They Lied. Breastfeeding Really Does Hurt.

The first few months of my son Joshua's life were a bit of a blur. And, if I'm honest, a bit of a nightmare.

He had bad reflux, was colicky most of the time and was very sensitive to everything. I had extreme anxiety and postpartum depression. And to top it off, breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful. I liked to compare it to being
stabbed by a hundred needles every time he ate. Do I sound like I'm joking? I really wish I was.

Not only did I have to learn to breastfeed (because as much as it is "natural", it isn't always easy to do), but I had to work with a baby who cried on and off during feeds and went, well, berserk most of the time during feeds regardless of what I tried to do. Feeding in a calm environment, feeding when he wasn't too hungry, feeding when he was somewhat sleepy, feeding with a shield (and the list goes on)--nothing seemed to help.

I saw a few different lactation consultants after he was born that said everything looked fine (with me, with baby's latch), but the pain was still there--really there!! To be fair, my latch wasn't always perfect. My son was so fussy that when he finally stopped crying and started to eat, at times I didn't have the energy and, well, courage, to unlatch a bad latch and try again. That would mean several more minutes of crying (possibly from both of us!) before I was able to get another latch--another latch that might also need some adjusting.

It was totally exhausting those first few months (yes, for over three months!), emotionally and physically. I had anxiety and even fear before feeds because it was so painful and so stressful. I felt like giving up all the time. It might have been better for me emotionally if I had given up but I was a bit too determined to do so. Plus, not only did I really want to breastfeeding {eventually pain free} but I was worried that the guilt I would experience over quitting would outweigh the benefit I would get from no longer having to deal with the stress of breastfeeding.

When my second child, Jacob, was born, I had just as much pain the first time I breastfed him as I did with my son Joshua. The hour following that first feed I think I may have had a bit of an anxiety attack. All I could think was "Not again. I cannot possibly do this again!" Something magical happened after that first hour though. I felt a sudden calm come over me and I suddenly had a bucket full of courage. I felt ready to head breastfeeding on. I knew it would hurt, but I had an impression it wouldn't be as bad as before. It ended up not being as bad as it was before, but it did hurt pretty dang bad for a few weeks. But I'll take a few weeks over three months any day.

Now here I am today, 7 weeks into breastfeeding Stella. And guess what. It started off hurting just as bad this time as it did with my last two, possibly more (I know, I was hoping for a miracle too!). I even had to do my labor breathing to make it through breastfeeding the first while--it was that or break out into tears! But I found myself calmer from the start with all this pain. After going through it twice and knowing it gets better,  I just gritted my teeth and figured "let's get this hard part over and done with".

Now that you've heard me blabber, let me get to my point. Breastfeeding can really, really hurt! Yes, some people don't experience pain, but most I talk to do. There's this myth out there that breastfeeding doesn't hurt. ERRRRR. Wrong! As a new mom starting to breastfeed, it's misleading to  believe that you will have this happily ever after moment breastfeeding your brand new baby only to find out that it is far from enjoyable. It can leave a mom feeling insecure (something I still deal with in regards to breastfeeding a newborn) and discouraged. I'm not sure where this "no pain" idea came from. Maybe some people were trying not to scare potential breastfeeders away, maybe they forgot they ever experienced pain, or maybe they were some of the few that had perfect feeding babies and bullet proof nipples from the first feed. I don't know. But whatever the case, having unrealistic expectations can make breastfeeding start off full of BAD surprises and leave a mother feeling very discouraged.

So, will breastfeeding hurt? Most likely, yes. Will it absolutely kill? Maybe, maybe not. Will the pain get better? Thankfully, the answer is YES--most people feel little if no pain after a few weeks.

As I mentioned with my son Joshua, breastfeeding pain can be due to several issues, a bad latch being one of them. I always recommend talking to a lactation consultant if you are having any issues. I also recommend a good book on breastfeeding (I really liked this one), the brest friend nursing pillow and lanolin or, my favorite, newsman's ointment (a prescription you get filled at a compounding pharmacy). While I certainly think it's a good idea to try for several weeks before giving up (because it gets SO much easier--I even ended up liking it!), you have to weight out your situation to see what is best for you and your baby.

What has your breastfeeding experience been like in regards to pain? I didn't really get into the causes and solutions of breastfeeding pain, but feel free to share any in the comments below.


  1. I have a 9 week old, and I've had very little pain with breastfeeding. When my son first latches on there is a slight twinge that immediately goes away. And then breastfeeding feels pretty good.

  2. It did take several weeks to get a rhythm with breastfeeding, however. My son at first would only latch on with a nipple shield. After surrendering to this and letting him do his thing for several weeks, he started to latch on without a shield and with just a little prompting. My milk flow increased with this change, and his weight gain, a little slow at first, increased. I use Natural Nipple Butter from earth mama angel baby a couple times a day to keep away cracks or soreness.

  3. 4 months of pain with my DS! Nipple shields, SNS feeders, many lactation consultant appointments.... in the end it was him. He had a severely recessed chin that made it so painful. It just need time to catch up to the rest of his body.

  4. I don't think i had a pain free feed until my baby was about 9 or 10 weeks old. I had pain that could last for hours after each feed. I'd seen a lactation consultant, went to a follow up drop in group 3 times and to the doctors twice. Eventually the lactation consultant thought it was vasospasm so i mentioned it to the GP and they prescribed medication. I was reluctant to take it because of any effects on the milk but I took it for 2 weeks and since then have had no pain following feeds. I don't think i was positioning the baby right either but that was sorted out at the group and with the consultant but it was hard work and was not something I got right from the start. I also was determined to persevere but I remember the pain was terrible; i'd be walking down the street and feel in agony.

    1. I'm glad you got the vasospasm issue figured out BI. It's amazing how tough it can be to get breastfeeding going well, huh! I'm glad you were able to end up pain free!


  5. Nursing DD was painful (I was crying at every session!) for the first six weeks until we trained her tongue to "hug" the nipple correctly. DS has been slightly painful and just realized he had a tongue and lip tie (type 3)... just had it water-lased so hoping to help correct the issues early on.

  6. Thank you for saying this Rachel! Everything I've read until now has insisted that breastfeeding is painless when done correctly, but I definitely had pain throughout every feed for the first few weeks and assumed I must be doing something wrong. Five weeks in now there is no pain at all. It's reassuring to know that the pain is not unusual!