How to Relieve and Prevent Painful Breastfeeding

Dealing with breastfeeding difficulties can feel incredibly stressful, frustrating, or overwhelming. In addition to coping with discomfort or pain, you may feel like you are in some way to blame or worried that your newborn isn’t getting the nutrition they need. So first, treat yourself with compassion and celebrate everything you’re doing for your baby. By proactively seeking solutions to prevent or relieve painful breastfeeding, you’re doing all the right things to ensure you can comfortably offer your baby the benefits of breastfeeding.

Next, know that many moms face breastfeeding difficulties. So what’s causing painful breastfeeding? While the best way to know the cause is to consult with your local newborn support team (pediatrician, pediatric dentist, and lactation specialist), the most common cause of painful breastfeeding is usually because your baby is having problems latching.

Potential Signs of Latch Problems

For Mom

  • Discomfort or pain while breastfeeding
  • Sore, cracked, or blistered nipples or areolae
  • Nipples that appear squashed or oddly shaped right after nursing
  • Discomfort or pain while breastfeeding

For Baby

  • Struggles to latch or frequently unlatches
  • Long feedings that don’t seem to soothe or satisfy
  • Clicking sounds or breathing difficulties while suckling
  • Chomps or bites while nursing
  • White lip after unlatching
  • No or slow weight gain
  • Fussiness

If you or your baby are experiencing any of the above symptoms, immediately seek the support of a lactation specialist in Salem to ensure your baby is getting enough breast milk to support their developing brain and body. Sometimes helping your baby get a good latch is as easy as following a few simple breastfeeding tips from your lactation specialist, such as adjusting how you hold your baby or lightly compressing your breast as your baby opens their mouth to feed. In other cases, your baby may have an oral abnormality known as a lip tie or tongue tie.

What is a lip or tongue tie?

To understand a lip or a tongue tie, try this: Run your tongue across your upper or lower arch of teeth, using the tip of your tongue to feel for the small strand of connective tissue that attaches your upper inner lip to the top of your gums. Next, go to a mirror, open your mouth, lift up your tongue, and spot the strand of tissue that attaches your tongue to the floor of your mouth. Those strands of connective tissue are called frenulums (or frenal attachments), and their main job is to stabilize your lips and tongue.

Babies are naturally born with upper lip frenulums that extend over the ridges of their gums and attach to their upper palate, which gradually recedes when they start erupting teeth. Sometimes babies are born with a frenulum that is too thick, tight, or short, which restricts the lip or tongue movement and causes latch and suckling difficulties. Along with contributing to nipple pain and stress for mom, lip- or tongue-tied babies often struggle to breastfeed and bottle feed properly. Over time, a tongue tie (known as ankyloglossia) or lip tie can impact your child’s speech development and ability to eat properly, and can eventually contribute to orthodontic issues or cavities on the front top teeth.

Though the possibility that your baby has a lip or tongue tie may feel initially distressing, take a deep breath and take heart. A lip or tongue tie can be easily revised at your pediatric dentist’s office with a fast and simple surgical procedure known as a frenectomy.

Laser Dentistry Frenectomies in Salem, OR

Conventional frenectomies cauterize or snip the frenulum using a scalpel, at times requiring stitches. Though a conventional frenectomy will correct a lip or tongue tie, this 10- to 15-minute procedure can be a big or stressful experience for your baby.

Thanks to advances in laser dentistry, frenectomies are a relatively unmonumental procedure that can enable your baby to start improving their latch straight away. Using a specialized soft tissue laser and a topical anesthetic, Dr. Cooper or Dr. Day can completely and comfortably perform a frenectomy in less than five minutes without any cutting or stitches. Your infant may experience mild discomfort and minimal swelling following the procedure, which usually starts subsiding within 24 hours.

While it may take some time for your baby to learn to stretch their tongue or adapt their lips, revising a lip or tongue tie enables your baby to start moving toward adequate and comfortable breastfeeding without any further delay. Breastfeeding while your baby heals from their laser frenectomy is both safe and recommended, as nursing is comforting for your baby and breast milk contains many healing properties. Dr. Cooper and Dr. Day will provide you with thorough post-operative instructions, including how to gently stretch your baby’s tongue or lips to prevent reattachment and ensure optimal healing.

At Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry, our entire team is dedicated to supporting your breastfeeding goals and making your baby’s dental experience as positive and comfortable as it can possibly be. If you, your lactation specialist, or your baby’s pediatrician suspect your baby has a lip tie or tongue tie, contact our office to schedule an appointment straight away.