What Causes Shooting Pain in Breast While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your newborn, and it is certainly among the richest experiences of new motherhood. Unfortunately, sometimes it comes with a shooting pain in breast. It is usually common to experience some discomfort while nursing, especially for the first few days, but you may want to talk to your doctor if your pain is severe and even discourages you from nursing. 

What Causes Shooting Pain in Breast While Breastfeeding?

This could happen due to a number of reasons. In most cases, you do not require any treatment, but sometimes, getting medical assistance can help you to manage things better. Here are some possible causes of experiencing a shooting pain while breastfeeding.

1. Latching

You may experience some pain when your baby latches on properly, but this usually lasts for 30-60 seconds only. In case the pain persists, you may want to stop feeding for some time and consider repositioning your baby. This usually resolves the issue unless something else is causing your pain.

However, you are likely to feel some discomfort if your baby latches on wrong and starts sucking without getting enough areola in the mouth. This also leaves you with sore, cracked nipples that can be a source of persistent pain. Talk to your lactation consultant to handle this situation better.

2. Inverted Nipples

Some women have inverted nipples – it means that instead of protruding out, their nipples turn inward. Some women may have flat nipples, which is again going to make it difficult for them to nurse properly. This often makes it difficult for your baby to latch on properly, which in turn would leave you in pain.

3. Plugged Milk Ducts

Sometimes, you experience shooting pain in breast while breastfeeding because of plugged milk ducts. The issue develops because of incomplete emptying of one or more ducts. If your pain is due to plugged milk ducts, you may also feel a lumpy painful area on your breast.

4. Producing Too Much Milk

When your body produces more milk than your baby can take, you may end up developing some pain in your breasts. The pain usually persists for about three months after delivery. But the time can be shorter; it usually depends on whether your baby manages to latch on well or not.

5. Thrush

Your shooting pain could be due to a fungal infection called thrush. It can develop in your baby's mouth and may transfer to your nipples. You experience pain when this infection enters your milk duct. If your pain is due to thrush infection, it is likely to become worse after feeding. Be sure to talk to your baby's doctor in case he/she has a thrush infection.

6. Engorgement

An increased supply of milk could cause the tissues in your breast to swell a bit. With your breasts becoming engorged, you are likely to feel pain during and sometimes after breastfeeding. When your pain is due to engorgement, your breasts often look red and shiny.

7. Mastitis

An area of your breast can become inflamed because of a condition called mastitis. You develop this condition when excess milk comes of your duct and enters your breast tissue. This can lead to breast tenderness and redness.

How to Deal with the Shooting Pain in Breast While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can become easy when you know the right technique, so it is always a good idea to work with a lactation consultant, especially if this is your first pregnancy. Here are some other ways to deal with your pain:

1. Inverted Nipples

  • Consider pumping or hand expression for the first few days after pregnancy to help make your nipples more erect.
  • Avoid twisting, rolling, or pulling on your nipples, or it will lead to soreness and pain.
  • Consider using nipple shields, but be sure to use it under the supervision of a lactation consultant.

2. Plugged Milk Ducts

  • Take a warm, moist towel and apply it to your breast before you feed your baby.
  • Consider massaging your breasts to relieve pain.
  • Consider nursing more frequently, preferably every one and a half hours.
  • Try different positions when nursing your baby.
  • Start nursing your baby on the side with the plugged duct and then move on to the other breast.
  • Increase your intake of fluids and take plenty of rest. Do not wear restrictive clothing and avoid underwired bras.

3. Too Much Milk

  • Let your baby latch on to your breast, but gently break the suction when you feel a strong letdown and catch that spurt in a cloth or towel.
  • Once the flow slows down, you can start feeding your baby again.
  • Ensure that your baby latches on well because this will help your body adjust to how much milk your baby needs.

4. Thrush

Thrush needs the medical treatment; both the mother and the baby should be treated. Here are more helpful tips:

  • Boil items such as pacifiers, toys, bottle nipples, etc., for at least 20 minutes daily because these items can transfer yeast to your baby's mouth and then to your nipple.
  • Consider replacing nipples and pacifiers once every week.
  • Take steps to keep your breasts as dry as possible – you may expose them to air whenever you can.
  • Consider making use of disposable bra pads.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wash bras, bra pads, and diapers.

5. Engorgement

If engorgement is causing your shooting pain in breast while breastfeeding, the following tips can provide relief.

  • Consider applying cold compress to your breasts to relieve some pain.
  • Take a warm shower to help relieve pain and feel better.
  • Massage your breasts gently to help promote milk flow.
  • Consider using hand expression of milk in case your engorged breast flattens your nipple.
  • Ensure that you do not skip feedings.
  • Make use of supportive bras to help keep your breasts in a comfortable position.

6. Mastitis

You need to see your doctor immediately if you suspect you have mastitis. Do not just wait and hope for it to go away. You may have to take antibiotics, so it is important to talk to your doctor and follow the advice.

Keep in mind that your milk is not infected, so you can continue to nurse your baby. Talk to your lactation consultant to learn how you can lower risks of reoccurrence of the mastitis.

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