backup og meta

Breast Pain During Breastfeeding: 7 Most Common Reasons

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 17, 2021

Breast Pain During Breastfeeding: 7 Most Common Reasons

Lactation is a natural phase that mothers go through post-pregnancy. Commonly known as breastfeeding or nursing, many new moms struggle to get it right. Even though breastfeeding seems like it will be easy to go about, it comes with its own set of problems. Breast pain during breastfeeding is a common issue that many women face.

Though it is not a sign of a serious condition, it is better to know everything about it.

Why do I have breast pain during breastfeeding?


This happens when a fungal infection causes unbearable pain in the breasts. Having thrush can mean no pain while breastfeeding, but excruciating pain after it. It is possible for babies to develop it as well. Your nipples might become cracked or sore because of it.

There are two ways of checking it, one through the baby’s nappy rash, and secondly by looking for white spots on their tongue, lips, or gums.

It is important to maintain cleanliness if you get thrush. Wash your feeding bras with hot water to break the cycle of infection in your clothes.


Getting mastitis includes inflammation of the breasts, which causes breast pain during breastfeeding. This is caused by a blocked milk duct that has not been drained properly. It can be due to various reasons like if the baby has latched improperly, or if the baby does not finish the milk in one breast and you shift him/her to the other breast.

There are different ways to tackle mastitis. One is to continue breastfeeding. The more your baby drinks milk, the more your blocked duct empties out. Another is to express your milk, which means to squeeze the milk out with the help of your fingers or a breast pump.

Mastitis can also be caused due to bacteria entering your breast. Consult your gynaecologist to understand the exact cause of your mastitis and breast pain during breastfeeding.

Breast engorgement

When you start breastfeeding, it is possible for your breasts to feel fuller than usual because of milk supply. Sometimes, it is possible for breasts to become overly full leading to tightness and pain. Breast engorgement can persist initially when the baby’s needs are less and the milk supply is abundant. Because of this, your nipples can end up becoming flat, which can lead to improper latching.

Frequent feeding is the first solution for breast engorgement. Frequent breastfeeding can help eliminate the issue of excessive fullness eventually. In addition, you can express breast milk with your hands or a breast pump. Do not wear tight clothes or an ill-fitting bra, it will only aggravate the problem.

You can try warm compress to increase blood circulation that will relieve the pain and reduce the swelling. Pain killers can also be taken. However, consult your physician regarding the same to understand which medicine can be consumed for breast pain during breastfeeding.

Blocked milk ducts

Milk reaches your nipple through different segments. These can become blocked if the baby does not drain them while breastfeeding. This can lead to a small lump in your breast causing breast pain during breastfeeding.

The best way to get rid of a blocked milk duct is feeding your child frequently from the breast that has the lump. You can also massage the lump towards the nipple while nursing your baby. Warm compresses also help to drain the clogged milk ducts.

Cracked nipples

Cracked, sore, or even fragile nipples are a part and parcel of breastfeeding. It usually happens when the baby isn’t positioned properly while breastfeeding or is not latching well to the breast.

If the pain from cracked nipples persists, get it checked. Another solution can be to reset the baby’s position and make sure he or she is latching properly. You can also lubricate the nipples with breast milk. This will help reduce breast pain during breastfeeding.

Breast abscess

If mastitis isn’t treated well or in time, then it can lead to a breast abscess, another reason for breast pain during breastfeeding. It can also occur if mastitis does not respond to frequent feedings or antibiotics. However, most breast abscess is the result of a bacterial infection. Pus gets collected in the breast tissue forming a lump.

A breast abscess can either come out on its own, with pus oozing out, or it will have to be removed surgically.

Improper latch

An improper latch is when the baby cannot get hold of your nipple and areola during breastfeeding. This can result in the above-mentioned conditions like blocked milk ducts, milk oversupply, mastitis, or engorgement.

If you feel that your breasts feel heavy even after breastfeeding, consult your doctor about this. Sometimes the baby is unable to latch and you aren’t able to position it well either. Taking help from the doctor can help you rectify this issue from the beginning.

How to tell if the baby is hungry

These are the typical signs of a hungry baby, and will help you set a better routine for breastfeeding:

  • They will move their hands in different directions
  • They will make hand gestures like they are clutching something
  • They will try and put their fists in their mouths
  • They will make different noises
  • They will move their arms and legs
  • They will make suckling sounds and motion
  • The moment you touch your baby’s cheek, he/she will turn to that side wanting to latch on
  • They move their eyes around as if they are looking for something
  • Breast pain during breastfeeding: Important points to remember

    • As improper latching is the root cause of most of the breast pain issues mentioned above, ensure from the beginning that you get this step right as soon as possible.
    • Breast pain is common during the feeding phase. Though, it shouldn’t be prolonged. Consult your doctor if it becomes unbearable or persists for more than three days.
    • Do not take any medication without your doctor’s prescription. It is possible for some pain relievers to get mixed in your breast milk and consequently go to your baby. It is best to ask your doctor beforehand in case of emergencies.
    • Expressing your milk is a good way to also increase your milk supply. As your baby feeds on breast milk, squeezing or pumping it out on your own also signals your body to make more milk.
    • Breast pain is often accompanied by tightness, sore nipples, or lumps. Look for the signs and be extremely cautious while breastfeeding. This can sometimes be a signal for a bigger problem.
    • Breastfeeding should be continued irrespective of any pain or other problems. Do not stop it unless your doctor advises otherwise.
    • Do not breastfeed after exercising as it accumulates lactic acid. And this might turn the baby away from a feed.

      Massaging your breasts during the nursing stage is good for blood circulation and will also help you identify if there is any pain or lump.

    Stick to wearing light and airy clothes that do not restrict your breasts, and ensure that you wear a nursing bra.

    Remember that any kind of breast pain during breastfeeding needs to be taken seriously. Therefore, take the right measures, and don’t shy away from consulting a gynecologist when necessary.

    Learn more about Breastfeeding, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

    Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 17, 2021

    advertisement iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    advertisement iconadvertisement
    advertisement iconadvertisement