Controversy: “Mommy Wars”?

The topic of breastfeeding can be very controversial. It is hard not to rouse strong feelings when discussing baby feeding methods and choices. It almost seems as though the infant feeding industry benefits from the underlying tensions among us. While I try to remain level-headed and not contribute to the so-called “mommy wars”, I am passionate about a particular breastfeeding ailment; pain during breastfeeding. Specifically nipple pain in the first days and weeks. So, I’m going to risk discussing a controversial topic, to clarify some facts about nipple pain.

Why should it hurt to nurse your baby?

There are those who believe that pregnant women should be told that breastfeeding will hurt in order to be prepared and not feel that it is abnormal for nursing to cause them pain. In other words, they should be taught to expect pain. In my opinion, this is a dangerous point of view and, as a woman, I am offended. Why should women expect or accept pain to accompany a normal bodily function? Name one other natural bodily function that is repeated over and over again that is expected to be painful. Ok- childbirth, but we can even argue about that needing to hurt and it doesn’t happen repetitively for months on end.

I’m going to turn the tables here and get real- and a bit graphic. Imagine explaining to a man that there was going to be something that he had to do, about 8-12 times per day, for weeks on end, that was going to cause his penis to hurt- maybe even blister, crack and bleed! And then try to justify it to him as “best” and let him know to expect it! Never happen, right?

Of course infant feeding shouldn’t hurt. Women were designed to give birth and to breastfeed. Infants are born to nurse. Click To Tweet

Of course infant feeding shouldn’t hurt. Women were designed to give birth and to breastfeed. Infants are born to nurse. It is our biologic imperative as mammals. In nature, if mammals do not feed at the breast, the offspring does not survive. This system wouldn’t work if pain was the norm.

But it does hurt, right?

Yes, nursing can be painful- and I believe moms should be told of the possibility. However,  that is different than expecting it to hurt. When breastfeeding hurts, it is an indicator that something isn’t quite right. There are steps to take to make it more comfortable for you and easier for your infant . An important fact to remember is that comfort while feeding is not just for you. If latch hurts, chances are that your baby isn’t nursing effectively and will not get as much milk as he or she should.

 Sharing my experience

As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I have met so many women who gave up nursing because of nipple pain, infections, blisters, or blebs. I have also met others who have nursed through these conditions, without reaching out for help, thinking that it was “normal” or some kind of right of passage. In my experience, I can confidently say, that in most cases, something can be done to help moms nurse without pain.

I am so committed to helping moms reach their feeding goals and to prevent them from suffering unnecessarily, that I authored a book to share the message. It Shouldn’t Hurt to Nurse Your Baby: Breastfeeding Solutions for the 6 most common causes of painful nipples. In the book, I discuss what can cause nipple pain, how to correct the cause, when to reach out for professional help, and which type professional help would be best, depending on the condition.

My mission

I have found that it is often simple adjustments that make a huge difference in what nursing feels like.  Reaching out to an IBCLC for expert support is recommended if the simple solutions aren’t making things easier. For many women, breastfeeding is a rewarding and empowering experience. I am on a mission to open more women up to that possibility. I want everyone to know that it is possible to nurse comfortably and enjoy this special time. 

Lisa Paladino CNM, IBCLC

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A photography project founded in late 2014 by Alexia Garcia, photographer a Alegares Photography. Breastfeeding World aims to promote breastfeeding and encourage new moms to nurse their babies through the art of photography and story telling.

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