new skill!

(there’s definitely an adjustment period while you two learn the ropes)

So the big question still remains: When will latch on pain go away?

To answer this we need to know one thing….

How intense is the pain?

Minor latch discomfort usually resolves itself, but EXTREME pain requires troubleshooting and possibly assistance from a professional if it’s ever going to get better.

 
When does latch on pain go away during breastfeeding?
 

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Ask yourself this question: On a scale of 0-10, how much does the latch hurt?

0 = pain free

10 = toe-curling/wanting to scream/can’t-take-it-any-longer/bloody nipples

Normal discomfort is 0-4 on the scale.

Abnormal pain is 5-10 on the scale.


NORMAL DISCOMFORT

Latch pain will most likely go away with within a couple weeks.

Some nipple soreness can be expected (and is perfectly normal) in the beginning of feedings for the first couple weeks postpartum.

It’s not even actual pain, but more a soreness (or a sensitivity) of the nipples and usually doesn’t indicate a problem.

This type of latch discomfort usually peaks around the third day after birth.

Within a week or two postpartum, nipple sensitivity should be completely gone and breastfeeding should feel like a slight tug at the nipple and nothing more.

The following is all normal:

  • Discomfort that lasts no more than 30 seconds into the feeding

  • It doesn’t continue through the entire feeding

  • No pain between feedings.

  • No skin damage (cracks, blisters, or bleeding of the nipples)

  • Your nipples should look the same before and immediately after the feeding (not flattened, creased or pinched)

Essentially normal postpartum nipple discomfort during breastfeeding should not be severe, should be tolerable, should not last throughout the whole feeding session, and be gone within a couple weeks.


Abnormal Pain

You need to fix the underlying problem before things will improve.

Latching that extremely hurts is absolutely NOT normal and indicates that a change is needed. Troubleshoot your latching and positioning right away and reach out to skilled lactation help if it doesn’t get better.

The following are all abnormal latching experiences postpartum:

  • Tenderness that doesn’t go away after 30 seconds of a feeding

  • Toe-curling pain

  • Pinching

  • Pain between feedings

  • Sensitivity that lasts beyond the first couple weeks

  • Skin damage (cracks, blisters, or bleeding of the nipples)

  • The shape of your nipple changes after a feeding (kind of looks like the tip of lipstick)


PRO-TIP: If someone tells you, “The latch looks great!” but you’re hurting and in excruciating pain (or it simply doesn’t feel right), don’t listen to them and go find the skilled lactation help you need!

The GOOD news is that there’s almost always something that can be done to address the problem and alleviate the pain!


Troubleshooting Latch On Pain:

Often a simple change in position or technique can help your baby latch on more deeply and more comfortably.

Switch to a different position.

Adjust your baby’s position to help them get a more comfortable latch. Make sure your baby’s stomach is facing your stomach. (tummy-to-tummy) Our favorite position is “laid-back breastfeeding” because it’s easy, comfortable, and naturally encourages a deeper latch for baby.

Change your technique.

A good latch starts with the baby’s mouth open wide (like a hungry bird). Encourage baby to get at least an inch of breast tissue in their mouth to get a deeper latch.

If you feel your baby didn’t latch on well, gently break the suction by placing a finger in the side of the baby’s mouth. You can then switch things up and try again.

Related latching articles:

How to fix a shallow latch

9 breastfeeding latch tricks from IBCLCs

Pain relief for latch on pain

  • Use a lanolin-based breast cream on your nipples between breastfeeding sessions.

 
 
  • If your nipples are cracked, leave a bit of breast milk on them after a feeding session (your milk can help them heal faster because of antimicrobial properties).

  • Let your nipples air dry.

  • Use warm, moist heat in between feeding sessions. Put a washcloth under warm water, squeeze out the extra water and place it directly over your nipple for relief.

  • Use hydrogel pads. They create a soothing barrier for sore nipples. These provide relief from material rubbing against your nipples while they heal.

 
 


Where to get help if you need it…

There are solutions to every cause of latching pain but the trick is to reach out to experienced help to find the solution!

Reach out to a lactation consultant. The best ones are IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants). We call them the “dairy fairies” because they’re the most knowledgeable and trained when it comes to troubleshooting breastfeeding issues!

A good IBCLC can help you diagnose the root cause of the latch on pain and find a solution.

Find an IBCLC near you here.