The number one complaint in nursing mothers is that they have sore nipples. There is another component to sore nipples – silent emotional pain. Think about it for a moment, every 2-3 hours around the clock the baby has to be fed. Mom dreads when the infant wakes or starts shoving fists in mouth because she knows she will have to endure shooting, stabbing, burning and toe curling pain for the duration of the feed. Day and night, week after week, moms endure this pain without seeking help. Why they do not seek out help? Usually the moms are made to feel that they are doing something wrong. Why would a mom want to pay for help just to have them tell her that she is doing something wrong? Breastfeeding is suppose to come natural right? Her peers and family have all told her that it is normal. The nurses and some lactation consultants in the hospital have all told her that the latch looks good, so therefore, it must be. Yet, she continues on with the severe pain thinking every 2-3 hours she is failing miserably as a mother. I have also seen women shut down emotionally to their babies because of this pain. They can’t enjoy their baby because of the physical pain being caused by the baby’s needs to feed. I have also seen mom relive some of the birth trauma she experienced every time the baby goes back to the sore and traumatized nipples.
There is this correlation that I thinks contributes to sore nipples: Dis-empowerment during the labor for whatever the reason(induction, epidural, forceps, cesarean, posterior labor, little support – mom shuts down emotionally intentionally or unintentionally. This can lead to more medical interventions in the labor – which leads to more emotional trauma for mom and physical trauma for baby. In order to cope, the mom will stop listening to her own maternal instincts. She will no longer trust her body completely because others are making the decisions for her. How this plays out is that when the baby is finally in her arms, she has already been dis-empowered by the birth and therefore feel that she isn’t equipped with making decisions or voicing her needs effectively.
The good news is as an IBCLC, healing those sore nipples ASAP is top priority. When mom sees that someone is listening and she is seeing the possibilities of pain-free breastfeeding, the emotional trauma starts to clear up. Her confidence returns and the mother and baby relationship can thrive.