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Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Breastfeeding, Life | 20 comments

Exquisite pain on latching

Exquisite pain on latching

Little Woman was 12 days old today. I had really hoped at this stage to be reporting that we’re flying along with the breastfeeding and its fully established and those dark days of figuring it out are behind us. Not so I’m afraid. Despite all my preparation and reading and watching of videos, I’m still encountering problems. Not in comparison to the problems I experienced first time around it has to be said, but enough to still bring tears to my eyes at the start of a feed!

Today I read a post from the Pregnant Chicken blog (a blog which is an absolute must-read for anyone contemplating procreation!), called “Breastfeeding – My Little Slice of Hell“. In it, she describes how she phoned up Public Health for advice, only to be told “No, it shouldn’t hurt but you should expect an exquisite pain.” Exquisite pain eh?

Well when it comes to latching on, exquisite pain is kinda where I’m at right now. And ironically, it’s partly because Little Woman has been feeding so well. She drinks a full feed in under ten minutes usually, and then has a lovely long sleep. Last night she slept from midnight until 3.30am, woke for a feed, and then slept from 4am until 9am! I kid you not. The problem with this is that it left me engorged. I tried expressing off some milk before feeding her, but latching was still difficult, and then the flow of milk choked her when she did eventually latch, so we had to start over. And for each feed, it’s that initial 10-20 seconds of latching that is “exquisite” so to speak. Eye-watering, toe-curling, deep-breathing, ouch…

I’m trying to take it one feed at a time, but there’s a little voice in the back of my mind that keeps reminding me that the pain lasted a long long time with Little Man. Earlier today I found myself thinking that my stitches don’t hurt anymore, and so if I wasn’t breastfeeding nothing would hurt. The temptation.

Thankfully I am not alone and I have lots of people to call on for support. Family at home to remind me how well I’m doing. Other women in local and online breastfeeding groups who have been here before and come out the other side. Friends who can remind me “This too shall pass.” Or make me laugh by telling me how they got through. One of my friends told me she christened this the “Tourette’s tits” phase thanks to the swearing at latch on. I like it! Certainly rings true for me right now.

Tomorrow is a new day. We have our two week checkup, so I plan to ask the nurse’s advice on my latching method to see what I can improve. And I plan to ask the doctor for a prescription for APNO, which is Dr Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment. Apparently it’s a wonder cure when it comes to healing cracks. I certainly hope so!

And in the meantime, I’ve got my mantra ringing in my head,”This too shall pass…”


  1. Yes! Exquisite is exactly the word for it. I used to describe it as the thinnest possible needle piercing right through the centre of my nipple.
    Hang in there.
    Christine recently posted..Boom! SpringMy Profile

    • Thanks Christine! If I can do drug free labours, I can do a little bit of exquisite pain right?! 😉

  2. Exquisite pain is quite the term. I cringed while reading this post – remembering and imagining. Although we didn’t have latch problems the first time around, the nursing was definitely a trial for the first month or so. The good news was that with everything being so overwhelming in general, all I could really focus on was one day at a time. Maybe that’s what gets you through in the end. That and great family and friends (and the occasional weep and more yhan the occasional snuggle). Hope tomorrow’s appointment offers some advice/help/relief!

    • I think I found it easier to focus on one day at a time last time for some reason Tammy. This time, the fact that I know how much better things are going to get is making me impatient to get to that point already, if that makes sense! And I do feel bad for complaining when everything else is going so well. 🙂

      Hope you’re feeling well. Xxx

      • I think complaining over exquisite pain is very justified. 🙂 I hope things improve soon. Sending lots of happy nipple thoughts your way. 🙂

  3. I know that this might not be very popular but I found once I ditched the lanolin it became easier. With both the boys, their mouth slid & slipped on the lanolin which made the latch slightly off, even though they fed well. Which resulted in cracks and more pain. I started cleaning the lanolin off extremely well before feeds to see how it improved the feed & latch, then found that the pain decreased in just 1 day. At that point I sopped using it altogether. Worth a try to wipe it off completely before feeding though. You’ll get there. The first while is worst.
    Caítríona recently posted..Cookbook AddictionMy Profile

  4. Plese please please get yourself to a bf support group! Just because you’ve read books and watched videos doesn’t mean you’re not hoing to benefit from another opinion or point of view. Toe curling pain is not normal. Please get another opinion

    • Don’t worry Karen. I agree with you that this can’t be normal. I’m asking for help today, and I’ve been calling on all my friends from the local BF group for advice. (I should add that I totally agree about the importance of finding a good support group – the local group got me through so much last time around. )

  5. You’ll get through it! I suffered two bouts of mastitis (OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH) and that initial latch-on pain was hell. Just remember all the benefits, how well Little Woman is doing and all the cash you’re saving not buying formula!

    • Thanks Sara. Hopefully we’ll get there soon.

  6. Hi Lisa, love your blog! I used to describe and justify the pain by comparing it to learning a new instrument. I had never used my boobs and nipples before and the new constant use was similar to the hours that say a new guitarist spends practicing. Anyone that has tried to learn the guitar will know of the tender sore and cracked fingers that you get until they toughen up! My nipples and fingers for that matter, are as tough as old boots now! Hang on in there 🙂
    curiousrachel recently posted..Just being curious… RuaMy Profile

    • Thanks Rachel. One feed at a time right?

  7. Hi Lisa,
    Oh I’m remembering it all just reading it! I had similiar problems with my first fella and used to bite on a pencil when he was latching on! I rang the free lactation nurse in the Rotunda and spent an hour with her putting him on and off until we (me and him) got it right. It was the best but sorest hour ever and in no time we were sorted. I got conflicting advice on creams and guards with the logic being your skin has to toughen up. I did however feel massive but much better wandering around the house bra-free between feeds.
    I agree with one of the other ladies – get a bit of dedicated time from a lactation nurse. I’m lucky that my district nurses in D3 are largely lactation trained and our BF group is good but I know the quality of support is variable. Contact a private lactation consultant if need be – you know yourself the support is well worth it. I have a midwife/lactation nurse contact in the SE who mightknow someone up your way if you want a contact?

    Keep going. Myself and my little fella enjoyed 11 months of easy feeding and I never had those problems feeding my second so its just a skill that you both need to master. You’ll get there. Then – when you’re not stumbling down the stairs to heat a bottle at 3am, it might start to feel a bit exquisite!!
    Helen x
    Helen recently posted..A New Venue for Marino / Fairview Knitting and CrochetMy Profile

    • Thanks Helen. I’m waiting to hear back from my PHN with a list of lactation consultants in the area.

  8. I think sometimes the pain – especially this “exquisite” pain – is just the let-down sensation for the first few weeks. My nipples were certainly tough enough second time round becuase I’d nursed no. 1 all through that pregnancy, and my daughter’s latch was fine, but I still had to inhale sharply at the start of every feed for the first while.

    Of course, you should listen to your gut and decide for yourself what’s “normal” and what’s not. But I have to say that I disagree with the “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong” school of thought. Sometimes it just has to hurt a bit for a while.
    Christine recently posted..And/orMy Profile

    • I agree Christine. I think when it’s sore enough to make you dread the next feed it’s not normal.

      The pain has been too much for me to easily breathe through it (keeping in mind that I used breathing techniques to get through labour pain and found it very effective), so that to me is an indication that it’s too much.

      I contacted a lactation consultant today though so help is on the way next week.

  9. hi Lisa,
    I’m glad you’re going to see a lactation consutlant – the pain should normally disappear after a few days, so if your baby is twelve says old, there’s a strong possibility that there’s something up with the latch or perhaps your baby has tongue tie. One if five babies do – my third baby had tt, and only that I had bf’d my two girls and knew that breastfeeding shouldn’t be so painful, I am really not sure I could have kept going. Tongue tie is so common, yet hospitals are not pointing it out to mothers, and many hcps just don’t have the knowledge or awareness. Hopefully your PHN hs some good contact details for you – let me know if you need any more info though.
    And of course congratulations on your little one, and your bf journey so far in spite of that pain – God I remember it so well!
    Office mum recently posted..Seven tips for going back to work after maternity leaveMy Profile

    • Thanks OfficeMum. In hindsight, it seems likely that my son was tongue-tied. I don’t think that’s the case here because we are now on our third pain-free feed of the day on my left side – and that includes latching. So it’s something going wrong with the way I am latching her on to the right side.

      I’ll be very glad to get it sorted next week.


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