You may call it a dull ache, a burning sensation, or heaviness. Your doctor may call it mastalgia, mammalgia, mastodynia, or simply breast soreness. Even before you became pregnant you may have experienced changes in your breasts. This is commonly due to the hormone fluctuations around your menstrual cycle, typically peaking a few days before your period begins. It is estimated 50 to 70% of women have breast pain (1).
However, in the postpartum period the source of breast pain is more than simply hormones. For most women, regardless of whether they breastfeed or not, will experience breast pain. Engorgement in the first 5 days after delivery is the primary culprit. While you may not be able to completely rid yourself of the discomfort during those days, there are certain things you can do to ease the pain:
Relief for Breast Pain – While Breastfeeding
When you choose to breastfeed there are other causes of breast pain:
It is important to know, there are several topical and dietary treatments found online to treat breast pain. Some studies have shown reducing your caffeine intake will help with breast pain, however, there is conflicting evidence whether this works, and no studies have been done on the pregnant or postpartum population. (2) While some can be effective, it is really important for breastfeeding mothers to avoid using Vitamin E on their nipples, as it can be toxic to babies in large doses. There is some evidence showing flaxseed can effectively treat breast pain, but more research is needed on the safety during nursing. (2)
Sometimes breast pain goes beyond just uncomfortable and can be described as painful. Often presenting with a hard, sore spot in the breast due to a blocked milk duct or infection caused by bacteria. This condition can impact up to a third of breastfeeding mothers, commonly in the first 3 months. If you notice an area of your breast becoming red, swollen, hot, and a burning sensation, it is important to contact your doctor because you may need an antibiotic. You can also make sure you are drinking plenty of liquids, feeding your baby frequently, and wearing loose clothing. (3)
While you are going through this you may find yourself asking “can I still exercise with mastitis?”. If you have been diagnosed with mastitis your body is fighting an infection so avoiding intense exercise is recommended. You can continue light exercises, walking, and stretching but one of the best things you can do for your body and your baby while dealing with mastitis is to rest and focus on treating the infection and allowing your body to completely recover.