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Despite your best intentions, the stabbing pain in your nipples may make you want to give up on breastfeeding. Nipple pain is the most common complaint among lactating women, but nursing should not be a painful process. "Prolonged stabbing or irritating nipple pain is not normal," says Dr. Christina Valentine, medical advisor for Neonatal Nutrition and Lactation at Columbus Children's Hospital. The earlier you catch a problem, the easier it is to fix.
Here are some of the most common causes of nipple pain:
A poor latch
Nipple pain caused by a poor latch is usually immediate and often subsides during feeding. It is also extremely common. Getting the right latch should start right from a baby's first feeding. A new mom should ask her caregiver to place her baby on her stomach as soon as she's born. In about 20 minutes, the baby will start to move toward the breast and usually after 40 minutes, she will latch on. "If the baby latches on their own initiative, the mother is less likely to have problems," says Dr. Jack Newman, head of The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic.
To help ensure a proper latch, it's important to make sure the baby is coming at the nipple from an asymmetrical angle so she will not pull down on the nipple. The baby's chin is a great latch indicator–it should bob up and down to show she is getting milk. If not, try gently pushing the chin down so your baby can get more of your nipple in her mouth. The nipple should be completely covered during feeding.
If nothing seems to work, your baby could be tongue-tied. Look to see if her tongue is heart-shaped or if you have trouble fitting your finger under her tongue. A physician can fix the problem with a simple procedure.
Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to get the perfect latch.