Breastfeeding is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Just as your baby is unique, you are also unique. Your breasts are not exactly the same as your neighbor's breasts. Some women give up on breast feeding not because they want to but because they do not want to be in pain. Without a lactation consultant to help them, they do not realize that the pain is abnormal and correctable.
When Poet was first born I had no idea how to get him to latch correctly. I assumed that nature would just take over and nature stuck her tongue out at me. If it wasn't for the lactatioin consultant at the hospital I doubt I'd have been successful in breast feeding. She walked me through almost a dozen holds and taught me exactly what to look for to insure a good latch. I will always be grateful for her help.
Getting a good latch is a learned skill that both mom and baby need to master together. If you are in pain or your baby is not getting sufficient milk then it's likely that the latch is to blame. A lactation consultant can help fix a latching problem or diagnose a greater issue.
Lip Tie and Tongue Tie
Lip tie occurs when the labial frenulum (a piece of skin under the baby's lip) is tied in too tightly to the baby's gum and is short and thick. Tongue tie occurs when the lingual frenulum (the thin piece of skin under the tongue) is too short and restricts the tongue's movements.
Either of these problems can cause latching issues and should be addressed with a doctor. If either of these conditions is present and causing breastfeeding issues, the skin will be snipped to allow freer movement. There are many doctors who do not look for tongue tie and a lactation consultant will likely be better able to diagnose this condition.
The relief, if this is the problem, should be immediate after correction.
If your nipples are itchy, red, burning, or cracked you might have thrush. You might also have thrush if you are having intense pain that shoots through your breasts. Thrush is a yeast infection that can be passed to you from a breastfeeding child. Being sure to steralize anything your baby uses (like bottles or pacfiers) and washing your hands after diaper changes (yeast rashes can happen) will cut back on this occuring. However, if you do get thrush, you can still breast feed.
Your provider will give you medication to help with the rash and while breastfeeding will be more uncomfortable until you heal, you can still breastfeed. You cannot, however, freeze your milk so do not pump more than you can use (or dump the extra).
Plugged Ducts and Mastitis
If just one breast is very sore, you might have a blockage in your breast. Plugged ducts and mastitis can happen for many reasons including bad latch, not emptying breast, infrequent feeding, nursing strike, skipped feedings, supplimentation, pressure on the area, or a host of other issues. Hot compresses and massage before nursing can help to loosen the blockage. Breast feeding and frequent pumping will also help. However, if you begin to run a fever please call your doctor.
It's no walk in the park if you have a nursing problem. Most of these, however, are easily solved with the help of a lactation consultant. Educating yourself about breast feeding is the first step in being successful.
No one should expect you to navigate this all by yourself. After all, you didn't get pregnant on your own or go through the pregnancy without the help of medical professionals. Help and support should not end just because you managed to give birth. Giving birth is a step in your journey, not the end of it.