breast pump and bottle with pacifier

How to Avoid Nipple Pain While Using Your Breast Pump

Nipple pain is a common problem for women who use breast pumps. This discomfort can be avoided by following some simple tips. In order to treat breast pain, it’s important to first determine the cause. Here are some of the most prevalent problems and how to fix them if they’re causing you discomfort.

What Causes Nipple Pain when pumping

Many women experience sore nipples when using a breast pump. This discomfort can be avoided by following some simple tips. In order to treat nipple pain, it’s important to first determine the cause. Here are some of the most prevalent problems and how to fix them if they’re causing you discomfort.

Wrong size breast shield

A breast pump creates suction that pulls on your nipple. Using a flange size that is too small or too large will cause discomfort while pumping, because it either doesn’t fit correctly, or it has to work harder to seal around your nipple.

Treatment: Try out different sizes until you find the correct size for you. When inserting a different flange size, make sure that your areola fits entirely inside of the rim on top of the shield. It should not be pushed up against the tip of the nipple since this can cause discomfort when pumping.

Breast shield placement

Incorrect breast shield placement can cause pain when pumping. Make sure that the breast shield is centered on your nipple and areola, and that it’s pointing toward your chest wall.

Treatment: When you first use the breast pump, make sure to watch a tutorial on how to position yourself correctly with your breast milk pump. You can also place a mirror in front of you so that you can see exactly what part of your nipple is producing milk for the pump.

Breast pump pressure

If the pump suction level on your pump feels too strong, it may cause some discomfort while you’re expressing milk. If this occurs, try decreasing the pressure level slightly until the discomfort goes away. For even more comfort, consider using warm or hot showers prior to pumping.

Treatment: If you notice that your nipple is starting to feel raw after pumping, try decreasing the pressure level slightly until the discomfort goes away. For even more comfort, consider using warm or hot showers prior to pumping. Make sure that all of the parts on your breast pump are secure and tightly in place- this can also be a cause of discomfort when pumping.

Hard plastic breast shields

Some women experience irritation and pain after using hard plastic versions of pumps, due to their flattened suction holes. The suction is not enough to pull milk from the breast, but is adjusted to a medical grade for maximum comfort.

Treatment: Try out a different type of shield or pump, such as Pumpin Pals. Pumping Pals was made for women with elastic nipples and has a soft silicone material and also has more of a tapered shaped instead of your traditional hard plastic breast shield.

You can also try the BeauGen Pump cushions. You can add these silicone inserts into the breast shield that you already own. Pumping moms with elastic nipples have loved both of these options.

Pumping speed and length

Another common cause of sore nipples is having the suction strength too high. When you pump at a high speed or pump for too long, you might end up causing discomfort.

Treatment: The general rule of thumb is to try and pump on the lowest setting that gets enough milk (this varies by the flange size). If you notice pain, stop pumping immediately and start over again on a lower setting. After you are finished, massage your breasts to help ease engorgement.

Milk duct blockages

A milk duct blockage occurs when excess milk or debris from breastfeeding gets caught inside a milk duct and causes a clog in a small area in your breast. This can cause pain in different locations throughout your breast while you’re nursing or pumping, with symptoms lasting for hours after the feeding has ended.

Treatment: You should seek immediate attention from a doctor if you have symptoms that last for more than a couple of days, or if the pain is severe. In the meantime, try using a heating pad to relieve pressure and swelling after you nurse. Massage can also help to clear out any blockages in your milk ducts.

Read on how to unclog a muck duct.

Mastitis

Mastitis is the name for a breast infection that results in fever, flu like symptoms, sharp pain, swelling, and redness of one or both breasts. It’s commonly associated with blocked milk ducts if they are not worked out.

Treatment: Seek professional medical advice to avoid further complications. I have had mastitis a few times and was able to work through it by taking sunflower lecithin.

breast pump with breast pads

Thrush

Thrush is a yeast infection in your breasts that can be characterized by sharp pain, burning, redness, and/or itching. This is very common with overuse of antibiotics or sugary products while breastfeeding, but it can also happen without any trigger at all.

Treatment: Try to change your breast pads often or avoid wearing a bra while you are treating the thrush. Disinfect all of your pumping parts, bottles, and nipples to prevent any further spread.

Read more about the symptoms and treating thrush.

Milk blisters

Milk blister are soft tissue blisters that are blocked within the gland. In most cases when stale milk is unable to release and it will cause an accumulation of milk in its lining.

This causes breast milk to become thick and hard blocking milk flow. The clogged milk duct can cause little growth of skin over the gland and becomes a milk blister.

Treatment: Apply moist heat to the affected area then remove the skin from the milk duct.

Read more about symptoms and treatment of milk blisters.

Dry & cracked nipples

If you have dry and cracked nipples, pumping can be painful. Lot’s of moms prefer to lubricate the pump before each use.

Treatment: You can use a nipple cream or coconut oil on your sore nipples to help moisturize them and the pump flange.

Read more about treating dry & cracked nipples.

How to Treat Nipple Discomfort

Pumping nipple pain is experienced when using your breast pump, don’t worry! You can easily treat this problem by trying some of these helpful tips to help with the pain while you are pumping.

-Use a warm compress before and after you pump or breastfeed.

-Take a pain reliever until it gets better. (always talk to your doctor first)

-Pump or nurse on one side first and once you have started to let down, start pumping on that side as well.

-Wear loose fitted clothes and pumping bra.

-It’s important to continue to pump or breastfeed as normal to avoid breast engorgement and protect your milk supply.

When using a breast pump it is important to remember that comfort is key! If you experience any kind of discomfort while using a breast pump, try some of these tips and see what works for you!

Meet with a lactation consultant

If you are experiencing pain while breastfeeding or pumping, it is important to seek help from a lactation consultant.

They can help you determine the cause of the pain and recommend ways to treat it. You can find a lactation specialist by searching for one in your local area or contact your doctor.

mother hold baby close

Final thoughts

Pumping pain is a common problem that many women in their breastfeeding journey face. Here are some of the most prevalent causes and how to fix them if they’re causing you discomfort.

The best way to treat nipple pain is by first determining the cause, but don’t worry! You can easily treat this problem by trying some helpful tips like using a warm compress before and after you pump or breastfeed, taking a pain reliever until it gets better (always talk with your doctor), etc.

If all of these don’t work for you there may be something more serious going on so consult with an expert such as a lactation consultant who can help determine what’s wrong and recommend ways to fix it.

When using a breast pump always remember that comfort should be your number one priority. If you experience any kind of discomfort try some helpful tips and see what works for you!

Be sure to read 7 Signs Your Milk Supply is Decreasing and How Much Milk Should I be Pumping?

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